Wild Card Football is a fun pick-up-and-play arcade-style football game developed by Saber Interactive in partnership with Colin Kaepernick, the NFL Players Association, and OneTeam Partners. The game launched on October 10, 2023, on all major platforms and features 7v7 team-focused gameplay with the unique Wild Card system. It is a heck of a lot of fun, even if you don’t know much about American Football. The fun is amplified with the familiar Playgrounds style designs for player characters.
I started with the tutorial, and I was very glad to do so as there is a lot of learn as I don’t know much about American Football myself. The game’s trailers reminded me of playing the tabletop game of Bloodbowl which is a Warhammer take on gridiron. There’s the smaller playing field, characters you can control and plays you can set up with wild cards that can really throw a spanner into the works with field bumpers, twisters and UFOs. Once you complete the comprehensive and guided tutorial, the rest of the game’s modes open including Exhibition, Season and Dream Squad.
Exhibition mode in Wild Card Football sees you go head-to-head with you playing a CPU component, playing local multiplayer with a friend, or online multiplayer. Season mode sees you picking from one of 32 teams and playing matches over an entire season. Finally Dream Squad sees you selecting a squad of players from any team to make the best offensive and defensive lines in the competition. You can mix-and-match players from your favorite teams and customise everything from the team’s name to the team logo, uniforms, playbooks and more.
After completing the tutorial where we hear voiceover from legendary ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman, we are given enough players to field a team and given a few logos and uniforms to play with the team creator. I had fun browsing the uniform designs I had unlocked, and there are also full themed uniforms you can wear such as samurai armour, gentlemen’s suits, flaming skulls, and a whole heap more. New players and uniforms can be unlocked through gameplay, and there’s a DLC pack with 10 full cosmetic uniform sets that can be purchased separately or with the deluxe edition/ultimate editions.
Dream Squad is what I spent most of my time in and enjoyed the gameplay despite it being confusing at times. You are given a split second to react to pressing a button on the keyboard, or on controller in my case. Doing a quick pass from a runner to the quarterback happens so fast as I’m also looking at where gaps are that I could run through, and looking further afield for anyone that has broken through the other team’s defense. If you’re attacking, you can choose from three positions and play styles. If defending, you will see what position the attackers have chosen, and you have three positions to try block and intercept.
In Wild Card Football, you’re gaining and losing yards depending on how you’re playing, but then enters the wildcard system which changes things up in weird and wacky ways. Each team has a certain amount of stamina points indicated on the UI, and wildcards have a stamina cost per turn. There are over 150 wildcards to collect, and their abilities range from boosting your teams’ stats or debuffing the opposition, summoning walls, or invisibility, or playing a Rule-Breaker and flip the rules of the game completely.
Given how quick the blocks and plays happen, it’s often that you don’t get a chance to fully utilise the benefits of some cards. I almost always went for buffing the strength or speed of my team or slowing down the opposition. If I was low on stamina and had the option, I would use single-target wildcards on players, like a speed boost on a linebacker. Touchdowns and conversions happened eventually for me, more out of blind luck than skill. Kicking field goals to get extra points was quite easy, with the only difficulty being the wind direction and speed to take into consideration.
While I had some great matches in season and dream squad modes, it did start getting quite repetitive. Having breaks and coming back the next night helped a lot, as did changing up uniforms to change the aesthetic of players. The wildcard system is great to add some diversity to the game and it really leans into its arcadey gameplay well. I still have a lot to learn about which are the best attack and defend plays to utilise, but it’s a game I can happily pick up and play when I have a spare 30-mins or so between family time.