NFL Tour Xbox 360
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports BIG
Release Date: Out Now
For a few years now the NFL Street games have offered a decent simplified take on the sport. They have proved to be fairly popular and in the US at least, they have offered online play too. In Europe we have had to suffer versions of the games that have had their online play removed and as such the overall desirability of the games was diminished. NFL Tour is also a simplified take on the sport on which it is based but it isn’t simply a renamed NFL Street game. There are some similarities, it's still a 7 vs. 7 version of the game for instance, but there are some key differences too.
The modes on offer in NFL Street are: Play Now, Tour Mode, Smash & Dash, Redzone Rush and Xbox Live play. Essentially this translates to an exhibition mode, a few mini-games and support for online play. The main focus of the single-player experience is the Tour Mode. The idea here is to take an 'average Joe' and put them up against the NFL's finest. You'll create your own player and join a team for a nine-week summer tour. The player customisation options are very limited and you'll choose one of the available face models, body type, player position and which team he's to play for. The tour begins in San Diego and finishes in Washington. Throughout the tour the objectives aren't always to simply win a game. There are requirements that have to be met; some games have you starting from a losing position for instance. If you successfully make it through the tour, an NFL contract awaits.
When you're tired of the Tour Mode you're left with playing an exhibition game or trying your hand at the two mini-games. Smash & Dash requires you to earn points by holding the ball as long as possible whilst trying to avoid the attention of opponents. Bonuses are given for breaking and reversing tackles. When you're not in possession, you'll get bonuses for forcing fumbles and making tackles. Redzone Rush is all about scoring touchdowns. When in possession you'll have to pass up to two defenders and get to the zone in a single play and when you're defending it's your job to prevent your opponent from doing likewise. Both games are OK but neither will hold your attention for long. The online side of the game is serviceable but nothing special. Unfortunately there is no support for any leagues or tournaments.
Arguably the biggest problem with NFL Tour is that it’s just not that much fun to play as a single-player title. Gone are the over the top antics of NFL Street. The control scheme has been simplified to a point where anyone can be comfortable playing the game in just a few minutes. There's an emphasis on breaking tackles by button bashing, which works quite well. You'll also notice there are no field goals or traditional conversions. On scoring a touchdown you have the option to do another play for either one or two points (the two points being played from a greater distance). Only the Tour Mode will hold the single-player’s attention for more than an hour and even then it soon becomes obvious that there’s nothing here that will compel you to load up the game after the initial novelty has worn off. As a multiplayer experience NFL Tour fares a little better but again if you were to give a fan of the sport a choice of this or the impressive Madden NFL 08 few would opt for this. The quality of the AI doesn’t improve things either. It's all too easy to score against the AI and it's difficult to prevent the AI from scoring against you. It's as if the defence AI was completely neglected. For the most part the AI doesn’t seem that bright and it’s possible to gain touchdown after touchdown using the same moves repeatedly, which certainly doesn't do anything to increase the game's long term appeal.
Graphically the game looks OK but it’s certainly not as impressive as it could have been. The NFL Street games had rather bizarre looking environments for you to play in and this gave the game part of its charm. NFL Tour has clean looking mini arenas which don't look bad but they don't really look interesting either. There's few over the top animations here which seems strange. The player models are OK but certainly don't make the most of the Xbox 360. Even when played on an HD display, the game doesn't really look anything special. Still the frame rate holds up nicely and there's little to complain about in regards to the load times. The overall presentation doesn't seem as high as in most EA Sports titles, which is odd.
One of the similarities that NFL Tour shares with the NFL Street games is the rather poor provision for deaf gamers. There isn’t an option to enable subtitles and there is plenty of speech that isn’t subtitled. The introduction to the Tour Mode is verbal only. In fact none of the presenter’s comments are subtitled. The game commentary is also not subtitled. This is actually a blessing however, as it has to be the worst and most irritating commentary ever in a sports title. The game manual covers the control basics in an adequate fashion (the controls are simplistic and won’t take much learning at all) and the game modes are explained rather briefly, but sufficiently. Even with the game having no subtitles however, there aren’t any real obstacles to deaf gamers enjoying the game.
NFL Tour is fairly mediocre by all accounts and it's a game that sits rather uncomfortably in the EA Sports catalogue. NFL Street was a wacky and contrasting game to the illustrious Madden NFL series. It wasn't perfect by any means but there was enough there for those who didn't want a full blown NFL simulation. Virtually nothing of what gave the NFL Street games its charm can be found in NFL Tour. There's none of the traditional EA Sports BIG pizzazz in NFL Tour and it feels really odd. The single-player game feels shallow and the lacklustre AI only serves to weaken the experience. It's all too easy to score against the AI and all too frustrating to defend against them. When it comes to NFL games for the Xbox 360 you have a choice of Madden NFL 08 and NFL Tour. Unfortunately for NFL Tour it's not much of a choice. Madden NFL 08 is one of the best EA Sports titles to date and NFL Tour is arguably one of the most forgettable.