NFL Tour Review - 21/02/2008

The key element behind NFL Tour on PS3 and Xbox 360 is simplicity. In a sport that seems alien to anyone not accustomed to it, EA have attempted to bring in a new audience with fun mini-games and a simple career mode.

EA Sports' FIFA series has always had the difficulty levels to allow any player to enjoy it. On the lowest setting you can virtually run in a straight line and mash buttons and the ball will end up in the net. It's testament to the complicity of American football that Madden games have never really been particularly approachable. As someone who has tried Madden, but only really enjoyed it when playing a similarly incompetent gamer, realising that NFL Tour was not necessarily just a new NFL or American FIFA Street, where extravagant tricks and skills are the order of the day, was great.

The controls are perhaps the first thing to strike you. Looking in the instructions or at the controls menu in the game, there are very few bewildering buttons that can't be understand by non-NFLers. There's basically tackle and run if you're defending, and pass, run and dodge if you're attacking. Passing, by default, is done by pushing the A/X button, and using B/Circle to toggle through open players. This is a little too cumbersome if you've got people intent on tackling you, but thankfully the standard Madden option is available, whereby each player in the move is given a button designation. Simply press that button and a pass will be despatched to them.

Catch! Not the best defending, it has to be said...

Tackling is done by pressing A/X in defence. The button then flashes up once you have grabbed onto an attacker and you have to press it at the right moment to bring them down. Sometimes it doesn't happen, but it adds a nice reflexive feel to the game when it does. By the same token, if you're attacking, you can use A to shrug off opposition players. As a last ditch move, you can press X/Square to swipe an arm out at a player's foot if you've missed a tackle as the prompt appears on screen. It works surprisingly well, and is a new dimension, one simple enough to encourage new players, yet fun enough to keep oldies amused. X is also used to make a diving challenge, which is great fun. You have to time it perfectly to avoid falling flat on your face and letting the opposition run through for a touchdown. You can also use it to dive into the end zone, which is hilariously good if you like to rub your success in people's faces.

Using B, you can dodge and use the walls to jump up and evade tackles. The AI are much better at it than you will be initially, but eventually you can be striding through the tackles. Button-mash battles, which will surely make any video-game reviewer cringe, are actually not that influential. Really it's just an extension of the usual tackle and reversal buttons. If you don't try to evade the defender, or tackle the attacker and the two meet, then basically the idea is that you both mash the A button to come out on top. On offense you can press Y to shed the ball out to a teammate just as you're going down.

So the controls then are probably the highlight of the game. EA deserve credit for pulling it off so as to allow gamers previously daunted by the sub-genre to come in and enjoy it.

Some likenesses are good, so I'm told, and the animations and physique-proportions are much better than FIFA's chunky players.

The actual body of the game is not quite as impressive. The main mode is Tour Mode, which sees you create a (very) rough representation of yourself, give him attributes and a position, and take part in a team through the NFL Tour across the USA. The idea is to progress through the tour by winning every game or completing certain objectives, each with various conditions, such as a standard timed match of halves, the first to 25 in continuous play, or a certain number of passes before a touchdown.

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EA Sports BIG
EA Tiburon
PS3 - 360