Review - Brutal Sports Football (Jaguar, 1994)

I don't like sports. I don't have anything against them, but they don't do much for me. Okay, once and a while I'll sit down in front of the tube and watch the Red Sox or the Expos embarrass themselves on national TV, but around the time the fifth inning rolls around I'm seriously thinking about calling my insurance agent and shooting the breeze for no good reason. It's extremely rare to see someone brutally killed in an interesting way during a televised sports event, although I'm still hoping to see my local sports announcer mouth off to a deranged zamboni driver.

The same goes for sports games. I like golf, and that's pretty much it. Once in a blue moon I'll try out a baseball or basketball game that looks interesting, only to find out that it's not. A few years ago I even bought one of those stats-based baseball games; I tried real hard to like it, but eventually I had to admit to myself that watching dust collect on my monitor was cheaper and had better replay value.

When I first saw Brutal Sports Football at the CES Jaguar pavilion in June, I wasn't interested in the least. Oh boy, another sports game. Ptuii! Still, I had a responsibility to cover the games, regardless of my opinion, so I played it. Smart move on my part. Brutal Football is not a sports game; it's a blistering action game masquerading as a sports game.

Brutal Sports Football is played on a traditional football field, and that's one of very few similarities between this game and its steroid-fueled real-life counterpart. The objective is still to outscore the other team, but now there's a goal on either end of the field you must kick, throw, or run the ball through; each goal scores one point and there are no field goals, no extra points, and ya better learn to like it that way.

The biggest difference between regular football and Brutal Football is the rules. Let's not mince words – there aren't any. In the brutal league, anything goes. One of my favorite things to do is run offsides and tackle an opponent before the ball is even in play. Just for the hell of it, ya know? You can even stomp on an opponent after he falls down to cause as much injury as is humanly possible. In this game, excessive force isn't a punishable offense, it's just a good general strategy.

I'm not sure if you've grasped this concept yet, but Brutal Sports Football has more in common with the Spanish Inquisition than it does with good sportsmanship. The primary objective is still to run the ball through the goal as many times as you can, but if you don't take advantage of the abundant opportunities to inflict grievous bodily harm on your foes, chances are you'll spend most of your time being ground into the mud on your own 20 yard line. The enemy, whether human or computer, will take every chance to gleefully stomp your guts out, and you must do the same. Not only is violence fun, but it's a strong tactic and can win the game for you. In addition to winning by score, you can also be crowned the victor if you behead six of the seven opposing teammates; each player in the game has a health bar, and if it gets exhausted said jock will lose his head the next time someone says "boo" too close to him. In a sick but fun twist, these liberated heads don't leave the field, and you can pick them up, kick them, and throw them as if they were the ball. Sometimes the heads will even cry if their team loses.

To make the game even more absurd, power-up icons have been included, which randomly appear on the field to spice up the game. Rabbits and tortoises speed you up and slow you down, but it's the weapons that are the most fun. Knives enable you to do extra damage when you tackle someone, bombs can be thrown to clear the field in front of you as you dash towards the goal, and axes can be thrown all the way across the field, giving you the distinct pleasure of mangling someone you're not even close to. In two-player contests, two additional icons present themselves. One causes the players to swap sides, and the other (the really twisted one) reverses the directions on your foe's control pad, which can cause your friends to hurl Jaguar controllers and even heavier objects at you. You know it's a good game if someone gets a concussion.

Brutal Sports Football may not break any new ground, but it's a good solid game that can keep people coming back again and again. Plus it's for the Atari Jaguar, so it doesn't even have to be good to sell. Let's face it, someone could release Interactive Shopping List for the Jaguar and it would sell, because there's next to nothing out there for the system yet. Brutal Sports Football doesn't need desperation to be a hit, but if that works in its favor, so be it. If a dozen new Jaguar carts suddenly materialized tomorrow, I'd still be playing Brutal Sports Football. If you own a Jaguar, you should have it. And not just so you can use two hands when you tally up your Jaguar library.sty