NFL Tour Review (PS3)

EA Sports BIG brand created the “Street” games as an arcade remedy to EA’s usual detailed realistic sport simulations. FIFA, NBA and Madden all got the treatment and to largely decent effect. Recently, the titles have been reinvented – NBA Street becoming the fast-paced “Homecourt” and the forthcoming FIFA Street has been given a cell-shaded stylized look. NFL Tour is the attempt to bring the American Football version into the new generation, but has this new evolution been for the better, or for worse?

The sport of American Football is a very strategic, slow game. Split into four fifteen minute quarters but pausing for strategy changes after every play means that games can normally last well over three hours. Turning this into a fast-paced arcade game is quite the challenge and, unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work.

Look how exciting this throw looks! Look how exciting this running looks!

The game has been simplified to a seven-on-seven format, and the rules have been somewhat streamlined. There are no kicks at all, which makes the game completely focused on the throws, running plays and making up as many yards as possible. Wow, for an Englishman, I almost sounded like I knew what I was on about there. There are Ice Hockey-style barriers around the side of the pitch, allowing for some vicious illegal tackle slams up against them and the quarter length has been dropped to 90 seconds, so quick play is necessary. It’s all geared towards a very arcade experience, and on paper, it’s all good ideas.

Unfortunately, the first thing that you notice about NFL Tour is how utterly unbalanced it is. Being on the defense in this game simply isn’t fun, at all. About a minute or so into your first game it will be made clear to you, once you experience the new “revolutionary tackle reverse system” as proudly mentioned on the back of the box. Essentially, the way this works, is when a defender throws a tackle at the player running with the ball, the game slows down and flashes up a single button prompt or a symbol telling the player to shake the SIXAXIS. By doing this successfully will cause you to dodge the incoming tackle and continue on your run. Now, this would be fine if it wasn’t so utterly easy to pull off every time, without fail. It’s quite the norm in this game to see a player tearing up one of the flanks, skipping over absolutely everything thrown at them. On the odd occasion, the defending side will get the chance to hit square and trip the running player, but this is such a rare occurrence it’s not honestly worth mentioning. Playing against another human and avoiding all their tackles just means the game gets dull in a hurry, but watching the computer chain together a series of flawless tackle reversals is probably going to be the reason your local trade-in bins will be full of this game within a month.

Look how exciting this catching looks! Here's some fireworks to cheer us all up!

In a sport split into offense and defense, all of the above means is that half the entire game is not fun to play. Considering we’re not even halfway through this review, that’s a pretty damning statement.

The other thing that quickly becomes clear about NFL Tour is how rushed it all feels. Take the paltry lack of play modes, for starters. You’ve got the obligatory quick play and multiplayer – online and offline - modes, but on top of that all you have is the “Tour Mode”, which is clearly designed for people who can handle a whole season of a dull, unfair version of a dull American sport, or the “mentally unstable”, as they’re also known. Tour mode gives you the option to create a character, leaving you with a few standard options to put yourself in the game. It’s certainly nowhere near as comprehensive as EA’s other sports games and almost a completely pointless addition to the game. You don’t level them up, earn new skill points or anything that would - heaven forbid - add a bit of DEPTH to the game. You just stick them in your team and score boring, tedious touchdowns with them. The lack of effort is in pretty much every other aspect of the game, too. Each team has their own “stadium”, but they all look exactly the same, with the exception of a different city backdrop, which you won’t even see while you’re playing the match. Granted, the game itself is stop/start enough to allow for some flyby shots, but they’re hardly worth writing home about. This is a real shame, as the obstacle-filled back alleys and car parks of the NFL Street games gave the whole experience a little more character, which is seriously missing here.

Look how much this guy loves the fireworks! This guy is clearly as bored as I am.

Even the audio suffers couldn’t escape this shocker of a game. The ever present EA Trax are here, but unlike the boatload they cram into most games, like Burnout Paradise for example, there are only a few on offer here and before you know it, you’ve heard them all a hundred times and are sat wishing Sony would introduce custom soundtracks sooner rather than later. Turning them off doesn’t entirely save you, however, as the commentary is actually WORSE. The script must be shorter than half a page of dialogue, and within your first game you’ll be sick of hearing the embarrassingly unfunny one-liners. After the incredible work done in the most recent FIFA Soccer game, EA have proven they can do a lot better than this, from an audio point of view. To be honest, if anyone at EA can look me in the eye and say that this wasn’t rushed to be released just before the Superbowl, they will be quickly laughed out of the StrategyInformer offices.

I suppose it is worth mentioning that the graphics in NFL Tour aren’t too bad at all. Well animated and colourful, even if all the backdrops are very same-y. The fireworks, smoke and light effects are all decent and make for some pretty visuals to show off in Hi-Definition. Unfortunately, they’re not even near good enough to save this turkey of a game.

After Homecourt and even the previous NFL Street games, this is more than a huge disappointment. Taking a decent game, filled with potential, and removing almost everything that made it enjoyable is not a good way to “evolve a franchise”. Let’s hope the forthcoming FIFA Street 3 doesn’t suffer the same fate. As they say in their version of “Football” – FUMBLE!
Favorite Game Moment: The first of the huge tackles the game lets you get away with. Smash!

Game advertisements by <a href="" target="_blank">Game Advertising Online</a> require iframes.