Chaos League is different. After producing Pro Rugby Manager 2004, a game based on a well known sport, developers Cyanide Studios have decided to give us another sports title, except this time it's based on a sport they created themselves. Coming as a sort of cross between the worlds of Lord of the Rings and Warhammer with an American Football-style sport, and containing similarities to Games Workshop's own Blood Bowl tabletop game, the game is certainly not the usual EA Sports affair, and this is what has given the game much interest in the PC community; in fact, the very concept of a PC-only sports title is certainly unheard of.
When beginning the game, the best option to choose is the tutorial. This presents you with short segments about the basics of the game, as well as teaching you tactics, telling you about the tactics of the races, and giving you the opportunity to have a 10-minute match to try out your skills. For a game based on an unknown and rule-less sport (the only objective is to get the ball in your opponent's end zone in order to score), such help will prove essential, and we're glad Cyanide included it.
Once this is through you can take part in a single match, you can take part in a championship, or you can take part in a scenario. The first two are self-explanatory, but the scenario mode is similar to the challenge in Codemasters' LMA Manager, where you are presented with a pre-made team, set conditions, and have a specific objective to achieve (such as to win a match - a draw being as unacceptable as a loss). It certainly provides an extra challenge, and for this reason it is great for veterans, but is probably something a novice should avoid until they are experienced enough with the game.
When you get into a game itself you'll soon discover that it's not just the sport and the violence that comes from the lack of rules that sets this apart from all the other sports titles, but the way the game is played. Conventional sports games use a third-person perspective, as you do here, but in those games you control the action by navigating each player, and taking actions such as shoot or tackle using the appropriate key. In Chaos League you play as if the game was a real-time strategy title; controlling the action from afar, taking control of all players (usually the computer would take over players you aren't controlling at the time), and choosing what they should be by clicking on them and then on something like the ball or an opponent (with or without the ball). There is also the presence of RPG elements in the game; you need to bring together a team whose players each have special abilities, and this provides the game with a greater depth that is not realized by simply taking part in a short match; it's something makes you become a part of the game, and keeps you playing at the same time. The almost complete lack of rules also lends the game to some interesting pre-match options, such as bribing the ref, drugging your players, and arranging for drug tests for your opponents.
If the quick-paced action where you need to keep an eye on all your players gets too much for you, there are alternative modes of play on off. One of them turns the game into a turn-based title, giving you a set amount of time in which to make your moves and counter-moves, allowing you time to stop and think. If you find this too slow, and want an intermediate option, then you're in luck; Cyanide have included an "Active Pause" mode that means that the game plays like normal, but when you want some more time you can pause the action and prepare your moves like the turn-based mode. This means you can both take as long as you like (ultimately making the game easier) or you can just keep playing until you really need to slow things down.
Overall, on the looks front, Chaos League is lacking polish. Although the engine holds and well, and provides the action quickly enough and with a pleasant amount of detail, it isn't able to amaze you in any way at all, and feels like more could have been done. The environments do sometimes impressive, and the game is well represented in true 3D. The ability to rotate and zoom around the action is greatly welcomed, although zooming fully in does not offer any practical use.
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Chaos League: Sudden Death, F1 2002, Cross Racing Championship 2005, Risk 2, Links 2003, Microsoft Baseball 2001, David Leadbetter's Greens (a.k.a. MicroProse Golf), International Rugby League
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