Give me a B! Give me an L! Give me an O-oh screw this, what do you get when you cross the crazy antics of American Football with the fantastical monstrosities of Warhammer? A perculiar little game called Blood Bowl. So perculiar, infact, that it earned our reviewing attention!
First off – do players of Warhammer actually enjoy sports?
And in that respect – do players of sports actually enjoy Warhammer?
Such is the outlandish beauty of the video game industry. Immediately this seems like a concoction for disaster, but regardless – is Blood Bowl going to be bowled out? Or will it be good enough to make that all important touch down? … I try.
Give me a B! Give me an L! Give me an O-oh hell with this, what do you get when you cross the crazy antics of American Football with the fantastical monstrosities of Warhammer? A perculiar little game called Blood Bowl. Yes, the concept sounds absolutely ridiculous on paper – but then again, like Lego Star Wars and Wii Fit, so have many games of yesteryear. Despite the success of these games, Blood Bowl seems to completely fail in delivering what I like to think are “quintessential needs” for any gamer – whether it be ingenuity, value or indeed entertainment.
I was unsure what to think of the game at first, as it plays like something that really should be fun – but for some reason isn’t at all. I think at the heart of things – it’s the gameplay that really ruins this game. I understand that the way Warhammer is played is all dependent upon the role of a dice, and in that respect everything is completely up to chance… but oh no, Blood Bowl seems to take this a step further! Perhaps key moments such as tackling someone or making a touchdown deserve to be left up to fate, but rolling the dice to see if you can actually just move!? Or to pass!? Or stand up!? This is absolutely bizarre, it’s as if the game just tattoo’s the word “fail” across your forehead and expects you to be content with that – when deep down the only thing you really want to do is slap it in the chops (a British term which in America would mean: “Beat it up out of frustration”.) Yes, your players can “pass out” trying to stand up, they can “pass out” trying to move, they can “pass out” trying to pass, they can “pass out” trying to catch and they can even “pass out” whilst passing out (goes without saying).
If you hadn’t gathered by now, there’s roughly about 2% skill involved in this game – and that essentially comes in the form of whether or not you’ve got enough necessary brain cells to navigate the start-up menus. It is also safe to say that the format of this game is very different to probably everything you may have played in this genre before (I’m thinking along the lines of Madden fans), as the whole game is turn-based. You begin unsurprisingly with 11 footballers facing each other on opposing sides of a field. The teams are varied into 8 races, Humans, Orcs, Wood Elves, Dwarfs, Skaven, Lizardmen, Chaos and Goblins. For fans of the Warhammer series, I would imagine that the depth and detail they bring to the characters from each of the races would be quite rewarding, sadly for everyone else it may feel as if Cyanide Studio’s are just replacing famous names from the world of American Football with “those things from the Lord of the Rings – lol”. When you are in control, you are allowed to move as many players as you like within their given “moving range” (which is essentially just a few squares on the floor allowing you to see how far forward you can move). If you incorrectly roll that dice, a “Turnover” is triggered and your go is ended there on the spot. For hardcore gamers I imagine strategic play is quite rewarding, as you can spend numerous rounds setting up a defence and varied attack. For the casual gamer who just wants to score a “touchdown” as soon as possible, you may find yourself getting bored quickly – as it really is the required inventiveness of the player that makes the Blood Bowl matches particularly entertaining. There is a catch however… a big catch. On my first run through of playing, I spent a few rounds setting up what I believed was a great strategy, knocking over my foes and positioning myself in free spaces. The moment before I could score my touchdown the bell dawned for half time – and when the game returned, everyone was automatically moved to the default starting positions once again. I felt cheated, frustrated and above all else – bored.
And this is where I struggle to give the game my thumbs up – because I can’t understand what it wants to be. The whole “roll of the dice” aspect of the game means that there really isn’t any skill involved, just pure blind luck. Then again, the fact you are constrained by a time limit to score may suggest that skill is involved for gamers – as you are required to get the job done quickly. I really can’t make up my mind – and on that note, I’m unsure whether or not there is enough incentive to score a touchdown. Sure, it’s obvious – you need to score in order to win, but the game doesn’t help you feel thrilled or proud when you achieve it. As a gamer you are rewarded with a very shoddy 2 second clip of your character jumping up and down, and then it’s back to starting positions. These are just numerous little things which stop the game from achieving its full potential.
As for the graphics and sound, there is very little to say. By looking at the screen shots you can see that the game isn’t particularly the best looking thing on the market. I find the game very reminiscent of the PS2’s level of graphics, with hardly any detail on the environments and severely blotchy characters. One thing which freaks me out to high heaven are the few characters who aren’t actually playing the game. You see at the start of each match a quick “pan around” of the playing field, showing you the spectators and pom-pom cheerleaders. The fact the animation is so bad means that they don’t really have clear faces – and that unsettles me as they appear as just blotchy peachy squares with dots on them. I’m not a technical guy, so I don’t know the appropriate terms for some of these things – but characters feel very jagged and square (hopefully the screenshots will help illustrate my point better than I can) and each animation seems looped.
Now we’re well into the third generation of games consoles, you’d expect the developers to create the model of a cheerleader on their computers, then have a few jumping up and down – some waving around the pom pom’s etc. What Blood Bowl seems to do is get the model of the cheerleader, make her jump up and down, loop it so that she never stops, then copy and paste that 8 times in a line so that everybody is doing the same thing in unison. It just looks tacky and cheap, and whilst you may think these are irrelevant criticisms – it is the atmosphere and characters that really should set this game apart from all the other sports title’s on the market. If you aren’t purchasing this game for the fact it features worlds and characters from Warhammer, then you’re better off just buying Madden. Again, in the sound department, Cyanide Studio’s show that they aren’t the top dog. The sound track is generic and repetitive featuring a small host of fanfare and trumpets (“like in lord of the rings – lol”). Also, would it have not killed them to get a better voice actor to record an actual commentary? Instead, you get very few recycled stories and throw aside comments that just irritate after a while. Every sports game seems to feature some famous/Z-lister commentators narrating what you do as a player in matches nowadays. Blood Bowl should have been easier still – all they had to do was create interesting fictional commentators and then have them record 3 phrases “Touchdown!” “Look at him fall over!” and “Let’s roll that dice!” with slight variations to keep the kids happy.
There are many other criticisms this game needs to have pinned on it, such as its last-gen loading times, glitchy interface and lack of modes. I don’t know if the full retail version will clean up any of these, but the online is so slow at loading and setting up that it’s really not worth the hassle. You’re better off sticking to a quick match, no matter how dull or pointless it may seem to play. Blood Bowl is a game unintended for the pick-up-and-play gamer. It’s more demanding then every sports title, and sadly not as rewarding. To make a comparison to the real world – imagine working your ass off for less than minimum wage and for no recognition. That is Blood Bowl in a nutshell. If you enjoy your board-to-video games with a heavy emphasis on tactics, then I’d perhaps suggest something like Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth, as the whole “randomness” aspect of Blood Bowl can be something of a turn off. For a richer, fuller and more entertaining experience – I heartily recommend Madden NFL.
- Title: Blood Bowl
- Developer: Cyanide
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- MSRP: $49.99
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the Publisher for reviewing purposes