Wild Card Football Review – A Thin Playbook

Wild Card Football Review

While most sports games aim to faithfully recreate the beloved activity, others take a different approach. The arcade iterations tend to combine over-the-top physics and several whacky elements to create a new spin on the sport. Although there have been successes in the sub-genre with NBA Jam and EA’s Street series, games of the ilk are few and far between. Following the success of Saber Interactive’s Playground titles, the company looks to branch out and slap its patented style to another sport. Wild Card Football is a fresh take on the gridiron but will it result in a terrific touchdown or a failed conversion?

Saber Interactive strips back elements of the sport to make Wild Card Football accessible. The 7v7 matches are fast-paced and easy to grasp, which allows for those with a passing interest to easily engage. Whether attacking or defending, you can quickly select your play and jump into a competitive match. While fanatics may be put off by the smaller number of tactical options, the inclusion of the card system spices up the gameplay.

Playing a Power Card

You can activate special boosts before you begin your play. The random deck shoots out particular bonuses and effects that will help you achieve your objective. Some will improve your stats whereas others can add zany elements like pools of tar across the entire pitch. They vary in their oddity and complexity but truly add a unique layer to the experience. Although casual fans will enjoy the crazy antics, this may frustrate hardcore fans as the cards alter the action on the pitch and sometimes give an unfair advantage. You are able to counter some of the effects with particular cards, which helps to vary the gameplay further. However, this does add an element of luck which can be annoying. Luckily, you can disable this feature and just stick to the arcade-style competitions, if you wish.

Small additions to the gameplay help to maintain a breakneck pace. Following the snap, you have the opportunity to hit a button prompt which rewards you a boost to close down your opponent. This is a nice addition as it gives more opportunities to force a turnover. This isn’t overpowered however, the offense can crack you in the face with a stiff arm and zig-zag past the defensive line. Taking down a runner is satisfying. You can deliver huge hits, German suplexes and much more to knock down your rival which adds a nice visceral element to the gameplay. 

Sailing Through the Sky

Pinging a pass across the pitch is nice. As throws can go wayward, timing is key. Take too long and you could be sacked, do it too quickly and you may overshoot your runners. You can perform a large jump to claim passes but so can the defense. To counter this, you can alter the way you throw the ball. Sometimes a simple lob can find its way through but at other times, you may opt for a bullet pass to the player.

Although the game doesn’t carry the NFL license, your favorite players are still within. This is vital as the Dream Squad focuses on the collection of stars of the sport. Like FC 24’s Ultimate Team and NBA 2K24’s MyTeam, Dream Squad allows you to collect players and build your fantasy lineup. After the completion of objectives and matches, you receive a loot box that will possess a random assortment of cards so that you can gradually improve your team. While this has become a staple of games in the genre, the issue with Wild Card Football is the speed at which you progress. It takes way too long to start getting better players which makes the early portion of the mode feel like a grind.

Outside of its core mode, there isn’t much else. You can take part in standard seasons, play on or offline exhibitions and that’s about it. Due to this, a question lingers over its longevity. Sure if you delve into Dream Squad, you’ll have plenty to do but if that’s not your bag, there’s not much else.

Cartoon Conversion

The caricature models and cartoon aesthetics work well with the premise. Similar to the other Playground titles, athletes have an animated makeover that captures their likeness and links to the over-the-top nature of the gameplay. While I do like the visual style, it does look a little dated on the Switch. Environments lack polish and the visual fidelity drops in handheld mode. When comparing the different versions of the game, it is clear to see that the Switch release is inferior to the others.

Wild Card Football manages to capture the essence of the sport in an arcade format. I’m torn about the Wild Cards, as they add variety to each play but they can also give an unfair advantage. Luckily, you can disable these and just play a standard match. However, the issues lie in the content. Dream Squad is fun but the slow progression makes it feel like a grind and the lack of other modes hinders the overall experience. 

***A Nintendo Switch key was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Easy to Pick up and Play
  • Dream Squad Is Addictive
  • The Card System Adds a Fun Twist

The Bad

  • Dream Squad Is a Bit Grindy
  • Not Enough Game Modes
  • Switch Performance Issues