MUTANT FOOTBALL LEAGUE: Attack of the 20ft Wez

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I’ve been conflicted over whether I should talk about Mutant Football League at all. This is mostly because I funded the game on Kickstarter last year when it was in pre-alpha. I also realize I’m probably not the intended audience, even within the art style’s genre. My yearly exposure to football is limited to a few Buffalo Bills games and the Super Bowl. The last football game I played before MFL was Madden 06. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not as cut and dry as previous games I’ve discussed.

The premise is pretty simple. It’s an anything goes apocalypse! The dead are rising out of their graves, a tidal wave of orcs pollutes the air with a noxious green haze, robots are leaking oil, aliens have made football stadiums on the moon, and clones of Vernon Wells are wreaking havoc all across America. But that’s not all. Blood is raining from the sky in Killadelphia and the world’s #1 pastime is sponsored by… “Monsatan Industries.” Nearly every element of NFL culture is tweaked to meet the theme. It’s silly, visually appealing, and portrays a post-apocalypse that’s simultaneously grimdark and chuckle worthy. 20180208112956_1.jpg

Taking place in a violence-obsessed post-apocalypse, Mutant Football League has some interesting twists up its sleeves. The game’s own promotional material says killing five quarterbacks to force a forfeit is a perfectly acceptable strategy. However, while the AI loves to use Quarterback Sack Attack, I’ve yet to see myself or anyone else lose in this manner.

Mutant Football League also includes Dirty Tricks, a series of special plays which typically function as a guaranteed touchdown, guaranteed fumble, or both. For example, on offense you can take out a shotgun during a run play and reduce the entire opposing team to swiss cheese. On defense, you can turn 20ft tall, instantly kill or fumble anyone you touch and then easily make a touchdown because no one dares tackle the giant mutant on the field. Overall, Dirty Tricks make the game interesting and unpredictable as every team has its own set of tricks.

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Notice the score. This is hard difficulty. Also notice how the ball grows in proportion to the ginormous player.

Opposing players aren’t the only thing to look out for. Mutant Football League fields are covered in hazards: Landmines, bottomless pits, sandworms, razorblades, and much more. Among these, one specifically stands out. It’s incredibly difficult to go out of bounds in MFL because the sidelines are often replaced with pools of blood or lava. This means you can’t maximize your yardage by diagonally cutting across the field. Instead, you have to jump, spin, punch, or dive your way out of danger or trick the other team into falling into a pool of acid.

Unfortunately, the AI in Mutant Football League is embarrassingly bad. You almost have to play against another human to face any sort of challenge. Back in the demo days of MFL, I would often shut out the other team by up to 48 points in just two quarters. Things aren’t much better in the full release.  On All-Pro difficulty (Hard), I kicked the ball toward the obvious obstacles, only for the returner to instantly die by falling into a bear trap, causing a fumble. My team picks up the ball and makes a touchdown. THEN THE EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED AGAIN 17 SECONDS LATER. Meanwhile, on Masochist difficulty (very hard) the AI will generally intercept any pass you make and will regularly make field goals from up to 50 yards away.

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Our lovely narrator.

Even though I’m not a big fan of the gameplay or AI, the art style is really the star of the show. The stadiums look great, the team logos are sleek, and the commentators are good…for a while. The narration usually doesn’t reflect gameplay as players have come to expect from other, modern sports games. Sure, you’ll hear general remarks that relate to the game “Rev up your engines! It’s time for a chainsaw massacre.” “The 40, the 30, the 20, the 10, HE’S GOING ALL THE WAY,” but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the commentators specifically mention a player by name. This is despite the fact that Tim Kitzrow, the lead narrator, is quoted as saying “”In what other video game could I talk about deflated balls?…[such as] after that vicious sack, Bomb Shadey will be playing with deflated balls for the rest of his career!” I usually play the Nuked London Hatriots and I’ve never heard that quip.

Between plays, the commentators will do a series of short skits. Unfortunately, this leads to the same problem every other comedy game faces: repetition. The more times you hear a joke, the less funny it is. You’ll hear “Oh my god! A man in a prison uniform just came on the field!” followed by “That’s the referee you idiot” dozens and dozens of times. It’ll make you smile the first time, but by the end of the football season, you’ll probably end up turning the commentators off. There’s just not enough material to keep it lively. In my opinion, one of the best examples of doing this right is Monday Night Combat, where the announcer usually chimes in at the beginning and end of each match (like Team Fortress 2), but also to inform players when interesting things are happening (churros/bacon/Bullseye appearing, impressive kill streaks, and specialist robots on the field). It still gets old after a while, but it retains some staying power by using narration as a spice rather than a sauce. Players aren’t slathered with it, but have just enough to make for an enjoyable experience.

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What we expected from the Humans class.

Then there’s the players. Most player names are a parody of either a real NFL player or a sci-fi character. The first thing you’ll, unfortunately, notice about them is that they all have the same character model. Each species of player is exactly the same, give or take the size of their padding. This is honestly disappointing as characters parodying NFL stars have unique portraits and stats, but completely average appearances. Not only that, but their facial expressions are locked in a static pose; the lower jaws move, but face and eyes do not. This is especially noticeable with the human players. I might also say that their sideline quips usually aren’t funny. Many player lines are just references or the equivalent of yo-mama jokes.

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How every human looks in MFL. Notice his left hand is clipping…

I also found some of the team compositions to be off the mark for my tastes. For example, a few teams are themed to be a single species in complementary colors. The Orcs of Hazzard, for example, is a team comprised entirely of big green Orcs in scrap metal armor. Meanwhile, another team has mustard yellow orcs and skeletons with yellow bones playing alongside blue robots. It doesn’t necessarily break the games’ immersion, but I almost wish each team was comprised of just one or two species then have an All-Star team to bring them all together. Also there’s no team made of just Wez clones, so that’s a bummer.

Overall, Mutant Football League is fun…for a while. The art direction has a lot of charm, the dirty tricks are sure to delight, and the AI bashing its head against the wall will at least make for a great highlight reel. Still, I don’t think it’ll end up on my replay list anytime soon. It’s average. Not bad, just middle of the pack. Also their Super Bowl prediction was waaaaay off.

If you’re interested in getting Mutant Football League for Steam, click here.

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Welcome to Killadelphia. Would you like to see our blood rain and giant bells?

Deconstructing Fallout 3: Tenpenny Tower

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When I first played Fallout 3 on my Xbox 360 way back in 2008, I found myself drawn to the hubs and the quests. Exploring the wasteland was fun, but ultimately I was looking for structure and a story. I’ve recently booted up Fallout 3 again, but this time on the PC. With extreme (but lore friendly) modding, I’ve found the exploration aspect far more enjoyable and the quests frankly lackluster. I want to deconstruct the quests in Fallout 3 to think about how they work in relation to an open world map and the player character’s development choices.

Let’s start with the basics. Not counting the three childhood quests, Fallout 3 has a total of 66 quests in the base game: 10 story quests, 18 side quests, 22 unmarked side quests, and 16 repeatable fetch quests. Again, I want to briefly break down each of these to see how they’ve made use of the new environment and the RPG elements.


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You know what? “Tenpenny Tower” is a good quest. It’s well structured, it’s got some great roleplaying options to expand your character, and it has three major endings, each of which has a noticeable impact on a prominent trading hub. Unfortunately, the entire quest falls apart after it has been completed.

Continue reading

Tales from the Whatpad: Fallout Survivor

Wasteland legend tells of a tumbling pad of pallid paper filled with horrors beyond comprehension and meaning. Those who stumble across this legendary “Whatpad” rarely live to tell the tale…

“Tales from the Whatpad” is an dramatic reading of terrible post-apocalyptic fan fiction.

Fallout Survivor: www.fanfiction.net/s/12353653/1/Fallout-Survivor
Music by: www.bensound.com/

Gunman Taco Truck: Refreshing!

gmtt-4.jpgAfter the monotony of Wasteland Angel and the abject failure of The Underground Man, I was delighted to learn of Gunman Taco Truck from Romero Games. The ultimate surprise came when I looked at the game on Steam and found that it was designed by a 9-year-old boy. With that said, Gunman Taco Truck is an addictive arcade game with a great sense of humor and a steep difficulty curve.

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The premise is simple. Scientists accidentally set off nuclear bombs, killing or mutating almost everything in the United States. One mysterious food truck driver must embark on a cross country trip from San-Diego to Winnipeg, Canada. Gasoline is expensive in the apocalypse. To make ends meet, our hero must slaughter mutants, harvest their meat, and sell delicious tacos. Continue reading

On the Road Again

On the road again…

A week has passed since I’ve been in the hospital. With Saul’s dog-tags, I was able to get my arm fixed and receive anti-radiation medicine. Saul Fore is up and about. His skin looks like melted plastic and his fingers are fused together, but otherwise he’s doing fine.

This morning, Saul told me that he has to get back to the Boulevard and invited me to accompany him. The way I see it, going back to that horrible place can’t be any worse than being stuck in this dustbowl. I just hope I don’t get imprisoned, again.

After receiving our discharge papers, we made a pit stop at the fortress armory. I got a canteen, a pistol, and a new backpack, complete with a sleeping bag. Hopefully I won’t have to use the last two.

I thought we were just going to charge into the wasteland. Instead, we waited by a crumbling overpass for hours. I don’t know if you’ve ever stared out into a barren desert for hours at a time, but it’s really really boring.

Finally, a caravan pulled up. The cart was drawn by a handful of strange armadillo creature with trunk noses. Each of these beasts the size of a dog. Accompanying the cart was a handful of guards dressed in maroon fatigues and reflective black armor. I guess Saul wasn’t taking any chances this time.

We set out just when the sun was directly overhead. This should be a smooth ride. Our guards are armed to the teeth.

I just hope that the Boulevard is kind to me.

-Joe Junkman

The Negotiator

That was close,

Witnessing the great cave lake behind me, I turned back to the hulking horror and asked him if we could make a deal. I would start a caravan: taking water from the cave, bringing it to Abundance, and then paying Urmit with some dog-tags on my return. The mutant did not like that.

“Eh, I’ve got no use for tags.” Urmit replied. He licked his lips, “It’s been awfully hot. I’ve been dryin out, losin a lotta mass. Need me some protein to get back to full size.”

At that moment, I realized why I was in the cage. He had planned on eating me, at least initially. However, I could tell from the modern comforts of his home that Urmit was educated. That meant he could be reasoned with. I just had to lead him to my way of thinking.

“Tell ya what, big guy,” I began. “You let me go, I’ll bring you some protein. As much as you want. Maybe a nice plump chicken?”

The horror snorted “Heh, there hasn’t been no real chickens in da Mo-Javi for a long time. Just tacultia these days.” His gaze narrowed. “What game are you playin, boy?”

Mentally, I slapped my forehead, but kept a calm expression. One farmer at the bar in Abundance had offered me tacultia meat if I brought him water. Turns out I really did have the advantage.

“You haven’t seen the tacultia I get. Not from Abundance at all.” I lied. “They taste just like the real thing.”

The mutant licked his lips, but his eyes winced. He could tell I was lying, but a small part of him believed me.

“Look, I’m in the caravan business, see?” I said, only partially lying this time. “You let me leave with some water and I’ll send my boys up here with two tacultia per shipment of water. Sound fair?”

Although it was true that I didn’t have a caravan yet, I would be able to hire as many people as I wanted once I controlled the water. I stuck my hand through the cage to make a deal.

The horror inhaled deeply through his piggish nose. His eyes stared off into the darkness. Finally, his mouth opened slightly. He had an idea.

“Tell ya what?” Urmit began. “I cripple you. Break onna your arms, maybe a hand. You come back, I use my…gifts to heal you, good as new. It’ll be like it never ‘appened.”

I’m no expert in mutants, but I didn’t believe this creature could heal broken bones. This prompted the horror to give me a show of force. Urmit gripped my extended pinky finger and jammed it to the side as hard as he could. A sharp pain shot out from the base of my finger to the end of my wrist. I was almost laughing in pain as the mutant let me observe my broken hand.

With a grotesque squish, like a wet towel smacking into tile, the horror’s own hand turned into an indistinct mass of glowing mucus. The mound opened up like a toothless mouth and Urmit guided my hand into the maw. The mouth closed on my wrist. It was unpleasant and warm. My hand felt like it was submerged in a bowl of gelatin. The good news is that the pain in my finger instantly vanished. After a minute or so, the horror released my hand and molded his own to a more familiar humanoid shape.

I held my wrist in awe. It was a bit slimy, but otherwise miraculously repaired.

“So…” Urmit said, breaking the silence. “I’ll break ‘ur arm, letcha go, and then fix ya up when you come back.” He smiled ear to ear, exposing a mouthful of needle-like teeth. “Whadda shay?”

“Could we do something a bit less painful?” I asked. “I still need to defend myself on the way back to town.”

“Alrighty, which hand do you write with? I’ll leave that one intact.”

This is going to hurt….

 

-Joe Junkman.

In the Belly of the Beast

Well, this isn’t so bad,

10f7365ae3a83129b412f4aeb2ba0b0d  There I was, trapped in a cage like a common animal. My captor was busy nursing a crackling fire. With the cave illuminated, I was able to orient myself to the exit portal. Looking around, I found a mattress, a chessboard resting on a table of stacked car rims, and even a carved china cabinet full of knick-knacks.

I was then distracted by an unpleasant pattering sound that scratched the back of my mind and caused my eyebrows to twitch and my neck muscles to tense. Turning away from the fire, I spotted a collection of drying pots and pans. Licking my cracked lips, I watched as precious water droplets rhythmically plopped into a tin dish. Though my head was still pounding from dehydration, I knew that my captor had must have a sustainable water source if he was willing to waste such a valuable commodity on washing dishes.

A monstrous humanoid shadow appeared on the wall in front of me, growing larger and larger as the sound of crunching sand grew louder and louder. Trembling, I turned around to formally meet my kidnapper. I don’t know what I was expecting.

Grabbing the iron lattice, the mutant revealed himself in all his horrific glory. My captor stood nearly seven feet tall. His flesh was a sickly yellowish green that had the consistency of fresh mucus. His whole body unnaturally oozed and festered, yet not a single drop of slime fell from his body. An odd explosive glow churned in his bloated belly. He wore little more than leather boots, tattered cargo shorts, and a pouch bandolier that seemed fused to his chest.

My captor introduced himself as Urmit, apparently of a race called the hulking horrors. My teeth chattering, I silently nodded my head. Suddenly, the mutant’s body made a grotesque crunching sound, similar to splitting wood. His muscular left arm atrophied until it was little more than a five fingered stump, while his right arm turned into a tentacle, slithering into the cage to meet me with a handshake.

Retracting his right arm and re-growing his left, the horror noted that I was extremely dehydrated. He picked up the tin dish full of drippings and slid it into my cage. As I emptied the curved plate, Urmit asked what I was doing out in the desert without any gear. I plainly told him that I was looking for a water source to help the people of Abundance. It was the truth after all, mostly.

“You mean like dat?” the mutant asked, pointing behind me.

I turned around once again to find a reflective pool that stretched as far back into the cave as I could see.

Now I just need to play my card right and get out of here.

-Joe Junkman