Part Blitz, Part Street, all fun. A new, less serious NFL alternative is here!
I consider myself an old-school gamer growing up with titles like Tecmo Bowl, NFL Blitz, and Ken Griffey Jr. baseball. I've played console for most of my gaming career and concentrated on a lot of sports games, eventually making my way to Madden, which has become the mainstream football game that everything is compared to when you talk football. Once I made the permanent move to PC, sports games kind of fell off my radar for more grandiose titles like Fallout, Elite Dangerous, and Skyrim. Seeing the trailers for Wild Card Football reminded me of the gameplay in NFL Blitz and the attitude of NFL Street mixed into one platform, so I had to give it a try to get back to my sports roots.
Wild Card Football is a 7-on-7 team format with current players as well as some Hall of Famers mixed in. Players are drawn from “packs” or can be bought from a marketplace using tickets. The players start at a lower stat level than their real-life counterparts, and playing games will allow them to level up into the elite players that they are. I like this system because you can’t just “buy” a great team strictly from the marketplace; you still need to put in the work to level them up.
The unique element of Wild Card is the use of modifier cards during the game, potentially using them on every down, offense, and defense. The cards vary from speed boosts, player catch bonuses, or calling in spaceships to teleport players around the field (no joke). You can customize the card deck to maximize your current team construct or confuse and aggravate your opponent by minimizing their players' stats and throwing obstacles in their way.
There are multiple game modes to get more repetitions with either your own team or a premade team modeled with star players at the helm. Season, league, tour, and exhibition are among the ways you can get in some snaps and earn experience and packs. The tour mode allows you to play against the system AI in various game modes like sudden death, max score, and no modifiers. League allows the competitive player to rise through the ranks, playing against other team captains online in a winner-take-all format. The game is cross-play among all of the major consoles, including Switch, PS, Xbox, and PC, so finding online matches has not been difficult for me while playing so far.
I mentioned in the headline that it pulls elements from classics like Blitz and Street; although not as popular as the flagship NFL game, they still had a devout following when they were released. Quick, hard-hitting tackles and taunting animations are the mainstay after most plays, which add a nice element to the overall feel of the game. The game length is quick, with quarters starting at 2 minutes. This is a nice relief if I wanted to get a couple of quick games in; I didn’t have to reschedule my entire afternoon. There are very few menu adjustments available that are typically available in other sports games, like AI difficulty, custom controls, or game length, which are not editable. It does give plenty of customization opportunities to playbooks, card decks, and hundreds of uniforms, logos, and color combos.
As a whole package, I was happy with the overall game feel and did not encounter any game-breakers during my twenty hours of gameplay. The play was difficult enough that I didn’t blow out every AI opponent. There is enough customization that I can make my team my own and enough players online with cross-play to make the league system competitive. Some critique of what I have seen so far is that the ticket system is disabled right now due to a known bug, so I can’t trade away the lower-tiered players that I have on my bench, but a fix is close to being patched. The gameplay is VERY simplified, although hundreds of plays are available (40 selectable), there are no pre-snap motions or audibles once the play is selected, and the juke/stiff arm system is very simple. This might frustrate the more experienced NFL game players if the Wild cards don’t add enough to the overall play of the game.
When it comes to officially licensed NFL video games, you don’t have many options on the market. In fact, this game only features players' names because it was sponsored by the NFLPA, but official NFL team names are not used. If you don’t want to play Madden, which can be incredibly competitive on the online esports side and very intricate in gameplay and features, this could be a good alternative for you as the community of players grows.
The price is a sticking point right now as it ranges from $39.99-69.99 depending on added DLCs like extra uniform selections and a season pass that starts you with some NFL legends. This puts the price point as a direct comparison to the newest Madden, which runs $69.99 when not on discount. Saber Interactive is an experienced developer with top sellers like Snowrunner, World War Z, and Insurgency Sandstorm, but this is their first feature in the NFL world, so deciding to go with the experienced stalwart game in the industry or the upstart offering a simpler but unique gameplay perspective will have to be considered for new potential buyers.