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Wild Card Football: Magic the Gathering meets Madden - Review

About the Game:

Wild Card Football is a new single player arcade football game that’s very much on the arcade side: think Blood Bowl, but with real players rather than Warhammer Fantasy characters. It goes for the Pro Evolution approach of having real players but under randomly generated team names, so you get a wide variety of characters available that you can slot right into – Team Mahomes is the Chiefs for example, and any football fan will be able to pick up on what team means what easily as they’re all named after the starting quarterbacks. If there is a strong community for Wild Card Football as we’ve seen in Football Manager, a modding community will be able to add real name patches, too. Fans of sports games will be right at home and football fans will further still get some enjoyment out of it – shortening the teams down to 7 vs 7 for intense, brutal matches made all the more entertaining by the addition of power ups and rule-breaking abilities that enhance the match. It's fast paced, and fun – engaging and easy to pick up and play, unlike FIFA which has become increasingly hard to catch up on if you’re late to its ultimate team mode. That said; there are signs that Wild Card Football intends to model FIFA in its style: you can pack players – build a dream team that feels like a stand-in for ultimate team, and yes, microtransactions are a thing. The Season pass alone costs £29.99, which for a game where its longevity is not clear at this stage, feels a bit much - and on top of that, the base game feels like it’s very much still in beta mode without the relevant features available to justify the price of a launch game. That said; fun football games that take risks and allow gamers to have fun is something that we’re all here for; so let’s see if Wild Card Football is here to stay.


The main feature of Wild Card Football that are its selling points is the titular Wild Cards. As of now there’s over 150 to choose from and they have exciting line-ups; but the downside is that they’re repetitive and it feels like you’re seeing the same ones over and over again. On top of that; the more creative ones – like cloaking, are easy to counter, and there’s a lot of counter cards that you can deploy – imagine if you tried to insert a Magic the Gathering mini-game into your arcade football and the result would be something like this – when play resumes, you can get the choice to deploy wild cards, which can be countered depending on your needs and cards available. If it’s not your thing you can turn them off, but the game is far more exciting with them on even with the limitations, and it’s part of what it makes it so different. UFOS and Tornados mean it’s absolute chaos from start to finish. The ability to turn into a human rocket and is game-changing. Clever tactics allow you to create forward runs and score chances – the gameplay follows the typical structure of football itself; and not much is changed beyond that – save for the decision to up the stakes with the violence and make the bone-crunching appropriately gory. There are multiple modes that you can jump in and out on and the core Dream Team mode operates like Ultimate Team; you build your players around packs that you pull and go from there – mixing and matching to suit your skillset before playing others. Unfortunately – connection for the internet is required to even play single-player; but the fact that there is such a significant single player mode is something to be applauded! – and on top of that, local multiplayer is a massive perk, something that you can play with your friends which is a welcome change from so many online games recently. Wild Card Football’s core selling point is that It’s ultimately fun to play – it’s easy to jump into and start a game; and easy to have fun. The Wild Card dynamic really gives it a cutting edge but it’s hard to recommend for that alone – it’s hard not to love a game that lets you barrel headfirst, unstoppable into opposition territory with the force of an immovable object. There is a steep learning curve in this game and it’s something that’s easy to learn but difficult to master – it’s hard, and on the harder difficulties you will get punished for it. Reviews have compared it to Blitz and it’s a refreshing break from the formulaic Madden games. The grind will turn off people too; the deck building aspect takes its time but fans of sports games will be no stranger to what’s deployed here.


The visuals at the heart of Wild Card Football are fun, entertaining and slick. It skeers cartoony and I love that there are so many stadiums to play in that don’t have the look and feel of the traditional football stadiums – they’re more homebrew. I haven’t been able to unlock London but I’m really excited to play there – there’s such a variety in where to play it’s always fun, and the winter textures in particular really give where you’re playing a sense of location, scale and event – the players are well-detailed enough to look unique but they’re not as say, in-depth as the triple a games, understandable given rights is a big thing that most of these games encounter. One of the downsides that comes with the visuals is the unskippable cutscenes that mark an end of a phase of play; they’re everywhere and they’re really hard to shake. It feels repeatable and a little too flawed. Yet you can’t help but admire how fun and crisp the visuals are otherwise: the mechanics are immersive and making your own decks add the personality to the game with the visual flair that it needs. You can customise your team to dress them up in pirate costumes and the game gets really creative with its kits – there’s a real strong element there. I love the chunkier character models, the movements give it a quirk and character that’s hard to argue against, and the colourful wildcards themselves really add a fascinating visual flair. On a final note; the cartoonish visual style is one of the main plus points of the entire game – and everything really sings together with joy.


There is no backing music to Wild Card Football and the sound is sparse, perfect for you to add your own song choices or podcasts to the background should you so wish. The commentary is limited; sometimes that will work in your favour but for those who want a more authentic gameplay experience that isn’t here. The crunch of players colliding is appropriately brutal and the atmosphere created by the crowd makes for a fun watch; Wild Card Football really finds a way of creating that immersion considering how cartoonish the premise is, which is part of its appeal. Little touches in the celebrations – like when players perform the kiss goodnight move after a takedown, are appreciated – and the whole experience is designed to make a player feel like they’re participating in a hyper charged football game. And what do you know? It works like a charm!


One of the best strengths of Wild Card Football is its platform versatility and you don’t need to play it on just the PC. The Switch and the Steam Deck mean that you can take your game on the go – the recommended PC specs require 16 GB ram, an AMD graphics card, Intel Core i7-9700K, 8GB file size and ideally, Windows 11 – but you can run it with less that. 8GB is minimum, for example – and a NVIDA GeForce GTX 960 will be good enough for you. As a side note: Windows 11 players should also be warned that they’ll need to disable the Windows Security Features in order for this game to run, due to its anti-cheat software.


You can change the difficulty of this game which is what you may need as the harder it gets; but beyond that it’s fun for everyone: the deck building card games give you the chance to have a card game mini-game within a game, and there’s enough there for you to devour. It’s very easy to jump straight in and the sports game elements are stripped back just enough to keep the immersion but at the same time; make it fun. The game is also available in full audio, and subtitles – and outside of full audio, you get subtitles in French, German and Latin American Spanish – alongside the interface in all of these languages plus the original English.


The Replayability of Wild Card Football is hard to tell at this stage; there’s not enough game modes beyond that of Dream Squad, which is its core gameplay mechanics, but the standard league format feels a bit underdeveloped at this stage. Any football fan who likes an arcade-y feel will find themselves right at home though – and there’s unlimited hours of football here – even if the Wild Cards could be mixed up to give you more variety.


Available on the Switch for some pick-up and play on the go, Wild Card Football has plenty of variety for your entertainment on a surface level, sports fan or no – with two games for the price of one thanks to its card game mini-game that echo that of Ultimate Team modes. But because it echoes Ultimate Team it borrows much of the same problems, allowing for a grindy experience with not enough content outside of Dream Squad to justify even its cheaper price at this stage, especially when its long term potential is unclear.

Gameplay: 6/10 
Visuals: 7/10 
Sound: 7/10 
Performance: 7/10 
Replayability: 8/10 
Overall: 66/100

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