There's fun to be had in this adaptation of the Blood Bowl tabletop game, but it strips away some important features.
Blood Bowl's AI is all over the place. Your CPU opponent may clump players together and give your ball carrier a chance to run through an opening unscathed. Other times, dice rolls feel stacked in the AI's favor, as if to make up for its deficiencies. If you want to escape the inconsistent AI, you can take your team online, where you can play one-off matches with friends or ranked games with strangers. (Oddly, there is no unranked matchmaking.) Expect real-life challengers to use a greater variety of formations than the AI and to deftly position each player on the field. And accordingly, expect anxiety every time a player moves and joy every time a gamble pays off, because the risk-to-reward ratio in Blood Bowl is handled well and makes online matches demanding and exciting. You should not, however, expect to find the addictive league play that graces the PC version of the game. It's shocking that such a central feature would be so unceremoniously lopped off, and it severely hampers the game's lasting appeal. If you have any interest in online competition, you should be playing the PC version.
If you want to explore the game outside of the classic turn-based play, you can mess around with other customizable rules and options, the most intriguing of which, at least initially, is real-time play. Sadly, what sounds like a great idea is in reality a chaotic, unsatisfying mess. You can set various AI behaviors for your players, but matches feel out of control, and it becomes quickly obvious that attributes that make sense on a turn-by-turn basis don't translate well to a real-time environment. For example, the movement attribute is an important aspect of turn-based play that affects how far a player can travel in a single turn. In real-time play, you'd think this would translate to speed, but there is little difference in speed between players you'd think should be quick and those that shouldn't. The resulting disruptions to race balances, and the overall sense of disorder, keep real-time rules from being anything more than a quick diversion, and you'll probably be done with real-time play after one or two muddled matches.
Blood Bowl offers an authentic Warhammer experience, thanks to colorful representations of the board game miniatures and some cool-looking stadiums. The animations are simple, but some of them are still charming, such as the acrobatics the wood elves pull off when dodging a tackle. However, the visuals are technically unimpressive, even more so on the Xbox 360 than they were on the PC. Low-detail player models, sharp edges, and dull textures can make the game a chore to look at. One important aspect of the authentic Warhammer experience that could have made the game look more appealing was completely jettisoned in this version: player personalization. You cannot change uniform colors or add war paint, and while you can choose a team logo, it does not appear on your uniforms. That these options existed in the PC version makes their exclusion even more outrageous. Sadly, one element of the PC version that did make the cut is the blatantly awful commentary. The actors' voices are annoying, and they deliver the same cringe-worthy quips over and over again. There was a huge opportunity here to explore the violent wit that characterizes the Warhammer brand, but it was left unexplored.
Some board game faithful will tackle Blood Bowl simply because the core turn-based strategizing is so enthralling. Matches can be tense, tactical standoffs, and the game will keep you up past your bedtime because it's so hard to pull yourself away. However, the aspects that weren't culled from the board game--the interface, the commentary, and the bizarre real-time matches--feel messy and improvised, and the lack of league play and lack of team customization are inexcusable omissions. The fun you have with Blood Bowl comes from the core tabletop mechanics, not from the flimsy trappings developer Cyanide constructed around them.
- Player Reviews: 4
- Game Universe:
- Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior (PS2, PC),
- Warhammer: Dark Omen (PC, PS),
- Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat (PC, PS),
- Warhammer: Mark of Chaos (PC, X360),
- Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command (DS, PSP),
- Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Battle March (PC, X360),
- Blood Bowl (PC, X360, DS, PSP),
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PS3, X360, PC),
- Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (PC, MAC),
- Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team (PS3, X360)