Forget Madden, Legend Bowl is the American football game you should play


The return of the NFL to television can only mean two things to my video game habits. First of all, I barely have time to play games on Sundays anymore, as I still focus on the weekly game roster and my performance in fantasy football. Second, I start to think… is there a good NFL game that I can kill some time in?

Usually, you know, the answer is in the singular. Madden NFL. That’s not to say Madden is bad – that’s good – but it does have all the weaknesses you’d expect from these annual EA Sports efforts. It is a constant treadmill of incremental improvements, developed in what is clearly a very profitable factory-type environment. And that’s good – but that means I don’t really want to play Madden every year. Not enough changes, and the annual cost is significant for relatively incremental additions and updates to the list.

While we do have a “no simulation” licensed NFL game from 2K Sports at some point in the future I pray for the NFL Blitz (best sports game ever) channels, over the past few years, I have experimented with indie American football games – and there are quite a few on PC.


Last year I was all about Pro Strategy Football, which is an annual franchise that basically aims to be the hand-egg Football Manager. It’s not licensed by the NFL and looks extremely cheap and basic, but there’s a shocking amount of depth and a dedicated fan community that quietly downloads mods to add teams and official rosters.

Given that the NFL is such a deeply tactical sport at any time, it’s an ideal choice for a management game, and I’ve always been surprised that a bigger business has never started. in an NFL management game given how important a component of fantasy football sports is.

I also got into it and even wrote about the mobile game Retro bowl while briefly trapped at a Polish airport by coronavirus-related travel restrictions. It’s a fabulous mobile offering that looks a bit like an NES football game like Tecmo Bowl or whatever, but again offers a surprising amount of nuance and depth, especially since it’s on the platform. movable form. It hooked me up for many hours, but it wasn’t hard enough to sink its claws into me in the long run.

Here’s where the game mentioned in the title comes into the fray. Legend Bowl is a new PC American Football game available on Steam that’s essentially a 16-bit throwback, but with modern levels of complexity and nuance. It has a lo-fi look, but in terms of features and its dedication to recreating the sport is on par with Madden. I’ve seen people compare it to classics of the day like Sensible Soccer, and while it’s more focused on realism, there’s also a bit of that flair that made 90s classics like NBA. Jam and NFL Blitz so popular.

It has everything you could want. There are tournaments, practices and exhibition matches – all great to have – but I quickly focused on season mode. Season mode lets you play matches, watch matches, or simulate them – meaning you can use these latter options to make it a lightweight management sim if you want to. You not only manage the team, but also your facilities and training. You’ll have to deal with things like the weather and injuries, and even create your own personalized trainer on your journey towards building a squad that can be Super Bowl ready.

Of course, the big game isn’t called the Super Bowl because of the licensing. Indeed, the NFL is by no means featured in this game – but there are nice little facsimiles that are legally separate from the franchises, as well as downloadable mods that add actual teams and players if you really can’t get enough of it. to pass. You can also go in and do some pretty in-depth customization on your own with a plethora of options.

It should be noted that even with these mods, the game is limited to the “season” level – there is not yet a “franchise” equivalent where you start to manage and play as a team over several years, dealing with things like draft, trade, and contract negotiations. It gives a natural path for a sequel to take – and I think other areas of expansion for this game are clear.

What’s in this first game, however, is more than enough. What really pushes him above is the sense of authenticity. Legend Bowl exists in a universe, and there is consistency throughout its universe. Everything from advertisements on the pitch to how the weather works and the little newspaper articles you receive with league news over the course of a season feel fair and appropriate to you. You get full-color commentary on player performance and stats, including how player performance translates into fantasy football. The referees are active participants in the game, and the players animate all movements and actions between the games (although this can be deactivated). I gave an audible cry of joy that startled the dog when, during a match, the referees pulled out the chains to measure whether a very tight play had indeed made a new low play or not.

That sort of thing is what you would expect from a hyper-hardcore one-on-one simulator game where every pore on the senior quarterback’s dead-eyed face has been beautifully modeled in 3D, not a fun pixel soccer game. art. Little things, like the muffled sound of the stadium announcer reminiscent of what it is and the flavorful music snippets played at the stadium between games, make it feel like you really are at a game. Games like this usually don’t have “correct” clock handling, but it does, and that makes the whole process of setting up a game even more important. It all sounds remarkably authentic and brilliantly captures the “feel” of American football.

Legend Bowl overlaps a similar line in the way it actually plays. The Steam page describes it best, as a “mix between simulation and arcade-based mechanics.” I think it follows. It’s not as arcade as the classic NES and SNES or Blitz, but it’s also not as thorough a simulation as Madden. However, it doesn’t really matter where it is on this graph – what matters is how it feels. He feels good. There is a weight in the movements you make, but not to the point that it becomes boring.

On the simulation side, I was quite surprised at the legitimacy of the throwing mechanics – although it, and the kicks, are quite difficult to master at first.

Like the lack of franchise mode, the reviews I have seem to be the kind of thing to deal with in a sequel or major update, not the kind of thing I can use to explicitly drag the game down. . The AI ​​is sometimes a little dubious in its decision-making, and it feels like there are some aggressive Blitz-style rubber bands going on to keep games competitive. It can be difficult to see your downstream receptors during deep attempts. Passing is a nightmare at first, even when contextualized by the tutorial, and even if it does end up clicking, the game should do more to teach players how it works.

With all these little complaints recorded, you have to take a step back and say: whatever, wow, what a first attempt. Mainly by a solo developer. For sheer fun and thrill, I actually think this could be the best American football game on the market right now, the natural heir to Tecmo Bowl and NFL Blitz. EA, 2K, considers this challenger worthy.

About Betty J. Snyder

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