Have you ever played a sports game where you wished you could remove the referee, turn off the laws of the game and actually decapitate your opponents’ heads to gain the extra man advantage and actually score a goal using said head? Oh, just me then…
Well, there is a game that allows you all this gruesome freedom and more! Brutal Sports Football is neither the biggest or cleverest Jag game ever made. However, for me, the ruthless sports sim will always hold a special place in my heart. If you are looking for a more realistic American Football sports simulator on the Jaguar, you may have to settle for the mediocre Troy Aikman NFL, but if you like things a little more rock ‘n’ roll and ruthless and looking for a title that doesn’t take itself too seriously you can’t really go wrong with this sporting brawler.
After a stressful day at work or with little time to play with, BSF offers that quick burst of fun and adrenaline fuelled anarchy that can help give you an added spring in your step for the rest of the day. I often feel myself being drawn to this game and find myself taking part in a quick ‘unfriendly’.
The game itself is a hybrid between American football and the more traditional football (soccer), but with a lot less need for rules. You can either pick up and throw the oval shaped ball or send it flying great distances by booting the ball into orbit! Each match is quite frantic, and the requirement of fancy formations and intricate skills is certainly not the way the game should be played. Smashing into your rivals and timing your flying tackles just right to clear the path to your opponent’s goal will help lead your team to victory. In fact, if you cause enough pain to each opponent player you will eventually be able to knock their head clean off! This will mean you are up against fewer players. A nice but quite morose touch in the game is the ability to pick up the severed head and throw it into your opponent’s goal – talk about adding insult to injury. If you really adopt the Vinnie Jones style of playing, you can potentially get the game stopped due to lack of opponents. Apart from blowing the whistle, I think this is the only other role the in-game referee performs! After each game you not only see a quick break-down of the final score, but you are also treated to a literal head count score.
As mentioned earlier, the game is not huge and offers only a few options and game modes. You can play a quick one-on-one game against a fellow human player or CPU opponent in an ‘unfriendly’. The game can be expanded further with a simple knockout tournament. The most hours however will be put into a league tournament, where you will compete against the other 10 teams to see who will become the overall league champion. There is also a nice little touch after each game, where you find yourself in the locker room where you need to manage and hopefully heal your stricken players. The better you have done in your previous match, the more energy you have to fully recover your players. This small management element adds a nice little touch to the game, and does mean there is an extra incentive to look after your players and not subject them to too much damage.
To add to the on-pitch anarchy and destruction there is quite a large array of interesting power-ups, all helping you to gain the advantage over your opponent. These power-ups include swords for more powerful attacks, shields for added protection, grenades and bombs to help clear your path of any unsuspecting foe. You can also speed up and slowdown your players by picking up the rabbit or tortoise icon respectively. The running ball power-up is one of the most original, where the ball will suddenly sprouts legs and will follow your players. There are also two additional power-ups when you tackle a fellow human player, there is the added direction reverse which swaps all buttons around on your opponent’s joypad and an interesting team swap power that literally swaps each team’s controls to each player.
The graphics are quite big and bold and the game clearly doesn’t push the Jaguar to its graphical limits; being more akin to a well-made 16-bit title. However, saying that, the strong colours and chunky sprites fit very well with the overall feel of the game. The players are well animated and the blood-stained arena looks great. I particularly like the 3D and very well-drawn heavy duty goals. Having also played the Amiga version of the game, I can report that the Jag version looks and plays very similar, which you could argue is a slight shame, considering the 64-bit version came out a whole year after the original Amiga release. However the colours do appear a lot more vibrant on the newer Jag version.
The gameplay is one of the biggest plus points of Brutal Sports Football. Even amongst the fast action, the controls of each player are very responsive. There is no greater feeling than lumping the ball from the half way line, timing your jump just tight to catch the ball in mid-air and ploughing through the opponents defence before scoring an unstoppable goal. The computer AI is also quite clever and it is clear that some teams have clear strengths and weaknesses over other teams.
The game boasts a solid, if not spectacular soundtrack, which fits in well with the title’s overall look and feel. Add in a good mixture of grunts and groans and you will soon find yourself immersed in each match.
There could have been room for more complex game modes, the addition of new teams and even more power-ups would have been very welcome. How about also adding a detailed career mode? This would allow you to take a rough and ready lower league team through the leagues and buying and selling players to help create the ugliest and most feared squad on the planet. Overall though, I enjoy Brutal Sports Football for what it is, a fun and quite original sports sim that has often got me coming back for more (or should that be gore!?).