Sports in media: the Maximum Football franchise.

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An Xbox game controller against a green backdrop. Lyncconf Games (Flickr)

Looking into the world of independent sports games.

If your reaction to the title of this article was like that of a dog that turns its head when it hears the word “walkies”, then congratulations, you’ve just recreated my first encounter with Maximum Football when I initially saw it in the dim light of the game store on Xbox.

For those curious (and I hope you would be if you’re reading the article), Maximum Football is a simulated American-style football experience that does away with the American aspects of the game and, instead, makes the Canadian Football League (CFL) the centre focus. That’s right – for the low, low price of still more money than it should be, Maximum Football brings Canadian teams to the virtual world of videogame football.

The only thing is is that, because of the small development team behind this title and the lack of backing from the CFL, the actual official CFL teams are nowhere to be seen. Instead, we are greeted to the legendary Saskatchewan Knights, yaaaaaaaa? Honestly, I’m being harder than I should be on this type of game considering the size of the development team behind it, but it’s still a strange product to put out there into the world when something like Madden exists.

That being said, I get it. Not everyone wants the big virtual football experience – some want a more homegrown style of game that actually comes from a developer with heart rather than the soulless hollowed-out money creature that EA is. Of course, to backpedal on the backpedal, the price that Canuck Games asks for their games does not get you the same level of product (for reference, Maximum Football 2020 is $30 dollars new on Xbox and $40 dollars on PS4).

Going back to the team’s first entry, Maximum Football 2017, the first time I actually got the chance to play that title, I was convinced that somehow, someway, my console had magically changed to a PS2 … and the disc inside was scratched … and PS2 was on fire. Joking aside though, it wasn’t great. The arena presentation left a lot to be desired, teams were very bland looking, there was no background commentary, and trying to do anything other than throw the ball was a mistake. Not that you couldn’t run the ball, but there are certain plays where if you throw you score all the time. So yeah, throw the ball.

Moving on to Maximum Football 2018 (and more or less 2019), there just wasn’t enough there to warrant this franchise needing a sequel – which is interestingly also the problem that Madden has now. Actually, in all honesty, Madden is taking more features out of its franchise as opposed to adding them, so Maximum Football at least has that going for it. It’s doing what a franchise should be doing: growing rather than just relying on nostalgia to sell copies. Anywho, Maximum Football 2018 was more or less a case of “second verse same the first”, and proceeded to be another forgettable entry into the franchise.

And so comes around Maximum Football 2020, which I believe is where the franchise should’ve been from the start. Not AAA in quality, but something that has a decent independent feel to it, something that has a lot of charm and makes me want to show it to my friends. Yes, it is still a bit disappointing that you can’t play as any of your favourite CFL teams, and instead have to settle for weird alternatives, but it is what it is.

Again, I can appreciate the work that it takes to deliver on a project with the amount of limited funding that must be available. As someone that used to review games, the difficulties for a smaller developer to create a unique product that has to measure up to other more funded games of the same genre are one hell of a mountain to climb.

However, here’s the difference: you can always tell as a gamer when there’s a lack of heart in your product. Yes, the actual franchise of Maximum Football has advanced far from its initial 2017 release, but the time that the developers could have taken to develop a polished and refined game would have made a world of difference to their success. I’m happy for Canuck Games that things have improved to the point of quality that is presented in Maximum Football 2020, but it really should’ve been there from the get-go.

All in all, Maximum Football is an interesting development in the genre that is simulated sports and continues the argument for smaller developers being able to create something of substance despite a smaller budget. That being said, supporting independent developers is great, but (as mentioned above) when the pricing is high above what the quality of the actual product is, then there needs to be a point where you meet in the middle of recouping funds and understanding your market. Gamers will pay for what they’re interested in at the end of the day though, so if there are any issues in regards to the price range or the quality, Canuck Games will feel it through a lack of interest.

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