Review: Blood Bowl 2 (PS4)

blood-bowl-2-review-banner

Title: Blood Bowl 2
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (2.8 GB)
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Cyanide Studios
Original MSRP: $49.99(US), €49.99 (EU), £39.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
Blood Bowl 2 is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Blood Bowl and this sequel are based on the Warhammer board game by Games Workshop. Cyanide Studios takes the popular game of American Football and creates a very strategic turn-based version set in the twisted Warhammer universe.

I understand one or two of the rules for the beloved national sport and American pastime of Football; it equals my knowledge of my own national sport of Rugby. With the 2015 Rugby World Cup fever sweeping through my home city I felt the urge to play something similar and so jumped at the chance to review this intriguing game.

Armed with a very basic understanding of the sport this game is based on, I grabbed a DualShock 4 to find out if Blood Bowl 2 is good for rookie like me.

Blood Bowl 2_20150921221432 Blood Bowl 2_20150921225049

Gameplay:
I jumped straight into the single player campaign of Blood Bowl 2 and was happy to find a simple a gradual tutorial hidden in the first few games. The difficulty is kept low and some features are progressively turned on allowing you to learn each thing at a nice relaxed pace.

Things like a turnover and handing-off were just silly words that sounded like a food and a sexual act, but now they have a proper meaning that I understand, mostly.

There is a dark humor and a detailed story that follows the campaign. It often mixes up the action with each game by helping or hindering your team in various ways. These can involve you having to perform certain things during a match, an incident on the pitch where a few players get hurt or worse still, killed.

If a player is dead they stay dead, you cannot get them back and if you’ve spent time levelling them up it can be a horrible sight.

… planning while you wait …
After the tutorial levels you have a timer counting down everything and it forces you to think a little faster and occasionally make a rash decision. The A.I. has to abide by the same rules and countdown but sadly is known to wait till the last few seconds of their three-minute clock before doing anything.

It doesn’t happen often but it is annoying to sit there waiting for the computer to do something. At least you can still perform all of the camera actions and click on any players to view their cards allowing for a small degree of planning while you wait.

Blood Bowl 2_20150922164258 Blood Bowl 2_20150921232237

Tactics are what drives this game and the roll of some die are what gives it a degree of risk and reward. Surrounding a large juggernaut of a player like an Ogre and performing a knock-out move is a very satisfying experience and can put the opposing team at a major disadvantage.

These massive players aren’t all that clever and that can occasionally work against you. Sometimes my own stupid Ogre will ignore a command that’s been issued and just idly stand there drooling with a look of confusion on his idiotic face. You have to take that risk with the oafish brute and hope he does what he’s told and not waste a move.

The single player campaign has you take control of the Reikland Reavers, a once great human team that hasn’t won a match for years. Your goal as manager is to help them reclaim their place as the best in the league by any means necessary.

You have to try pushing the opponents off the pitch and have the crowd lynch them, injure them, or even if you can get away with it, kicking them while they’re down. Having more players around an opponent will increase the odds for victory as you try to barge into them in the hopes of knocking them out and maybe even killing them.

During a match players can gain points by injuring an opponent, being the star player, and more. If a player gets enough points by the end of the match they can level-up giving them a new ability.

… excellent on the PS Vita …
There’s a large assortment of defensive, offensive, throwing, agility, strength, and even mutation abilities to scour over and choose from and it can be quite hard deciding which best suits the different characters. Do you give them Sure Hands to increase their chances of catching the ball or the Tackle ability so hardly anyone will be able to dodge by your swift feet?

I must mention Remote Play as it’s excellent on the PS Vita with only some of the text being difficult to read. This isn’t a problem once you’ve played a few matches and know what’s going on.

Zooming in and out is accomplished by pressing the top corners of the touch screen and works very well. I would also like to mention the trophies as normally with an online game you see a fair amount of ridiculous requirements to obtain a stupid amount of online only trophies.

This might be all well and good when the game first comes out but after a while it becomes almost impossible to achieve. I am happy to inform you that the game only has one online only trophy which isn’t all that hard to obtain.

Blood Bowl 2_20150922022411 Blood Bowl 2_20150925131339

Visuals:
Blood Bowl 2 is a bright and colourful fantastical feast for the eyes. Each character looks deadly and threatening with snarling crooked and broken teeth jutting out of bruised and beaten mouths.

Noses are so broken and mashed they almost lay flat on the weathered angry faces. And that’s just the normal looking humans who look tiny against the lumbering star players or bigger still, the gargantuan Ogres and Minotaurs.

I think the most disgusting looking team are the Skaven, a putrid assortment of rats. Nasty little gutter runners that scamper around scratching and clawing at their opponents.

Their huge Rat Ogre is pretty gross dragging its massive claws through the dirt and filth, its black eyes staring at you like you’re a delectable piece of meat, its chattering mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth and countless diseases.

… wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley …
All of these gruesome characters look a little less menacing with their tattered brightly coloured armour. I still wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley, heck, I wouldn’t want to meet them in a brightly lit alley next to a police station.

All jokes aside, the detail and animations on the characters are excellent. The crowds and stadiums are bulging with activity and the ref and linesmen look like share the same family tree as Styx, one of the characters from another Cyanide Studios game.

A very welcome feature is the little help window that pops up with a dice roll showing you the outcome of each die selection. Without it a newbie like myself would have probably hated this game.

I did notice one minor graphical glitch where a player would disappear during a takedown animation. It was a rarity but looked odd whenever it occurred.

Blades of grass sway in the breeze and actually seem to fill the entire pitch and beyond. The stadiums and buildings that surround the pitch remind me of the Discworld series of books. It all looks nice and fits perfectly with the rest of the game.

Blood Bowl 2_20150926162211 Blood Bowl 2_20150923183405

Audio:
Jim & Bob are back as commentators giving us some often repeated words and sayings during each match and a detailed look into the single player story bookending each game.

A few decent jokes made me smile and the cracking of bones and tearing of ligaments when players clashed made me wince the first few times I heard it, then it became a sign of delight or sorrow depending on if it was my team dishing it out or taking it.

The crowd whistles, chants, and blows air horns just like an ordinary football match and the armour clanks and clatters when a player runs. It all sounds as it should and makes you feel like you’re down on the pitch surrounded by trolls, rats, and ogres.

Online/Multiplayer:
Playing in a league is easy to set up and finding other players is a quick and painless experience. My first match didn’t go so well and one early mistake on my part caused me to lose several players to injury and even have two deaths.

My opponent quickly scored and then proceeded to wipe out the rest of my players. My team had the ball but due to injuries and KO’s we couldn’t keep it for long. I only had a few players left and expectations were low.

In a moment of sheer desperation I got one of my players to pick themselves up and quickly grab the ball, making a run up the right side luckily dodging a few tackles along the way. My player had the ball but was left out in the open and unprotected, with another grain of luck I managed to get a couple of players to cover the large opposing team.

… that insane run to remember …
It was their turn and I could see my player with the ball waiting to be set upon but for some reason my rival manager wanted to add insult to injury and made his player kick one of mine whilst they were down.

This was noticed by the ref who sent the player off and caused a turnover. I had a chance, it was a long shot and my player could have fallen in the last yard but I had to go for it.

Touchdown!! The crowd and I went wild! It was an all or nothing shot and it worked. Moments like that are what helps this game to shine and be so much fun.

Sadly I had to concede the match soon after due to real life getting in the way and so automatically gave them another two goals and ended the game. I’ll never know if my injured rat team would have clawed a victory out of the tense and nail-biting game but at least I had that insane run to remember.

Blood Bowl 2_20150922011630 Blood Bowl 2_20150927123425

There is an option in the main menu called Cabal TV which allows you to look back on saved games from your own archive and the community. It’s a good way to learn some tactics or see where you went wrong.

It can be helpful as the online offering is massive and deep, with many leagues to enter both official and player made. You can even trade players and upgrade stadiums.

Conclusion:
Blood Bowl 2 quickly taught me how to play its simple and elegant yet dirty and gruesome version of American Football.

It hides a brilliant and very tactical game behind fantastical and horrid beasts all intent on injuring and hopefully murdering the other team in a game where the crowd, ref, and plenty of others all get their hands dirty.

This isn’t a game only for fans of Warhammer and the Games Workshop. It isn’t even just for American Football or Rugby enthusiasts. Blood Bowl 2 is for everyone.

After a few games in the single player campaign you’ll feel like you could take on the world and with a bit of luck, you probably could. Now if only Madden was this much fun.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg
Flag_of_Canada.svg

 

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook