February 03, 2008
NFL Tour is a reinvention of the NFL Street franchise from football powerhouse developer Tiburon and powerhouse publisher EA Sports, who have teamed together on numerous Madden games as well as other projects. Losing some of the more advanced and unique features from the Street franchise (such as the Gamebreaker), NFL Tour still gives a viable alternative to a normal football game without being too over the top. Playing on a shorter field encased with plexiglass walls, there is never an out of bounds play and it doesn't stop until the ball carrier hits the floor. It may sound pretty cool, but the actual product falls far short of glory.
The basic premise behind NFL Tour is much like that of the recent baseball arcade alternative The BIGS from rival publisher 2K Sports, wherein you take a rookie and place him on your favorite team, then progress through a tour mode. In this case, you are required to beat each NFL team in various game types. Unfortunately, the process is much more stripped down than its rival. You start with a few basic stats and a few extra points to allocate to any of the categories, but from there you have no way to progress and become better. In fact, there is almost no way to discern yourself from most of the other players on the field, except for whatever nickname you have assigned yourself. However, there is a very limited number of these, which I'm assuming is because they only spent a few hours doing the commentator voiceovers.
The gameplay for NFL Tour is extremely basic. You first begin with selecting a play, easily done by moving the cursor and hitting the A button. Once on the field, you either control whoever has the ball (on offense) or whoever you like as your defensive player (on defense, obviously). Offensively, if you select a run play, the ball is automatically transferred to your running back once you start the play with the A button. From there, you can use evasive moves with the B button or dive with the X button. If you choose a passing play, simply hit B to cycle receivers and press A to throw. On defense, you basically either run into the ball carrier to tackle or hit X to dive tackle. Like I said, very basic.
Once you're comfortable with the generic gameplay, you will need to get into the unique aspects of NFL Tour: wall hurdling and reversals. Since the playing field is encased with plexiglass walls, you can and should use them to your advantage. Hitting your evasive button (B) near a wall will execute a wall hurdle in which the player will run up and across the wall, Matrix-style, for a short time to evade tacklers. Reversals come in handy when in the open field and someone goes to tackle you. At a certain point in the tackle, you will have a prompt to hit the A button to break out of the tackle, keeping your drive alive. The same holds true on defense, but you are actually making the second move in the sequence at that point. If the ball carrier reverses your tackle, you can reverse their reverse and still get them down.
Two extra game modes are available that feel like an extreme afterthought, simply tacked on to give the game a bit more substance. Redzone Rush has you controlling a single player and opposing a single player, both of you taking turns to score a touchdown from the 20 yard line. If you score more times than your opponent, you are the winner. This is a good showcase of the game's two unique features (wall hurdles and reversals), but nothing more. Smash & Dash has you and one other player encased in a circular arena, vying for control of the football. Yet another showcasing of the only two features that make this game unique, you must wall hurdle and reverse your way to a win by holding the ball the longest during the event. Both of these are very simple and boring against the computer. Might be more fun against a friend, but I doubt it.
The graphics in NFL Tour are definitely lacking. There are not really that much in the way of environments; as basically each "stadium" is actually a makeshift arena setup in the parking lot of whatever actual NFL stadium might be in that city, or outside a landmark of some kind. It is sort of cool to be playing with Ford Field or the White House looming over your shoulder, but it doesn't look all that spectacular. Same goes with just about everything in the game, to be honest; crowds are generic moving blobs, players are very loosely followed (and I noticed face-time is kept at a minimum to detract from this fact) and the body animations are very limited.
The sounds are not much different than the graphic problems. The players never speak so you are basically forced to listen to announcer Trey Wingo constantly. Most of the "announcing" in the game are clips that point out the fact that video game announcers repeat themselves. In fact, one such snip goes, "Video game announcers always repeat themselves. Why is that? Video game announcers always repeat themselves. Why is that?" No, I did not hit "paste" twice on accident, he literally repeats the line directly after saying it. Now, some of these are pretty funny the first time you hear them, but like any game that has repeat phrases, hearing jokes about repeat phrases over and over is even worse than hearing normal phrases over and over. When not joking about how he is repeating himself, Trey will often degrade the very game you're playing and mock you for playing it. Why would I want to sit there and be mocked when I'm supposed to be enjoying this game? Not to mention, degrading the game? Are you purposely trying to get us to stop playing the game, EA?
The only upside to the game I suppose are the achievements. While they are all extremely simple, they are also quite unique. Weighing in at a very minimal 14 achievements, they generally reward you for making use of the game mechanics such as getting three reversals in one play with one player or getting two reversals with two players on the same play will both net you achievements. You are also rewarded for making use of the wall hurdles, both for scoring a touchdown during one and for hurdling off both walls at some point on a touchdown play. The hardest one is most likely shutting out your opponent on All-Star difficulty, but using a good team against a crappy team and a little luck it should not take too long. Tour mode is the only achievement that will take you some time most likely. You are forced to play every team in the NFL, as well as a number of All-Star teams, 38 games in total. I got all the achievements in about five hours whilst looking after my daughter, then took the better part of two nights finishing up Tour mode to complete the game.
The commentary is good for your first few games, pretty funny and everything, but the fact that he mentions that he's repeating himself so often becomes very tiresome when those lines start to be repeated. That, coupled with the fact that there really aren't any other sounds in the game except for field noise and background crowd noise makes this a mute-worthy experience after a while.
The graphics are very basic and stripped down, not something we've come to expect from Tiburon or EA, to be honest. Madden seems to keep improving, and I get that this is an arcade-style game, but that doesn't mean it has to look like it was made five years ago.
Extremely basic controls and gameplay make this very easy to pick up and go with, but it really has no staying power. It was actually a struggle for me to finish tour mode for the achievement, I was just so bored with the game.
This one definitely fell short of what they were hoping for. A lackluster experience throughout, this is no more than a stripped down version of NFL Street or even the older NFL Blitz games.
Unique achievements that focus on the game's mechanics were a good touch, but there are too few to keep you interested in the game for very long. Once you finish tour mode and knock out all the others in Exhibition mode, you'll probably be done with the game for good.
Overall, NFL Tour was a good idea, but they fell very short of what they were presenting. With no way to advance or increase your player's stats, the actual tour mode feels like just a bunch of exhibition games over and over. The two tacked on game-types are boring and repetitive as well. A far cry from the NFL Street franchise, but that is definitely not a good thing. Instead of abandoning it, they should have pushed the fourth installment and forgot about this game.