We might not get much exposure to the sport, but American football is without a doubt heart-poundingly fantastic, with burly men in armour fighting each other with RPG-style strategy. EA’s Madden NFL Football attempts to bring the fire of gridiron to your 3D pocket.
EA’s standardly hip soundtrack will let you know where you are from the get-go. Simple menu design runs throughout the game and does a great job of not bogging down such a strategy-heavy sport with menus, keeping many of the play possibilities a touch screen tap away. The bottom screen provides a wider view of the field with arrows indicating players allowing you to see tackles coming, while also letting you select play types and call audibles. EA’s signature flair though is sorely missing in-game. There are no fireworks when a touchdown is scored, terrible replays quell any excitement you might have and even upon winning the glorious Superbowl, the game simply goes back to the menu. Where, you might ask, is our Hero mode which follows a nobody through to the top? Ah well.
For those of you unfamiliar with American football, don’t be afraid, you will pick it up in a few games. Unfortunately, this is clearly not aimed at newcomers and no tutorial is provided. Unless you are prepared to learn, you are left in the dark. Brave it, and two modes are available to play: There is the standard 11-on-11 where you can choose from all 32 national teams, playing the whole season, half season or playoffs only, as well as a smaller 5-on-5 game which simplifies the rules for some bite-sized action.
Madden sports some lovely character animations which give the exaggerated models some life and weight. The awkward animations which plague many sports titles are absent and watching little men run about and fall is a treat. Sound-wise, the game has an excellently atmospheric crowd, gruesome effects when bone meets grimace and some light-hearted commentary. The 3D really helps in making everything look a might crisper than the muddy 2D. Unfortunately it is not really utilised with style and so don’t expect camera shots like crowd swooping, ball tracking or even the obvious ‘between the goal posts’ shot. A missed opportunity.
Content is where Madden really falls short. Once you’ve had a few games, decided to brave the season competition and win the Superbowl, there is nothing left but repeats. You cannot really manage your team, apart from signing and releasing set players, and there is no XP gained by playing, leaving everything feeling static. You cannot compare stats online; you cannot play a friend locally, nor across the mighty internet; and given the 3DS’s impressive SpotPass and StreetPass functionality, and the fact that it is 2011, why a baseball card type sharing battle system was not implemented is a frown inducing mystery.
There is nothing wrong with Madden NFL Football. The game is solid and I had a blast for a few games. The problem is that it offers little more and absolutely no multiplayer, presenting nothing shiny to lure you back to the 50 yard line. This could have been brilliant. It is not.