When EA sees a window of opportunity there's no stopping them. That window is the market for casual gamers who just quite simply want to have fun, and in particular have fun when playing the sports genre. This has become evident with the release of the bite sized version of the NHL series, 3 on 3 NHL Arcade. There's also rumours that they will be doing the same with the FIFA series and as you're about to find out, they've 'crunched' the Madden franchise into a little piece of NFL goodness, or at least I hoped they had.
Madden NFL Arcade is all about 5 on 5 action participated on the shorter 60 yard pitch. For the NFL casuals around there are no fancy rules, no fancy plays, no confusing yardage to be gained and weirdly enough, no time limits. Instead NFL Arcade requires the teams to reach a specific point target (30 being the norm). It has also adopted similar Rugby League rules where you get four attempts to score a touchdown, failing to do so will switch the play over from offence to defence. When you pick your team that's it, no substitutions are available through the game. This does make things easier to pick up and play, especially for the NFL challenged. However, hardcore fans will feel let down and most likely go back to playing Madden 10.
They couldn't just have 5 on 5 game on a 60 yard field without a twist however; as in NFL Arcade you will have the opportunity to use 'game changers'. The game changers are like power boosts and hand your team a slight advantage for the next play. With over ten changers in the game, each team will be randomly allocated a changer to use as they see fit. These include doubling your squad to ten players, protecting your quarter-back, to freezing an opponent as you approach him, allowing you to run past at ease. You don't always get a changer however, so you need to use it wisely. At times the changers can make it almost impossible to score a touchdown, making games play out to a stalemate: you use a changer and then your opponent uses one, cancelling each other out.
Replay value isn't helped when there is a real lack of depth within the game. There are only two game options for you to choose from, which is a little disappointing considering the game's price (1200MS Points on Xbox 360 or $14.99 on PS3). The options available are to play an exhibition match or head online for a ranked/ unranked match, that's it. No tournaments, no franchise or career mode and definitely no online tournament mode.
I can understand the decision not to include a franchise mode as it's only an arcade game; however I feel they should have at least included a Super Bowl tournament mode which would have been quite fun and provided a little bit more entertainment. After all, licensing certainly isn't a problem for the EA team.
Unlike its NHL counterpart where you can only pick the red or blue team, Madden NFL Arcade does allow you to play as every NFL team available; a great feature. Each team has different statistics, with some being great and the others being poor. You can also play at a selection of different football team stadiums, however, you won't notice too much of a difference as they look very similar.
Presentation wise, NFL Arcade is exactly as its namesake suggests. Doing what EA do best; the caricature like NFL Arcade stars looks great, the game itself oozing with bright colour. NFL Arcade is very pleasing on the eye, especially when playing on larger HD televisions
Overall I think EA have made a critical error in the pricing for the game, which may and probably should, for what you’re getting in terms of game time, put a lot of people off. It’s especially annoying when you see that 3 on 3 NHL Arcade is cheaper, but I suppose EA were hoping the ‘Madden’ tag was worthy of bumping up the price. The presentation is great and if you just fancy a quick game of fun simple mindless NFL (and have some money to burn), then it's a good choice. Hardcore fans would be best to stay with Madden 10 though.