THQ Blood Bowl review
If you can imagine American football played by teams of Orcs, Elves and Dwarves, you'll have a good grasp of Blood Bowl, although it's more violent and free-flowing than that rigidly structured sport.
Blood Bowl is based on a cult 1980s board game, and is set in the Warhammer world devised by Games Workshop.
You can play the game in one of two modes. The turn-based mode recreates the highly regarded board game, while the real-time mode provides an RTS-style point-and-click approach. Either way, anything goes as you try to get the ball into your opponent's touchdown zone.
There are eight different races on offer, from the Orcs, with their running and blocking power, to the fleet and agile Wood Elves with their passing game. Each team has a variety of players for different tasks, such as running, catching and blocking, and one Big Guy - a monstrous player such as a Treeman or Troll.
The turn-based game is fairly complex, and the tutorials could be better, but you'll pick it up after a couple of drubbings. The key to the game is the 'turnover' system, where your team's turn continues until something goes wrong - for example, a player is knocked down, fumbles the ball or drops a pass. The other player then gets their chance to capitalise on your mistake or misfortune. The trick is to make your less risky moves first, such as repositioning the players in your backfield, and work up to the trickier manoeuvres, usually finishing with a daring dodge past your opponent's blocker.
The real-time mode uses the same underlying mechanics, so formations that work in the turn-based game work here, too. You don't have direct control over running or tackling, but at any time you can tap space to pause the action and issue direct commands, or adjust the team members' AI to aggressive, neutral or defensive stances. It's not terribly tactical, though, and you don't feel as though you're in full control at any time.
Presentation is excellent, with brash and colourful arenas populated by great-looking players. The graphical style is a spot-on rendition of the board game's excellent artwork. The AI worked well in turn-based games, as our many losses prove, but was very hit-and-miss in real-time games. Thankfully, there's an online multiplayer option, and two players can compete on one PC in turn-based mode. There's also a detailed campaign mode, with training, injuries, bribes and mercenary star players for hire.
Blood Bowl is a brilliant adaptation of a great board game. If you enjoy turn-based games, or you like the Warhammer world, it's a must buy. However, its real-time mode won't please those who want arcade action, and fans of American football sims won't feel at home.