(Also available on PC. Coming soon to PSP and Nintendo DS)
Forget the Rose Bowl, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. We are geeks. We don’t watch that stuff anyway. Yesterday, Sunday, the holy day of football just one week before Super Bowl XLIV, we got to take a look at a “new” take on the classic game. Blood Bowl for XBox 360 is actually a play off Games Workshop’s classic tabletop, dice roll based board game set in their Warhammer Fantasy universe. Orcs face off against Humans as the Lizardmen take on the rat-like Skaven in a medieval gridiron beat down.
Blood Bowl comes with two options for play-style. The first is based on the exact rules of the table top game where players take turns and use dice rolls to play through the events of a game. If you are a classic Blood Bowl fan, the game does an excellent job of translating the original. What seems like would be a slow paced game usually plays out rather quickly as each half’s eight turnovers per team quickly cycles back and forth. A few bad dice rolls and a game can be over and a matter of minutes.
The other mode deceptively calls itself Blitz. Thinking it might resemble the classic NFL Blitz games, this mode instead allows players to call actions in real time during the course of a game. Dice rolls are done behind the scenes with just the results being shown. The game allows players to enter “concentration mode”, similar to the pause screen in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, where they can set a series of commands at once and then put the game back into real time.
This mode ends up extending the game as fuller halves are allowed to be played and often lead to higher scoring conflicts. Still, what one would expect from the full control real time games, especially the first person endeavors, that have been based off of Games Workshop products, Blood Bowl isn’t a fast paced system and comes across more as an RTS in either play mode than a sports game.
Blood Bowl lacks any true sort of story mode. The closest it brings, like most sports games, is a “Campaign”. Campaigns consist of a player forming a team, choosing its name and what combination of players to purchase and following through on what would most resemble a franchise mode in a game like Madden. There, players pick tournaments based on total number of teams and level of difficulty to pit their team against. Over the course of games, individual members level up and gain new skills while the overall team gains money through endorsements and success on the field.
This money can be used to purchase things like a team apothecary (doctor) and cheerleaders or even bribe the referee into helping calls fall in the team’s favor. In addition during campaign mode, players must deal with the effects of injuries and even death on their team. That’s right. It’s not just a matter of a sprained ankle. Think twice about putting that troll on your team and having him launch your quarterback down field because he might just be a little too hungry and decide to eat your star player instead.
Graphics and Sound:
The graphics of Blood Bowl come dangerously close to what someone would expect from a downloadable game. In fact, some games such as Shadow Complex top the quality of the animations and textures within Blood Bowl. It feels that a certain level of detail is missing from this game as it could have been released more as a PlayStation 2 title instead of an XBox 360 game.
Surprisingly, sound ends up being a place where Blood Bowl stands out amongst the football game crowd. This is the first football game in recent memory that repetitive announcers didn’t interrupt the flow of a game and ended up adding to the dark humor of teams literally ripping each other to shreds.
At the same time, the rest of the game’s sound effects don’t shine through and come across as blandly generic. Nothing comes across as bone shatteringly painful when a player gets taken out of play as one would think should accompany a game with such a brutal concept like this behind it.
Blood Bowl is one of the games, much like Risk or Hasbro Family Game Night, that does a good job of bringing a table top game on to a gaming console. If someone loved the original property, this game would pull them in as another avenue to further explore it. If the table top world has never pulled someone in though, even the faster paced Blitz mode won’t be enough to keep them hooked.
Essentially, Blood Bowl is a fun RTS game hidden under a gridiron skin but unfortunately lacks some of the character and charm that made the original pewter and plastic figure game so endearing.