Fans of the Canadian Football League have always seemingly been at the short end of the stick when it comes to video games.
While leagues like the National Lacrosse League have received games over the years, Canadian Football has been left out in the cold. Until now, kind of.
It’s been almost 20 years since fans of the CFL had a game to call their own, but the man behind that original excursion, David Winter, has spent the last two years developing a brand new football experience, Canadian Football 2017.
Available on PC via Steam and Xbox One, the game doesn’t feature an official CFL license — the league didn’t want to invest money in the product despite wanting some of the revenue — but all nine CFL cities along with their respective color schemes are represented.
Instead of the Hamilton Tigercats or Ottawa RedBlacks, we have the Ottawa Lumberjacks and Hamilton Stingers.
At launch, Canadian Football 2017 was riddled with problems. While some of the problems were good for a laugh like launching a pass as if you were Uncle Rico over 100 yards, most of the issues nearly made the game unplayable.
From wide open receivers dropping everything under the sun to not being able to control players on kickoff coverage, the game just felt more like a rushed college project than an actual playable video game.
Issues like the inability to view controller layouts, using the pause screen to reset a play or even change possession, or knowing where your kick was going to go plagued the game on release. However, they have all been addressed via post-launch updates from developer Canuck Play.
The game only comes with one game mode: a simple exhibition game either against the CPU or a friend locally, which can lead to the game becoming pretty boring after a game or two.
When you’re an extremely small team — there were two developers on staff — making a game, it shouldn’t be expected that fans will get a game full of featured modes even if it has been in development for two years. Still, giving players just an exhibition mode gives off the feeling of a demo as opposed to a full game .
There is a play creator mode, which is pretty nice for mixing things up on the field. It just doesn’t really add much to Canadian Football’s replay value.
Once you have your teams picked and your settings adjusted, loading into the game takes mere moments. It’s quite impressive with how quick you load into a game.
On the field, you’ll immediately notice the quality of the visuals. From the players to the scorebug on screen, the game clearly isn’t state of the art in terms of graphics. That being said, visuals aren’t a problem at all with this game. The player models are quite nicely done, and are some of the best from an independent football game to date. Whether you’re solely looking at screenshots or are in the game playing, the models look like something developed by a much bigger studio than Canuck Play.
Be that as it may, visuals aren’t everything in a game as a game can suffer if the gameplay isn’t fun. And that’s where the Canadian Football 2017 really starts to get hit.
Receivers follow their routes, but if the route is a streak or a deep post, they just keep going.
The game feels clunky and slow right off the bat. Even the coin toss takes far too long to complete. Lining up for plays takes a huge chunk of the clock away, leading to delay of game penalties galore. If you select a play with anything less than 15 seconds on the play clock, you run the risk of not being able to get the snap off because of how long it takes players to get set.
After the ball is snapped players just run. Receivers follow their routes, but if the route is a streak or a deep post, they just keep going. They’ll run out of the endzone, and through the walls just like Forest Gump. The worst part of it is that defensive linemen will keep up with these receivers the whole way down field.
If there’s no blitz, there’s no pressure to ever throw the ball. The CPU doesn’t leave their assignment until the ball is past the line of scrimmage, giving you the option to kill as much time as possible. If there is a blitz and you break away from it, the CPU defender may just keep running past you away from the play. Continuous running just seems to be a trend with this one.
The pass catching isn’t very reliable, and after making a catch it’s up to you to avoid everyone on the field. There is no sense of downfield blocking as AI teammates just stop trying to keep defenders away from you while the AI defensive players run you down.
Running plays, despite a few minor hiccups, provide no real problems aside from blocks continuing after you reach the line of scrimmage. There is also an issue of being positioned three/four yards away from where you actually were tackled which can lead to major problems if you go for it on third down.
There are sidesteps and spins to avoid tacklers, but those are just as clunky and slow as the rest of the game feels. Kicking is better with the added aim arrow, but you find yourself getting more delay of game penalties than kick attempts because of how little time you have to aim after finally getting to the line. It just comes down to the fact that it’s better to play the game with the play clock off, which takes away from the experience.
Canadian Football is an okay foundation for a series that Canuck Play hopes will become an annual franchise. It offers glimpses of fun and is sure to see plenty of updates in the future, but it’s a game that just lacks enough polish and substance to justify a price tag even as cheap as $15.99.