NFL Tour Review (Xbox 360)
NFL Tour is a game without a country. It was meant to entice the football fan that couldn’t handle all of the buttons and strategy involved in the Madden series. It was meant to be a simplistic game that any football fan could play. Yet the game is stuck somewhere between arcade and simulation, and while Tour does achieve its goal of being a pick-up and play game, it fails at being a game that’s simplistic at first, yet more nuanced as time progresses.
Tour makes me look back on the many roller skating parties I went to as a kid growing up. I went to roller skate sure, but really I was there to play the arcade games. Back then I loved to play fighting games, because I could pop in a quarter, tap some buttons, and have some fun. But as I kept popping in more quarters I got better at the game and figured out better strategies and more ways to embarass my friends with my new found skills. In a lot of ways the old arcade sports games were the same way as fighting games. I could play NBA Jam at first and just enjoy the ridiculous dunks and over the top action; however, once I played it more I figured out how to do more things and became exponentially better than I was at the start. There’s no pay-off like that in NFL Tour.
What I learned during my first hour playing the game hasn’t changed substantially since then: rushing a MLB up the middle will always lead to quick pressure on the QB; a good RB will break multiple tackles; and a good offense will always beat a good defense. Honestly the biggest thing I’ve learned since my first hour of playing is that I need to press the interception button a little sooner than I think to best position my player to intercept the ball.
There are opportunities for the strategy to be deeper than it is but Tour never seems to capitalize on these chances. For example there is a power tackle button on defense which is supposed to increase the chance for a fumble and also meant to act as a risk-reward type situation since it's harder to line-up the ball carrier with this method. The problem is fumbles rarely happen -- except when the Smash Meter is used (think NFL Street Gamebreaker, except not as effective and can only be used on defense) -- even when you drill a WR who has just caught the ball, rarely does the WR drop the ball. So instead I end up just using the dive button, because if the defender makes the first contact with the ball carrier the defender will get the last chance to counter via a button press that pops up on screen.
Quite often as I played this game I would think of things that would made the game deeper yet wouldn’t maroon the casual. Simple things like 50/50 balls in the air where the CB and WR could do a button press to see who comes up with the ball; implementing a hurdle button on offense; the risk of a fumble if the ball carrier always tries to truck the defense instead of juking; adding more trick plays; or even including a mini-game which would take the place of the non-existent coin toss. (As it stands now the home team always gets the ball first, and in OT the away team always gets the ball first. The first team to score also wins in OT, which is crazy considering how often the offense scores.) Perhaps keeping it supremely simple was the intent of the game, but to me the game just feels rushed and unbalanced, and that only takes away from the limited amount of fun found in NFL Tour.
I believe the game feels rushed because gameplay is just one aspect where the game feels unfinished. In addition to the simplistic to a fault gameplay, Tour also lacks the visual flair and character that has accompanied recent EA arcade sports games such as NBA Street Homecourt and the upcoming FIFA Street 3. In NFL Tour every field is the same color and essentially all the fields look the same during gameplay. During the initial zoom-in before the throwoff (no kicking in this game) you can tell what city you’re in due to the different surrounding landmarks, but that scenery can't really be seen during the game.
The same type of unpolished or unfinished feeling carries over to the commentary, the Tour Mode, and even the online play. First off, it needs to be said that Trey Wingo may possibly go down as the worst sports video game announcer ever. The lack of any sort of deep script leaves him repeating himself almost from the onset.
The Tour Mode (the main single player mode) isn’t especially awful but it’s repetitive and unoriginal. There’s a very basic create-a-player portion to begin the mode, and then you go through a division and play by the same rules, and then move on to a new division where the rules are changed a bit. In other words there’s no semblance of a reward for playing this mode and an arcade sports game like The Bigs puts it to shame in terms of a single player career. Your created player doesn’t improve and you don’t unlock any jerseys or special teams; your sole purpose is just to reach the next opponent -- which wouldn’t have been enough to drive me to keep going if I hadn’t been playing this for review.
Playing on XBOX Live is a redeeming quality somewhat, but just for the same reason it’s fun to play head-to-head: The game is most fun when playing another opponent because trash talking has its place in arcade games. In my experience there has been no lag and zero disconnects online, but the online play still feels rather bare bones. The two mini-games (Redzone Rush and Smash & Dash) can’t be played online and there’s also no co-op or any sort of save replay feature. Smash & Dash would be fun to play online with 4-6 people because it’s like kill the cow, a recess classic, but Redzone Rush isn’t especially fun either way -- think of the Breakthrough portion of Breakthrough & Conquer from the old-school American Gladiators days to get what Redzone Rush entails.
From gameplay to graphics to audio to online play, NFL Tour is a game that just needed more time to develop and find its own unique character. However, as it stands NFL Tour is a brutally straightforward game that lacks a truly redeeming quality. After the initial new game factor wears off it will become clear quite quickly that this arcade game doesn’t match up to the likes of NBA Street Homecourt, The Bigs, or even the old NFL Street games.
Overall Presentation: Trey Wingo will be hated by many.
Graphics: Player likenesses are spotty at times, and in general the graphics look more last-gen than current-gen. The locales show-off some interesting scenery, but you can’t really see it while you’re playing the game.
Gameplay: The point is to be a simple alternate to Madden, which the game succeeds at. But just because the game is simple doesn’t make it fun. There’s really no strategy involved, and what you figure out during the first few games really is all there is to the game.
Lasting Appeal: Tour Mode is mundane and playing against the computer -- like with most arcade games -- is stodgy and repetitive. The game is somewhat enjoyable online and during head-to-head but even that fun is fleeting.
Online: There’s a constant frame rate and I’ve had no lag or disconnects, but Tour doesn’t bring any big time extras to the table. The lack of co-op and online mini-games are things that could have helped this facet of the game out.
Intangibles: Tour at times tries to show some character via Trey Wingo or fireworks in the endzone, but in the end the game fails to show life. Plus why is Devin Hester a corner back, and why can’t I use him except in Exhibition Mode?
EA tried to get away from the NFL Street name, but by doing so the development team never found a new identity. Instead the game gets stuck at a crossroads and therefore the fun found in this game is quite limited when compared to other arcade sports games out right now.