Mutant League Football

Brad: Hmmm, that’s funny – I specifically remember this game NOT sucking back in 1993.  Was I on drugs?  Had I suffered some kind of head trauma?  Or had endless exposure to Aerosmith’s “Cryin'” video warped my mind to the point where I began to think anything on TV that wasn’t an Aerosmith video was automatically the greatest thing ever – regardless of whether it was a movie, a tv show, Mutant League Football or even just a Sprite commercial starring Kris Kross (a yo Kris/What up dawg/What’s that in your hand?/It’s the S to the P to the R-I-T-E can)?

ML Football000

Tell me this doesn’t look like an NFL Europe Broadcast

No, I think our standards for football games were probably just a lot lower back then.  Mutant League Football is based on the Madden ’93 engine, which was only the third console game in the history of that series (sorry children, Madden ’92 is NOT actually the first Madden game.  EA released a game simply called John Madden Football the year before – and the PC version of the series dates back even further than that).  At the time, the concept of a football video game that kinda sorta resembled actual football was still pretty novel.  Especially for those of us who grew up playing games where Dan Marino threw 80 yard passes all the time and that Bo Jackson had never been tackled in his entire career.  But the Madden series still had a long way to go – in those early years, there were more than a few plays that worked almost every time, the players ran around like the field was covered in ice, and a lot of the on-field action (like whether or not you got through a block, caught a pass, or broke a tackle) seemed to be determined mainly by how much the computer liked you that day.

Still, the worst part of those early Madden games – and Mutant League Football – were the passing windows.  Admittedly, it was a decent idea, and the programming to make it work is pretty darn impressive, at least for back then.  But in execution, they were awful.  For those of you not familiar, let me explain – by pressing the C button when the quarterback had the ball, three small picture-in-picture type windows would appear at the top of the screen showing you each of your eligible receivers.  In theory, this should have allowed you to see which of them were open and throw them the ball.  But in practice, the windows were so small that the player took up almost the entire space.  While this was very helpful in checking to make sure your players still exist, you couldn’t really see enough to know if an opposing player was nearby.  Oddly enough, the windows would actually pop up right over the portion of the field where the receivers were 90% of the time, so you probably had a better chance of seeing them before they appeared.  Luckily, it only two EA another two years to figure that out, and by Madden ’95 the passing windows were gone in favor of an unobstructed view.

ML Football002Receievers B and C look open.  Except for the defenders standing just outside the window.

Even from just a pure marketing perspective, you have to wonder about the strategy of making two different games based off the Madden engine.  How did EA think this was going to work out?  Essentially, you just end up competing against yourself.  The only way you’re not is if you truly believe that there’s a burgeoning market of people looking to buy two football games a year, yet somehow wouldn’t be more interested in either a college game or one made by a different company.  Either that, or you’re trying to pass off Mutant League as a football game for people who don’t like football, which means attempting to sell a product specifically to people who don’t like said product.  This is an even more impossible approach, as evidenced by the failure of every book store ever opened in Ohio.

So yeah, what you have with Mutant League Football is a very early version of Madden where some of the players are skeletons or aliens and the guys kill each other.  Like Madden ’93, it was good for its time, but it’s pretty damn brutal to play now.  Who knows?  Maybe if a new one had come out every year we could have seen a nice gradual evolution, and by Mutant League ’96 or so, we’d have something that was still fun to play even today.  Alas, we’re left with a game that’s close, but just not quite good enough to crack our Top 100.

Stryker: I love, love, love the idea of MLF – a arcade-style football game where you can win just as easily by killing enemy players as you can by scoring touchdowns.  But basing it off the same engine as the most realistic football game at the time is counter-productive.  Even with all the carnage, trick plays, and fewer on-field players, MLF still plays too much like real football, and if I’m going to do that, I might as well just play Madden.  Nobody comes into a game like this hoping for “3 yards and a cloud of gore” NFC-style power football.

ML Football005

Liability Insurance must cost these teams a fortune.

Mr. Do!: Skeletons that bleed when you hit them?  Did they not understand the concept of a skeleton or something?

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