With the recent success of the New York Giants in the Superbowl I really wanted a fun NFL game in which I could pick up and play easily. This is where EA Sport’s Big’s new title comes into play – NFL TOUR. Having played EA’s NFL Street series back in 2004 I was excited at the prospect of NFL Tour on a next generation system. Hard hitting seven on seven football action, I thought to myself “This has the makings for a great fun game, it can’t go wrong”….

I’ll start with the gameplay. Gone are the days of the high flying fancy moves, street pitches and gamebreakers found in previous NFL street games and income hard hitting tackles and button mashing battles, all played on an 80 yard synthetic pitch surrounded by a glass wall. NFL Tour obviously has Exhibition Mode where players can play with there mates on rules that they can decide but most of the single player action happens in career mode.

Career mode (not surprisingly called Tour Mode) allows gamers to create and name their own player. You also have to choose which NFL team you want to play for and what position that you want to play. Being a big fan of the New York Giants I decided that I would play quarter-back (mainly because the quarter-back is involved with all of the offensive plays) for them. You are then asked to assign Skill Points to your created player, but choose wisely as once assigned there’s no going back to change them. The player created has no relevance to the outcome of the game asides the fact that the commentator uses your surname during commentary which is quite cool.

The aim of Tour Mode is to win all 38 matches kicking off in San Diego, and if you’re still standing by the end of the 38 matches, finishing in Washington DC where an NFL contract awaits you. Each state has different game modes that must be completed in order to progress, if you don’t win your match then you don’t move on. This can be annoying in the latter stages of the career when you just cannot, for the love of god, beat the New England Patriots, the best team in the game. Each of the states has a different target that you must achieve before moving onto the next state. This varies from highest score wins to first to score 24 points. The distance for a first down is sometimes changed as well making each drive 20 yards rather than the standard 10. Since each state requires you to play against four or more teams and for the same goal, Tour Mode can and will become very boring. You will start to use the same plays over and over again as they just seem to get you up the field without much pressure from the defence. EA have been so kind that they even throw you an achievement for using the same play 4 times in a row. NFL Tour allows you to change the difficulty if you are finding it too easy but 9/10 turns on offence will see you score a touchdown regardless if you are playing on rookie or on Legend difficulty. Defence just doesn’t seem to exist, but on the rare occasion that you are on defence and do you manage to get a turnover it does feel great. This is most effective using the Blitz play, in which your team just charges at the opponents quarter-back, not giving him a chance to throw the ball. The game can also become exciting when you Power Tackle an opponent causing him to fumble the ball, this will see you madly shouting at your defence to recover the ball and get some almost guaranteed offence points. There are no Field Goals in NFL Tour, so when you score a touchdown you have the choice of a 5 yard play or a 10 yard play worth 1 and 2 points respectively. Most games are won and lost here especially if you are playing at a higher difficulty as most of the time the AI will play it safe and chose a 1 point play so if you’re feeling brave or have no choice then you’re best trying your luck at a 2 pointer. Unless you like repetition, Tour Mode doesn’t offer you much incentive to replay the Tour. There are no achievements to chase once you’ve completed Tour mode as the rest of the achievements are found in exhibition mode or in the mini games.

The Mini Games in NFL Tour include Red Zone Rush and Smash-and-Dash. Red Zone Rush is a 1on1 or 2on2 gametype in which players take it turn about to play offence and defence gaining a point for a touchdown if you’re on offence. On offence players start with the ball and the aim is to score a touchdown. Defence’s aim is to stop the offence. Again this game mode advantages the offensive players as it seems to be impossible to win a point if you are on defence. Most of the time in order to win you will have to take advantage of any mistake that the offence make and because it is so tight games will often finish 5-4 or 6-5 but you can change the score limit from 5 and play up to 10 or 20 if you really wanted to.

Smash and Dash is the other mini game EA Sports Big have provided and is one that offence always wins allows all players taking part a chance to win. Smash and Dash is a circular ring in which players score points for holding onto the ball while all the other players in the game attempt to get the ball. When the ball carrier is tackled the ball is fumbled causing a scramble of the rest of the players to acquire the ball and so on. You also get bonus points for performing small tricks like successfully wall riding and dodging tackles. This is extremely fun when playing with your mates but not so fun when playing on your own with the computer.

Now for the controls. EA have got this spot on. Within minutes I knew how to play the game without reading the manual. The game is really easy to pick and play for the average gamer and even for a player who has never played NFL. NFL Tour allows gamers to change the standard Tour controls to Madden style controls (each player has there assigned command button) but I decided to stay with the standard controls as I felt that’s how EA wanted us to play the game. You have your basic functions. Offence uses RT to use your limited Turbo, B to dodge tackles and wall ride when next to the wall, X to dive and A to bash into your opponent. After selecting which play you want, out of Run, Long Pass, and Short Pass, you can hold down RT to give you a coach view and LT will give you receiver cam view. This allows you to see how your opponents have set up their team for that play. NFL Tour uses a one-button passing system which is really simple. Hitting A throws the ball to the intended receiver and B moves the intended receiver to the next player available in that play. The Reversal feature is one of EA’s new controls. If you’re carrying the ball and a defender tries a dive tackle or, on the flip side, if you’re on defence and a ball carrier tries an elusive move, you have the chance to reverse the move in your favour. By pressing A at the right time, you can shed a tackle and turn it into an elusive move or, on defence, overcome an elusive move and turn it into a tackle by pressing X at the right time. It doesn’t stop there however as the player who initiated contact has a chance to reverse the other player’s reversal. The higher the difficulty the less time the window stays open for you to press the reversal button.

NFL Tour isn’t a patch on recent Madden games in terms of graphics but they do seem to work well with the type of game NFL Tour is. Yes EA should have improved the stadiums as they all look the same with the occasional rooftop change. Yes EA should have added more depth the crowd as they don’t offer much apart from constantly jumping up and down. Yes EA should have made more of the players look like their Professional counterparts, but for some reason when you’re playing the game the graphics just don’t seem to matter. NFL Tour is what it is, an Arcade NFL game and people buying it for the madden style graphics would be fooled.

Now because I can’t swear i will sum up the commentary in two words – It Sucks. ESPN’s Trey Wingo has the worst sense of humour ever. Cracking constant jokes like “isn’t it annoying when commentators repeat themselves, isn’t it annoying when commentators repeat themselves” play after play. Well Trey, it is annoying and that’s why I am thankful EA allow you to turn the commentary off. The soundtrack isn’t bad though featuring the likes of Biffy Clyro and Lupe Fiacso with his hit single Superstar. Problem is for some reason after each play you start to hear the same 6 second snippet and will eventually hate the song.

Now for the best part of the game, Multiplayer. Playing with a mate either online or offline is to say the least, great. The amazing smug smile you get across your face when you cause a fumble while playing single player is great but it gets better when it’s your friend you tackle. It’s hilarious to see them cursing at their players while you run off to score some much needed points. But what comes around goes around and you can often find yourself shouting at your own players in disgust as your opponent sprints up the field to score that crucial touchdown. Xbox Live features the usual Ranked and Unranked gametypes along with leaderboards. Again there’s a problem as you could be waiting for over 5 minutes for an opponent to appear. On the plus side when you do get a match it is played in a relatively lag free environment and you can taunt chat to your opponents when playing.

So to answer my quote in the opening paragraph NFL Tour is a fun game that you will have fun playing, but after completing Tour Mode you are only left with two mini games and Xbox Live which isn’t enough in my opinion to play the game at any great length. The Achievements are easy to obtain gaining about 400 with little more than 20 minutes work so it’s worth a rent. There isn’t much competition for this type of game on the next generation market but the retail price of £39.99 is a big let down and doesn’t give you value for money however if you are looking for a Madden alternative then I’d imagine it would end up gathering dust or being used to hold up books on a shelf within a couple of weeks.


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