|NFL Tour (2008)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
2007 was a good year for gaming giant Electronic Arts. New editions of “Madden” and “FIFA” were some of the best yet, while the impossibly realistic skateboarding sim, “Skate,” helped redefine an industry already overflowing with fresh, innovative ideas. Of course, it was only a matter of time before one of the company’s franchises would exit the annual re-branding process worse off than its previous incarnation, and while the “NFL Street” series was never anything special, it did offer fast-paced arcade football for those who were interested. Its replacement – the like-themed “NFL Tour” – may deliver a similar experience, but it’s mostly just a shallow budget title with very little replay value.
EA Big has a tendency to mess up your favorite sports with silly rules and gameplay changes, and they’ve gone all-out here. In their version of football, it’s seven to a team on an 80-yard field, with no kickoffs or special teams, and all extra point conversions (one point for starting 5 yards out, and two for 10 yards) confined to the pass and run variety. Playing the game is about as easy as your average hack-and-slash button masher. One button hikes the ball, another throws it, and the right trigger is used for turbo. You can also perform “wall jumps” on the side barriers, and reversals that allow you to break tackles, or, as a defensive player, counter those reversals by slamming them into the ground.
The crux of the game is based around Tour Mode, which lets you create a player (including his look, position and attributes) and take him on a nine-week summer tour where he’ll play against seasoned pros for a shot at an NFL contract. Each stop of the tour presents your team with a designated challenge (highest score wins, first to 24, etc.), and you’ll have to complete them all before moving on to the next city. Unfortunately, playing each challenge four times becomes incredibly monotonous, and the chance of anyone actually wanting to complete the entire tour isn’t good. To combat this, EA has included a variety of different game modes to mix things up, but when all is said and done, it’s virtually the same experience.
In fact, many would even argue that this isn’t real football; and they’d be right. Without the finesse and strategy of the game, there’s very little concern for the player as long as he has a killer QB, RB and WR combo. It’s very similar to “The BIGS” in concept, but about as deep as “NBA Jams,” where you select a team not because they’re your favorite, but because of the talent involved. And when every defense plays like the Miami Dolphins, even the likes of Teddy Bruschi doesn’t seem to make a difference. It's all about running up the score against your opponent, but when the only way to beat them is by choosing to go for two instead of one after a touchdown, there’s something incredibly wrong with your game.