Back in the day, (which was a Wednesday) EA Sports had two great football franchises. The first of course is that 800lb gorilla, love it or hate it (the latter for me) Madden Football. The other was the always fun, arcade NFL Street. With EA’s newest release NFL Tour, the studio takes away the over the top, unrealistic moves that you could perform in Street and tones them down to a more realistic causal style of football. What you get is something that is not as deep as Madden or as fun as the Street series.
NFL Tour is a 7-on-7 football experience that takes the action off of the standard gridiron and pits teams against each other on an 80-yard field surrounded by an arena-style wall. Gone from the days of NFL Street are the outlandish and entertaining behind-the-back throws and football juggling that added extra flavor to big plays. In their place, NFL Tour’s biggest draw is the addition of a new reversal mechanic.
Basically whenever there is contact between the ball carrier and the defender you have a split second to press the A button to either avoid or break the tackle. If you are successful in breaking the tackle the defender gets a second to press the X button to take you down anyway. On paper this mechanic sounds great, but in practice it falls flat. Not only did I run a touchdown by breaking every persons tackle, but it gets to the point where you feel like the game is less about strategy and more about button mashing. I am all for casual play mechanics, they can make a game a blast to play, but in this no matter how many points you score, or tackles you break you can’t help but just feel unfulfilled by this game.
What makes this even worse is NFL Tour’s unbalanced AI. On offense, the player can do no wrong. You want to know how to win a game in NFL Tour? Pass. That’s all. No running game is required here, though you can feel free to play around with it if you feel the urge. On the other side of the ball, though, the AI is like this year’s Patriots in a word unstoppable! Offensive players break effortlessly tackles and throw passes with laser-like precision. Thankfully, you can usually manage to simply outscore the opponent due to an occasionally flub.
Let’s talk Tour mode, which is where the meat of the game is. You create a character from a limited selection of pre-made parts, sign up with your favorite team and then trot around the country taking on the other NFL teams in games with a variety different stipulations. Some games have the player trying to come back from a point deficit; other games restrict the available plays to only passes or only runs. While this adds a little something extra beyond the basic game, you’re often stuck without the option of moving on as you have to play the entire division with the same stipulations in place. Making matters worse, there’s really no motivation to actually play through the Tour mode. No cool unlockables, nothing. You can’t even get a new look for your custom player!!
Now we all complain about the repeating announcers in game, well apparently EA thought that it would be funny to poke fun at that. Yea, EA it is not funny at all-it is annoying as hell. ESPN’s Trey Wingo did the announcing for this game, and he was actually scripted to say stuff like “You just played like you were in a video game-which you are” or “I’m going to start repeating myself, and you’re going to sit there and take it” NOT FUNNY EA!! It is very annoying and will piss you off to the point where you will want to turn the sound off.
For all its faults, NFL Tour does have one redeeming quality: Multiplayer. Most of the failings of the game’s single-player campaign become non-issues when you’re playing against actual human opponents. The repetitive feel of each matchup disappears when you’ve got a buddy (or a stranger over Xbox Live) pulling a few new tricks out of his hat. Even the reversal mechanic feels useful and somewhat fun when you know that the person on the other end is having the same issues you are in trying to nail the timing for moves just right. The multiplayer game is the single shining factor in NFL Tour.
Sadly this is yet another example of what I have been saying for years. EA is always prone to take “two steps forward and two steps back” The NFL Street franchise is sooo much fun, and it is supposed to be a completely different approach from Madden. NFL Tour is just Arena Football with professional teams. Instead of releasing this game, they really should have made NFL Street 4, especially since the third entry in the series was so bad. Plus with next gen systems, the possibilities of all the craziness that could ensue is just mouth watering to think about it. I’m sorry but I have to say avoid this one folks, unless you just have nothing at all to play during this drought of games, this one is to be rented or ignored all together.