Chaos League: Sudden Death isn't entirely a new game - Chaos League (no subtitle) came out around a year ago, and Chaos League: Sudden Death adds content to the original, with new teams and plenty of new game features as well as gameplay tweaks, but in my mind it's not really enough to be called a sequel. Maybe 'Chaos League One and a Bit' doesn't hold quite the same marketing puissance as the chosen name though.
For the uninitiated, Chaos League is best described as a highly violent fantasy bastardization of American Football. The nine players line up in each half of the pitch, a whistle blows, a ball is run into play on the back of a pig (well, it's a sort of dangerous bush pig thing), and whichever side gets the ball into the other team's end zone gets a point before the whole thing starts again. Games last ten minutes and anything goes (apart from hitting players when they've been downed). Best of all, each team is a different race of creatures, with different attributes - humans, the undead, elves, barbarians are four of the thirteen available races. Personally, I'm a big lover of the undead team, but then who wouldn't want a huge mummy (the bandaged kind, not the one that hangs out your pants) at the center of their line, and a pair of zombies as running backs?
Before you take to the field you have the option of choosing how you wish to play the game - you can play it in real time (with or without pauses, it's up to you), or you can set the game to play for five seconds before pausing for a set length of time so you can make your tactical choices. The game is instant joy for sporting tacticians, or anyone into an old-school-stats-and-twenty-sided-die type RPG with an action/sporting leaning. Once you're on the field you have to marshal your players every action - fighting, moving (you can set waypoints), ball throwing/receiving and spell casting. The game works very well, pushing you to take advantage of your race while making you cancel out your opponent's advantages, and on that side of things there's very little I can criticize. But the interface is clunky and unclear - it can be very hard to see who's doing what to who on the field of play at times, and bloody impossible to find the ball (or get someone to try and pick it up) at others, but judicious use of the shortcut keys does pay dividends.
While you could simply play one-off matches against the computer (or the various preset scenario challenges), the main draw of the game is going to be the championship mode and the multiplayer matches. Championship mode adds an extra layer of complexity to the game as you have to actively manage your players over time, and make choices about how to allocate your resources - buy expensive new players, or pump the (cheap) existing ones full of drugs? There's not a huge amount to do in here, but it certainly changes the way you play - getting players killed can be exceedingly damaging for your season. Sadly the AI isn't great in CL:SD - it has some nice tactics that it will use in situations, but most of the time it's fairly easy to pick a hole in them (unless you play in real time so that the computer doesn't have to struggle with the interface like you do). The AI is just part of the overall problem for the championship mode - the game gets very samey after a while. My personal experience was that after a couple of matches I'd seen most of what the game had to offer, and by the end of ten matches I was just plain bored. Online multiplayer solves the AI problem of course, and it's where you'll see the most inventive and sneaky tactics which help keep the game very fresh well after the single player game has gone stale. Trying the game out online should be a must for any purchaser.
I wouldn't usually leave comments about the presentation until last, but I think that they shouldn't really cloud the issue if you're looking at downloading Chaos League: Sudden Death - it's a good game, and a great novelty. However, the presentation is not up to 2005 standards, in fact, I'd go as far as to say that graphics were at this level four or five years ago - I wouldn't say they're bad, I just find it disappointing in that they could have really gone to town with the setting that they have and offer some really detailed character designs. In tandem with the graphics, the commentary is humorous for the first five minutes, and nothing but aggravating thereafter.
I do like Chaos League: Sudden Death, but I don't think the changes warrant the price for someone that purchased Chaos League a year ago. For a first timer wanting a turn-based game fix it's certainly worth a look at, and should last a good dozen hours before it gets repetitive, and much longer if you can play online.
People who downloaded Chaos League: Sudden Death have also downloaded:
Chaos League, Cross Racing Championship 2005, Colin McRae Rally 04, Sid Meier's Pirates!, Crush! Deluxe, Freedom Force vs The 3rd Reich, F1 2002, Extreme Tennis
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