England can take solace from the fact that they defended like lions. How often have you heard words like that after our boys have been unfairly dumped from a major sporting tournament? We was robbed of course, and the Portuguese know it. Yet had the game been Chaos League and not football the players might have taken solace in a different way - by bundling them to the ground and kicking their smug Portuguese teeth in.
This is what sets Chaos League apart from other sports games: that one can take some pleasure from defeat. Take, for example, a recent trouncing I took from a team of Wood Elves calling themselves The Inquisitors - two minutes before the final whistle, with the game clearly beyond retrieval, I changed tactics and ordered my team to start laying into the opposition, specifically those reeling about on the floor. I eventually lost the game 8-2, with half my team sent off for ungentlemanly conduct.
Promotion to a higher division seemed unlikely after this, but even more so for the Elves, who lost two players to fatal injuries in that game alone. Not a bad season, all things considered.
If you haven't figured it out by now, Chaos League is a sports game set in a high fantasy world - heavily inspired by the old Games Workshop board game Bloodbowl, but with enough differences to avoid a lawsuit.
As such, it's not just the wilful violence that sets Chaos League apart from FIFA et al. Teams of humans, dwarves, elves, the undead and dog-like Praetorians regularly square off across the pitch, often complemented by ogres, trolls and other assorted uber-beasts. It's reminiscent of Spectrum duffer Peter Beardsley's International Soccer in that respect, but the means to score are very much different.
For a start, the basis of the game is American Football, with cheerleaders, odd-shaped balls and touchdowns in evidence, and throwing definitely favoured to kicking (at least where the ball is concerned). As you'd expect, it's pretty much a case of anything goes once the action starts, with players setting about one another viciously with arms, legs and stumps. The crowd love it, and if you pull off a succession of impressive scores, or lay out a number of the opposition, they'll reward you by pelting the opposition players, and may even endow you with special powers.
Spells are also favoured by certain teams - the Elves especially, who can launch lightning strikes to knock out a player for a brief time. Other abilities allow you to slow down the game, launch more powerful attacks or cast a portion of the pitch into darkness to support a sneaky run down the flank. Magical powers may have no place in regular sports, as Uri Geller can testify, but in Chaos League they complement the unfair action and fantasy setting perfectly and can turn the tide of a game in an instant.
Making The Play
So far, Chaos League might sound like some Tolkien-endorsed version of NFL, minus the rules. It is, however, leagues away from what you'd expect from the likes of EA. With a control system lifted directly from a real-time strategy game, Chaos League is a tactical sports game rather than an action-oriented one. It takes a few games to get your head around the concept, but with a little perseverance you'll soon be positioning players, cueing up spells and pulling off daring passes like an elven Arsene Wenger.
The Al of your players is minimal - they'll generally stand around picking their teeth unless you tell them to do something - which means the onus is on you to manage your team precisely. Luckily, given the tight playing area and small number of units on hand this is eminently achievable, and you can produce some pretty cunning strategies if you put your mind to it. There's even a semi-tum-based mode if you want to take the tactics up a notch.
Saying all this, Chaos League is unmistakably B-grade in nature, with low production values and an awful lot of rough edges. The graphics are workmanlike, the grimy, medieval aesthetic apparently precluding the use of modern rendering techniques. Animations are stilted, character models clunky and the ball physics practically non-existent, with the pigskin seeming to stick to the players' legs rather than sit cradled in their arms. And when a scrap breaks out, the players simply whack each other repeatedly until one of them falls over.
Similarly, the textures have a cheap, washed-out quality with no real detail close-up, which is perhaps forgivable seeing as the game is unplayable in all but a couple of the more zoomed-out views. The complex heads-up interface is also cluttered, with three areas dedicated to spells when there only needs to be one and text that's often illegible.
Luckily, the quality of the gameplay shines through regardless, and Chaos League is both engaging and pleasantly out of the ordinary. In fact, presentation aside, the only real gripe I have is the lack of any transfer options in the Championship mode, which makes a losing streak almost impossible to break. Oh, that and the fact that you can't attack and maim the referees, which would perhaps be taking things a bit too far, but in the light of recent events would doubtless provide a great deal of satisfaction.
Download Chaos League
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Its a funny old game. Perhaps not in the sense that it'll have you rolling about cackling like a loon, but it is mildly amusing. Take for instance the typically mundane kick-off - not usually the most exciting part of a team sports event by any stretch of the imagination (unless some bushy earth mother sneaks onto the pitch in her birthday suit), but here the ball begins in the centre of the pitch strapped to a pig, which must be bundled to the ground and mercilessly slaughtered in order for play to begin. And no, there is no vegetarian option - this is a French game.
Much hilarity ensues during the match too, as alongside the regular all-American girl cheerleaders are mercenary female fans that can only be described as trolls. Green of skin, wide of hip and with tits like fried eggs, they happily wave severed heads in the air whenever anyone scores a touchdown.
As you can guess then, Chaos League is rather distinct from sports games we've had to sit through in the past. American football is of course the inspiration, but NFL this most certainly isn't, for while the aim of the game is to force an egg-shaped ball into the opponent's end zone, its rules and ways are considerably less formal.
Ent To Ent Stuff
Aside from the team sheet, which reads like a What's What of Middle-earth, the main difference between Chaos League and every other sports game is that violence and foul play isn't only encouraged, it's absolutely essential. Weapons aren't allowed on the pitch and kicking an opponent who's already down is considered bad form, but these are the only rules you have to adhere to during a typical ten-minute game.
With ten races to choose from prior to kick-off, clearly not all are perfectly suited to brawling - the Elves and Goblins being the Obvious weaklings. However, what the rat-faced greenskins lack in brute force they make up for in agility, while the Elves can certainly string a few passes together.
Whichever race you may have a preference for, all are able to field the basic array of player positions, of which there are five; the playmaking quarterback, the brawling linemen, defence-minded linebackers, swift receivers and the more versatile running backs. To beef up the team, each race is also able to recruit a number of monsters selective to their race. The Undead prefer Mummies while the tree-hugging Elves can rely on friendly Ents to help them in battle. Slow in getting about but able to dish out inordinate amounts of punishment, these beasts are the centrepiece of any team and the rules of the game being practically non-existent, you can field as many of each player type your purse will allow - up to the maximum outfield team size of nine, of course.
A Good Spell Of Possession
Winning doesn't always dome from strength and brute force, however. Certain races and player positions have access to spells that can be cast dunng theigame -some can temporarily blind opposition players, while others give you the ability to summon creatures to help bolster your defence for a brief time. If you choose to play the Championship game, each player gains experience and can then spend points on even greater spells and abilities. This increases the potential to wreak havoc on the opposition.
However, the players aren't the only ones able to affect a match. Please the crowd with your scoring or mauling prowess and you may be given access to more spells that enable you to create a fog of war across the pitch, or even plant mines for the ultimate defensive strategy. Conversely, if you stand around in possession for too long, the crowd pelts your players with rotten vegetables -and if there's an impatient wizard in the stands, he could well unleash something far more lethal too. With fans like these, who need enemies?
Jerkins For Goalposts
As well as looking more than a little distinct from other sports titles. Chaos League plays entirely differently as well. Rather than controlling the player nearest the ball as you might expect, all the players are controlled similarly to the units in a real-time strategy game. Initially the mouse-clicking doesn't feel quite as intuitive as when playing a typical football game like Pro Evolution Soccer, but when you consider how much off-the-ball play is made, as well as the vast array of abilities and spells that have to be called into play, an RTS interface makes a lot of sense. The downside is that the game is tricky to get to grips with and the interface is far from simple, but you can at least be sure that very few games will play out identically to the last, so varied are the teams and their abilities.
With the added benefit of a timed turn-based mode, exhibition matches, a full set of four leagues to play through with a decent spread of management options, plus some intriguing multiplayer options where you can have three people in control of each team, Chaos League certainly has plenty of features to look forward to. The only aspect of the game that could do with some last-minute work is the presentation, with text that is hard to make out and graphics that are far from spectacular. But then perhaps we've been influenced for far too long by the flashy dominance of innumerable EA Sports titles. Certainly, Chaos League lacks the graphical polish we might otherwise expect, but in terms of originality it's probably the most interesting sporting title we've seen for years. And if you've an unhealthy sexual appetite for slutty trolls or a carnivorous lust for pre-match bacon, all the better.
Dabble In The Transfer Market
In spite of the overwhelming variety of players available, the Championship side of the game could do with some extra features. For instance, once you pick a race to manage and control, you are limited to a specific type of player you can field -an unfortunate side effect of which is that you cannot buy players from other teams. In fact there are no transfer options at all, so if you are in control of a goblin team and you like the look of your rival's dwarf star player, you can't recruit him to your side no matter how big your finances. Sadly, whilst we think a full transfer market would be an excellent addition to Chaos League, the developers aren't keen to work on all the added permutations that might unbalance the game at such a late stage in the development process.