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Blood Bowl Xbox 360 Review

Blood Bowl pack shot
Developer:Cyanide Studios
Publisher:Focus Home Interactive / THQ
Genre:Sports Action
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.bloodbowl-game.com/
Release Date:November 27th, 2009 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

Some games should remain on the format that they were first designed for, and Blood Bowl is one of them.

It's simple really - the game is just better suited to the PC mouse-and-keyboard control system, than to the 360's double analogue stick approach, turning what was a half-decent sports/strategy title into a chaotic attempt to control a dizzying array of menus with a system designed for playing all sorts of action titles.

The game mechanics remain the same as the PC format - you have to found a team of Warhammer warriors, drawn from one of seven races, and fight your way to the top of the Blood Bowl league, which is a cross between rugby, American football and the arena from Russell Crowe's Gladiator, stamping on skulls and destroying the opposition as you head for the coveted top spot.

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As with the PC version, there is still very little explanation of what to do, and it seems that the developers have assumed an Xbox gamer will have an in-depth knowledge of the board game the computer version is based off, so once again I found myself desperately trying to figure out what to do while getting pounded into the ground by an angry dwarf- not a good experience.

I have to admit I was kind of hoping to get a helping hand this time around, but once again the developers decided not to include a tutorial of any substance, leaving me turning to the internet for advice - not a good situation.

As before, 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 goblin in the face.

There is still the option to play a real-time match, but it's still as tricky as the PC version, so I'd continue to stick with the turn-based option. The gameplay stays 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 disable as many other players as possible.

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Your team levels up after every game, unlocking new abilities like a chance to dice-roll your way out a crushing tackle, and star players are still worth looking after, though interestingly I favoured the heavy-hitters this time around, my tastes going from elves to chaos as soon as I saw the mighty chaos beastmen batter their way through a dwarf defensive line and into the end zone, leaving tiny, broken, bearded bodies behind me.

So no major changes in the gameplay then, but that's where the Xbox version goes off the rails a little, being scuppered by dodgy controls, weak graphics and a poor multiplayer interface.

The controls really are bad. Whereas on the PC micro-managing player stats is the work of moments, the menu system on the Xbox is hopelessly clunky and difficult, often throwing up more menus than you should need to level up your star players.

The graphics used for this version are similarly poor. I know from experience that the Xbox 360 is capable of some brilliant graphic effects, ranging from the tense action of Halo to the blood-smeared gore of Gears of War, so why the developers chose not to take advantage of the machines capabilities is unknown.

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Unlike the PC version, which has to support a myriad of setups and is wholly dependent on the individual hardware to decide how the good or bad game looks, the Xbox 360 only really has the one configuration. Therefore optimisation should be a much simpler task, I would have thought that the Xbox game could have been a real improvement over a PC version that does support some quite low end machines, but instead the graphics are rough around the edges, and come in many different shades of brown - a sad waste of the 360's prowess.

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 meagre. There is still the selection of 'oofs' and 'owws' and 'get your foot of my face' noises (combined with the odd grunting shouts of the goblin cheerleaders) but the voices of your team remain dull and repetitive, and the pithy dialogue of the two announcers, while funny at first, becomes a lot less fun when you've already heard it 10 times.

The multiplayer still suffers from an awkward, laggy lobby, and no one seems to be playing it, while the PC version has garnered something of a cult following since release, with gamers setting up their own leagues and competitions- it's just a more complete package.

Summary

Overall while Blood Bowl was pretty decent on the PC, the console port is its poor step-cousin. Buggy, irritating and let down by graphics and sound you would not expect from a 360 game. Why the developers didn't bother to polish the game's rough edges, like the lack of a tutorial and dodgy graphics before re-releasing the game is a mystery, but without these improvements it falls flat on its face, becoming a derivative sports game at best.

If you like Blood Bowl, get the PC version.

The bottom line
5.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Complex, tactical gameplay
  • Quite funny at points

Not so good stuff

  • Poor graphics and sound for a 360 game
  • Repetitive
  • Steep learning curve


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