With the upcoming football season in jeopardy due to the player lockout, hardcore fans like myself are always looking for a taste of the pigskin. EA Sports has answered that call with an incarnation of Madden NFL for Nintendo’s brand new 3D handheld. Madden NFL Football is the epitome of a launch sports title and, unfortunately, that is not a compliment. With a lack of features, in-depth stat tracking and multi-player, this bare-bones effort feels more like a rushed product than a full-fledged effort.
Right out of the box, you are given two ways to play the game, the standard 11-on-11 as well as a more arcade-style 5-on-5 mode. The 5-on-5 mode mimics the style of Madden Arcade, but without the crazy power-ups and super moves. Essentially, this makes it just a stripped down version of the classic game without the insanity. Playing the standard mode does a nice job of imitating its big brother versions, with several major drawbacks. The first is that only one save file is allowed at once, so if you do decide to dive into season mode, you can only have one running at a time.
Speaking of season mode, you can play the full 17-week season or an abbreviated version more appropriate for handheld gaming. You can also just play the playoffs or simply brush up on your skills in exhibition mode. And that is it. This game lacks any kind of bonus mini-games or special features outside of the 3D view. Season mode is basically a rehash of last year’s road to the Super Bowl. It is also disappointing that, during your season, nothing is tracked. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have become obsessed with tracking my completion percentage and YAC. Without that, you just rummage through 16 games not really connecting with your players or team.
As far as gameplay is concerned, there is nothing inherently wrong with Madden 3DS, and that is a good thing. Gameflow is present here for those who just want to keep the game moving. Passing and running both work smoothly with the new analog stick. It may take a bit to adjust to the button scheme for those used to playing the console counterparts, but once you grasp the controls, it’s smooth sailing. The downside is that the AI is sometimes a bit wonky. For instance the computer doesn’t always play as if the game is on the line when they are behind, making stupid play calls and failing to take time outs. This could all be remedied with a bit of multi-player, but…
As it turns out, like most of the rest of the game, playing against friends has been severed from this incarnation as well. No local play, no WiFi, nothing. It would be an understatement to say this is a disappointment. Some of the best times playing Madden come from scoring that last-minute touchdown against a buddy and dancing in his face. The competition is lost here. If you are in it purely for single player, there is enough here to keep you busy, but if you crave that opposition from playing against your buddies, you won’t find it here.
Visually, the game looks fine for being on a handheld, but after toying around with some of the other launch titles, I can’t help but feel a few more months of development time could have made it even better. Player animations are well done and the action rarely misses a beat. The stadiums look good and the sound is even remarkable, with Colinsworth adding his two cents and some decent crowd noise. The 3D effect is the only downside to the presentation. Not all 3DS games implement this feature well and Madden is one that doesn’t manage to make it work. I found myself constantly readjusting the system trying to find the perfect angle, but never really obtaining that sweet spot. The game also induced headaches more than any other title I have played so far. Thankfully, the game doesn’t lose anything with the effect off.
Madden NFL Football on the 3DS is a prime example of a title that was shoved out the door to meet launch. The lack of features, especially multi-player, really hurts the game. This is not a title that should be on anyone’s must-have list of 3DS launch titles. Hopefully, the developers will have more time to refine the game for next year’s season. Until then, I recommend holding off until a better bargaining agreement has been reached between features and fun.
Review copy provided by publisher.