A PS5 code was provided to GamingPizza for this review. Wild Card Football is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
From the moment I picked up Wild Card Football, it felt like a nostalgic trip down memory lane, reminiscent of days spent playing NFL Blitz in the arcade, and later on my N64. The game masterfully captures the essence of the 90s arcade-style football while adding a plethora of new, innovative mechanics that make it a standalone gem in today’s gaming landscape.
Wild Card Football does not shy away from its influences. It feels like a spiritual successor to NFL Blitz — and that’s a good thing. The tackles, powerbombs, vaulting, and even showy gang tackles all resonate with Blitz’s DNA. However, where Blitz gave us wild antics with a hint of football, Wild Card Football ensures the football aspects are not overshadowed. The antics are more dialed in, but the hard-hitting arcade action remains, offering both nostalgia and a fresh experience.
A spiritual successor to NFL Blitz
This game shines most when played with friends. It is an arcade gaming experience through and through, perfect for multiplayer and local play. Invite some buddies over, pick and build your teams, and revel in the hilarious on-field antics. For younger players unfamiliar with the intricacies, strategies, and control schemes of NFL games like Madden, Wild Card Football is a delightful entry point.
The gameplay mechanics are easy to pick up, with the stakes much lower than more sophisticated football simulators. Yet, seasoned players will appreciate the strategy involved, especially with the Wild Card system, making it both a casual and fiercely competitive experience.
Standard football fare, in arcade form
Wild Card Football boasts several modes, each catering to different types of players:
- Dream Squad lets players create a custom team, trade players, and compete against real-world opponents. What stands out is the pseudo-Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) experience. While I’ve only dabbled in MUT occasionally, Wild Card Football’s approach feels more accessible and player-friendly. The joy of opening game packs based on gameplay achievements and daily challenges rather than a pay-to-win system is genuinely satisfying. Surprisingly, it makes me want to try to get more into MUT, seemingly acting as a stepping stone to the more robust mode of Madden NFL.
- Season Mode provides an offline weekly tournament for those seeking a structured challenge. Lead your team through multiple matches, aiming for the top spot.
- Exhibition Mode offers casual bouts against computer-controlled teams or friends, either online or locally. Choose from 32 pre-defined teams led by your favorite pro QBs — Justin Herbert is a personal favorite — or use your Dream Squad.
The game’s Wild Card system is its crowning jewel, which makes sense given it’s literally the name of the game. With over 150 wild cards to unlock and use, every match can feel fresh and unpredictable. These cards fall into three categories, each affecting gameplay differently.
Strategic use of the energy squares, deciding when and which cards to play, adds a layer of depth to each match. Thinking ahead, such as pairing a ‘pass ban’ card on defense followed by a ‘frozen ball’ card, can significantly shift the tide of a match. This dynamic ensures that no two games are alike and that players remain on their toes.
The sense of progression in Wild Card Football is notable as well. Players can build their Dream Squad, starting with common, lower-rated players and aiming for the legendary ones. Earning game packs or completing daily challenges adds a rewarding cycle of progression.
The system of trading duplicates for tickets, which can be redeemed for desired players, is a smart move, avoiding the frustration of repeated, unwanted cards. As you gain experience, you progress your players, emphasizing the importance of team management and roster decisions.