NFL Tour Review
Arcade sports games are awesome. Bottom line. So when a high-profile publisher gets behind the reins of a sports license and turns it into an arcade game, I pay attention. EA, in particular, has dedicated separate in-house teams to develop arcade games such as NBA Street, NFL Street, the upcoming FIFA Street, and now NFL Tour. It seems a little unusual to have two NFL arcade franchises under one label, but we won't questing EA's ways.
I have to say, I was skeptical about NFL Tour. I had expected the game to be problematic and not very good. Reason being is because of the lack of hype and information leading up to the game's release. Usually, when a publisher is reluctant to give out media of game, it often means that the product is average or mediocre. Well, even though NFL Tour isn't a bad game, it doesn't have a whole lot going for it, either. But, it is a fun arcade game that'll keep you playing for a while, and it's got a decent price tag, too.
Upon booting up and loading a match, you'll instantly notice that the gameplay is pick-up-and-play, so there will be no complications to wade through, or any quirks to the controls. Additionally, gameplay doesn't feature kicking of any sort, so instead of a kick-off, you have a throw-off. Moreover, there are no field-goals, so instead your one and two point conversions are standard plays - the difference being: a five-yard play for one point, and a ten yard play for two points. You have a choice of selecting a one-button pass option or using the classic three-button. NFL Tour is a little less over-the-top than NFL Street, seeing as how you can't perform incredible maneuvers, but nevertheless, it's still completely arcadey, and really fast-paced.
Unlike a standard football game, the clock in NFL Tour stops every time a play ends. So if you set each half to 5 minutes, be prepared to play for much longer than you'd expect, as well as amounting an extremely high score. Other quirks that set NFL Tour aside from others include a counter-tackle feature, one that can be exploited for some easy touchdowns, but also turned off. EA has implemented a system called Total Collision Control, which allows the player to take control of a tackle, whether you're on defense or offense, by using well-timed button commands. This system will allow you to either stop or break free from a tackle, which can make or break the situation, or even the entire game. So don't expect any Madden-like traits in the game, because you simply won't find them.
A button prompt will appear on the screen, if you're fast enough to tap it, you'll break the tackle. Now, I found this feature to be extremely easy to get the hang of, but it does get a little tougher in the harder in the upper difficulties, and the frequency of its appearance is less. I personally like it, as I think it especially makes for great multiplayer matches. But some may not, and so EA Tiburon was smart enough to allow you to toggle it off.
Now, the difference between NFL Street and NFL Tour is that the subject title at hand is focused on the campaign that'll eventually earn you a contract with the NFL. As the gamer, you'll experience a fictional traveling NFL road show - so it's basically an even more glorified version of the sport. In the career, you'll head a team consisting of a created player, and actual NFL teammates who will aid you in your quest to achieving a contract with the big boys. You'll square off against other NFL teams, paving your way through the ranks, until ultimately reaching your destination.
The tour consists of a series of games throughout nine different cities, including: San Diego, New York City, New Orleans, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Each city hosts a number of games, for a total of 38, and some of the games require specific criterias to be met in order to achieve a victory. A gripe I have with the game is the player creation process is absolutely hollow - either I missed something, or I was barely given a pool of configurations to choose from.
Instead of stadiums, you square off in shortened arenas, measuring 40 yards per half - for a total of 80. The sidelines are blocked off by walls, and the audience isn't quite as large as a Madden game. This, of course, makes scoring much easier, and the pace quicker. Furthermore, as an option you have the ability to change the range required for a first down.
Offline multiplayer matches are good up to four people, meanwhile online is for two. I have to applaud EA Tiburon for including headset support off the bat, as it's become a very nice feature to have in a game. But there isn't anything more to do online but just to play the game - no tournaments, leagues, etc.
Lastly, there are two mini-games available, one is "Smash n' Dash", the other "Red Zone Rush". Both are straightforward and to the point. Smash n' Dash is basically a game of tag with two people, where you run around a ring carrying a football. You have to holds the ball for as long as you can, while your opponent chases you. Breaking your opponents tackles will be beneficial in succeeding. There will also be bonus point markers which you have to step-on to earn. When you get tackled, you fumble the ball - you can recover it, but usually your opponent will be on it before you are.
Red Zone Rush is even more simple. Basically, the point here is to get by a sole defender guarding the red zone - yet again, a one-on-one game. If you score or are tackled, the ball is turned over and it is your opponent's turn to do the same. These mini-games are nice diversions, and a good way to practice the game's counter-tackle system. Unfortunately, these mini-games don't contribute much to the replay value of the game, so depth is something that you will not find.
Visually, NFL Tour does the job. It doesn't feature the most detailed players, or the most diverse collection of models, but it's fine for what it is: an arcade game. There are four different body types in the game, and so variation mostly shows in terms of facial appearances. The player faces are fairly recognizable, but nothing to gawk at, since they're drawn to fit the look of the game and come off just a bit cartoon-like. Texture detail is solid overall, and I especially love the detail of the surface - it's very sharp.
Animations are acceptable, and don't seem to be very jarring from what I've experienced, but, again, it isn't anything that'll light your ass on fire. The most important thing about NFL Tour, being an arcade game, is its framerate. And I'm happy to report that the framerate runs at a superb 30 frames per second, with no slowdown during gameplay. Choppiness does occur, but only when the camera is panning around the arena when you're choosing a play, so the gameplay isn't affected. And it's really nice to play a game with barely any aliasing issues - everything on the screen is exceptionally clean and always nice to look at.
The single worst aspect about NFL Tour is it's audio, primarily the horrific commentary done by Trey Wingo. The ESPN SportsCenter co-host lends his voice to the game, but his lines are just abysmal. The reoccurring joke within the game is that videogame commentators always repeat themselves and so that is parodied in NFL Tour. I'm all for some satire, but EA Tiburon seriously dropped the ball here, because every other line Wingo delivers is just another recycled crack at redundant/repetitive commentary - it grows old before your first game can even finish. And if you think I'm joking or exaggerating about how tired the commentary is, I'm not. It's so bad that I had to turn it off. There's also a licensed soundtrack that plays in between every play - it's nothing great, and you'll likely forget it's there. Overall, the audio is a very sore spot for NFL Tour.
When it's all said and done, NFL Tour isn't a game I'd recommend with high praises. But, I do think it's a rather fun game of football, and many will find themselves liking it. Considering its price-tag of $40 is well below the cost of every other PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game, it's hard for me to say that Tour is a bad game. If you're waiting for a new NFL Street game, and can wait no longer, NFL Tour will make for a decent diversion in the meantime. The gameplay is easily accessible and fun. There may not be a tremendous amount of depth, but the fun factor is there and that matters. The audio is poorly done, and it tends to hamper the overall presentation - luckily you can turn it off.
1/15/2008 Arnold Katayev