I had resigned myself to the idea that I just hated football. While I have some memories of enjoying NFL Blitz back in my youth, it never caught on like NHL Hitz did, or even NBA Jam. I’m a Canadian, after all. But then, recently, I tried a few times to enjoy football games, and it was just aggravating. I tried some of the Madden N64 games that have accumulated in my library (as they do), went back to NFL Blitz, and even tried Mutant League Football on Sega Genesis, and I detested them. For that matter, once again, Mutant League Hockey was better than its Football equivalent, but, of course, it’s the better sport, and I’m very sorry to inform you of that.
To clarify for readers in other parts of the world, I’m talking about American football. We call real football “Soccer” here in Canada, which is unfortunate because Soccer has more to do with feet than American Football.
Anyway, I’ve had a few opportunities to talk to Michael Mendheim (creator of the Mutant League games, Battletanx, Army Men Sarge’s Heroes, and president of Digital Dreams Entertainment), and it always reminded me that I had Mutant Football League waiting on Steam and I’d never tried it. “No,” my mind would tell me, “you hate football.” Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me, and I now wish it would more often.
A gorilla sitting on a bag of potato chips
If I confused you back there, Mutant Football League is the spiritual successor to Mutant League Football on the Sega Genesis. It was developed under the guidance of the original creator, Michael Mendheim. If you’re wondering about the name flip, EA probably still owns the rights to Mutant League Football, and the abbreviation “MFL” is way better anyway.
The idea is the same: it’s football but with more violence. Football is already a game that centers around violence, so taking that to the next level seems obvious. The athletes here are various monsters, so the maiming, killing, and cheating that they do is in their nature. It’s encouraged that you play dirty. There’s a strategy in eliminating your opponent’s star players. And there’s a lot of satisfaction in destroying your enemies.
Scoring makes anyone more confident
During the course of Mutant Football League’s post-release life, Digital Dreams added a “Dynasty Mode” which was about the time I picked it up. The best way to get me invested in a sports game is to let me build my own team. Dynasty Mode is a lot more limited compared to, say, NHL Hitz’ franchise mode. You can’t really create your own players, but you can recruit free agents and trade other teams for better ones. This allows you to alter the makeup of your team. Do you want one that entirely consists of werewolves? I do. And I did.
The goal is to win the Mayhem Bowl by the end of your third season, and that’s easier said than done. Your team starts off in the sewers. Stat-wise, they don’t stand a chance against the teams they compete against, and every win is a miracle. It’s kind of brutal, especially if you’re the sort of player who can’t stand to lose.
It seems somewhat unavoidable to me. A normal game would become more difficult as you proceed, but that wouldn’t be very true to sports in general. Mutant Football League could have maybe done some sort of fantasy story mode, but there is some effort to stick to the illusion of competition. This means that there needs to be some progression to remain interesting. It’s not the only approach a sports game could take to franchise mode, but it’s a nice spot between realistic and fantasy.
This is no place to feel feelings. This is football!
The commentary is done by the legendary Tim Kitzrow of NBA Jam fame. I’m always a fan. He’s partnered with two co-commentators (or one with another growing out of it) which he may or may not do the voices for, as well. The credits weren’t really clear.
The important thing is the commentary is hit-or-miss. It always is. Eventually, repetition sets in, and it doesn’t take long in some situations within Mutant Football League. I heard the “here’s the kicker” gag far too many times. However, I feel largely positive about the commentary. It’s filthy without being terribly offensive, and some of the jokes got a chuckle out of me. It tries pretty hard and occasionally succeeds. I just feel like I have to apologize to anyone who’s in the room with me whenever it starts repeating itself.
It’s probably the music that bothers me the most. It’s not bad, but the frequency that you hear certain songs is just way too much. I guess you can turn them off, but that’s not a feature. That’s a setting.
So, what is it that makes Mutant Football League appeal to me, even though I have a distaste for the sport?
I’ve recently likened football to wading through mud. It’s the die-and-retry of sports. One team tries to get somewhere, and the other tries to stop them. Small gains are made. Sometimes big things happen, but the whole thing is slow. Worse, the rules feel like they were developed on a playground. Like, every time it seemed like one team had an advantage, a rule was created to take it away. I don’t even get pass interference. Aren’t you supposed to prevent them from passing?
When you can choose to just say “screw it” and throw a razor-lined ball to eviscerate the defense, suddenly the game flows a bit better. It can feel unfair at times; it can be difficult to counter certain dirty tricks. They sometimes feel like you might as well just hand the other team the ball. But you have them too! You need to learn to use them and when. Then we have a real fight on our hands.
I’m mostly just impressed I found a football game that I can enjoy. Critical reception to Mutant Football League has been kind of mixed. I can understand it not being everyone’s bag, but also, I’m the only critic that counts.
I really enjoy Mutant Football League. It’s probably one that I’m going to pull out repeatedly. It’s maybe not the best football game; I certainly am not the best person to judge that. However, what I do know is that it is the best football game for me. The dirty strategy and persistent violence just make it flow to a point that is palatable to me.
I’m instantly a fan. I’ll be keeping an eye on Mutant Football League 2, and Michael Mendheim has said that Digital Dreams plans on moving to Mutant Hockey League after that. Heck yes.
This review was conducted on a PS5 with a PS4 disc copy of the game. The author paid for it and all its DLC and would do it again.