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Blood Bowl Review

Blood Bowl pack shot
Developer:Cyanide Studios
Publisher:THQ
Genre:Sports Action
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.bloodbowl-game.com/
Release Date:September 18th, 2009 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

American football is for sissies. I say that with the complete belief of someone who has never actually played it, but who knows the tension and brutal joy of a good game of Rugby, aka American football without all the wussie padding.

If American football was more like Blood Bowl however - overflowing with gore, massive linebacker orks and a ball covered in spikes - then I could consider it able to stand with the Six Nations Championship.

But, as the Yanks wouldn't know a good sport if it hit them in the face with a cricket ball, instead we get this little offering - Blood Bowl, an adaptation of the Warhammer-universe board game of touchdowns, trouncing and teamplay.

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I never played the original board game so I have to admit at first I found the game very difficult to get into.

There is very little explanation of what to do, and since my dwarf team were immediately drawn against a team of burly orks, I quickly found out how fast a terrified dwarf can run. It seems like the game was built for die-hard Blood Bowl fans, as the player's introduction to the game is slapdash at best, and there is very little help on offer for the inexperienced player - like me. But, once you've broken through the interminable first few matches, the rules do start to make a bit more sense.

The game is turn-based, with dice rolls deciding the outcome of certain actions, like interceptions, or whether or not your massive rat warrior will smash the puny human in the face. There is an option for a real-time match, but it's hectic and difficult to play, so I'd stick with the turn-based option.

The gameplay is also pretty true to the original board game - after the kick off one team has possession of the ball, while the other team attempt to intercept it, stop the runner until half-time or (if you're the more bloodthirsty type of player - like me) attempt to disable as many other players as possible with crushing tackles and kicks to the rat/ork/human groin.

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The gameplay is addictive, and once you get your team deep into a league winning becomes your only goal as the higher-class teams come to face off against your scaly hide.

Your team levels up after every game, unlocking new abilities like a chance to dice-roll your way out a crushing tackle, and you can fast become very protective of your star player - usually the one who can run from one end of the pitch to the other without getting scratched. Though the slightly plodding nature of the gameplay might put some gamers off, I found the experience to be very enjoyable and a pleasant change to the usual sorts of sports games I've had to review.

Your team levels up after every game, unlocking new abilities like a chance to dice-roll your way out a crushing tackle, and you can fast become very protective of your star player - usually the one who can run from one end of the pitch to the other without getting scratched. Though the slightly plodding nature of the gameplay might put some gamers off, I found the experience to be very enjoyable and a pleasant change to the usual sorts of sports games I've had to review.

The fun factor doesn't translate too well to the online gameplay however, which can often ramp up the game's little niggles to a ridiculous extent. Firstly there aren't many people playing the game, and when you do find one the players seem to take advantage of their team's special abilities to a great extent, ruining the flow of the strategic play.

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The lobby system is also a little bit difficult to use and the lag can occasionally be crippling which, for a turn-based game, should not be a problem at all. Also, the load times are unbelievably long.

Graphically the game is also nothing special. Though it's all very colourful and exciting to watch, the game itself uses a fairly old engine to display the action, though the close-up view of the brawling really makes the game a laugh to play.

The arenas your team competes in aren't too detailed either, there are only five of them, and even the screen itself seems overly crowded with icons and gibberish which needn't be there - occasionally it can be difficult figuring out what's going on because of yet another stats box which has popped up for no reason.

Sound design is also a mixed bag. While there is the occasional bit of stirring music, on a whole the score for the game is weak at best.

The voice acting is also poor. There are a decent selection of 'oofs' and 'owws' and 'get your foot of my face' noises, but the voices of your team are dull and repetitive. This is a shame as the developers could really have added a whole new dimension to the game with the addition of some comedy one-liners.

Summary

Blood Bowl is a decent game with interesting, addictive gameplay and the potential to suck you in and keep you playing for hours. Its kitschy feel and turn-based gameplay may not be to everyone's taste, but the game certainly kept me coming back for more, despite the occasionally dodgy AI and poor voice acting. It's a diamond in the rough, but might be worth picking up someday if you're in the mood for a game of American football, with spikes, or if you're a die-hard fan of the good old days, when Warhammer and Blood Bowl was all the rage.

The bottom line
7.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Addictive gameplay
  • Fun strategy aspect
  • Brutal action

Not so good stuff

  • Steep learning curve
  • Poor multiplayer
  • Bad voice acting


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