Madden NFL Arcade Preview
After a bit of a stumble early this generation, the Madden franchise has returned to its rightful position of fantastic quality and unrivaled popularity. The last two installments have been appropriately excellent and pigskin fans everywhere anxiously await the now-customary August release of the next new entry every year. However, just because you’re a fan of the sport doesn’t necessarily mean you have the time or motivation to become involved in a sports simulator. Some of you don’t care if the physics are accurate or the on-field action is as authentic as humanly possible; some of you pine for the good ol’ days of Tecmo Bowl and – dare I say it? - Pigskin. Okay, sot he latter is a more drastic removal from the sport but you understand my meaning. Well, EA is big into the casual market these days so they wish to acknowledge your existence by giving you Madden NFL Arcade, a fast-paced, over-the-top, big-play-fueled fun-fest.
In this downloadable title, you’ll only be looking at simplified five-on-five football; the best five players on offense and defense respectively will take the field, and by the way, that field will be only 60 yards in length. That may sound ludicrous but there’s another little twist to the gameplay: there’s only one first down; a team has four downs not to get another first down, but to reach the end zone. Yeah, that alone ups the pace significantly, doesn’t it? There will be no such thing as penalties (go ahead and beat the snot out of that receiver before the ball gets there, if you can!) and all teams have cut all the kickers; we won’t be taking the wuss way out and angling for silly ol’ field goals. If you don’t make it to the end zone, there will be no punting; you just gotta hand the ball over and hope your defense lays the ultimate smack down on whatever high-flying offense you’re facing. And speaking of Tecmo Bowl, remember when you only had four plays to choose from? Well, you’ll have more here but the concept remains similar…
Each team can choose from four specific play types: one running play and short, medium, and long passing plays. On the flip side, the defense has four corresponding styles that will counter the offense if you choose correctly (man, remember that bit of strategy from the old days?). Now, if you do happen to reach the end zone, you’ll have the option of taking a free extra point or going for two, and the default goal is to score 30 points. The first team that manages to hit the 30 mark wins, although the player will be able to select from different point totals and adjust a number of other standard options, like difficulty and skill level. Ah, but it doesn’t end there because we haven’t talked about the Game Changers yet. These sweet power-ups should jack the “flash level” through the roof; you’ll be able to pick up all sorts of cool stuff that could result in the teams switching scores, both sides forced into slow-mo for any given play, or individual efforts like freezing an opponent where he stands. Oh, we just can’t wait to give some of these a try!
However, you should know that Game Changers are only acquired randomly. At the start of each down, each team will have a chance of nabbing one but it’s only a chance; if you don’t get one, you’ll just have to do without. We kinda wanted to have them peppered around the field so a player could run over it to get it, thereby making us choose between a bit of strategy (“do I go for that power-up or tackle the runner?”), but that’s okay. In the end, you really won’t have to invest a huge amount of time here; matches will only take between 5 and 10 minutes and if you grow tired of playing alone, you can always play with up to four people in co-op mode. Oh, and you may have noticed the obvious visual difference between this and Madden NFL 10; the players are more like caricatures with spindly legs, bigger upper bodies and cartoony features. Everything is designed to add to the arcade-y appeal as even the stadiums will come fully equipped with fireworks and raucous crowds. In other words, the exaggerations are fitting and will likely be appreciated by those who want to kick back and have a blast.
We don’t have an exact release date just yet, but Madden NFL Arcade is set to arrive on the PSN and Xbox Live Marketplace in December. It’ll cost you 1200 Microsoft Points on the latter and $14.99 on the former and if this all sounds intriguing to you, it’ll probably be worth the price of admission.
11/5/2009 Ben Dutka