Reviewed: February 1, 2008
Released: January 8, 2009
EA Sports Big had a good thing going with its Street-branded series of games. While they were not the first to feature highflying action and bone shattering collisions, NBA Street, NFL Street, and FIFA Street all did an exceptional job of lightening the atmosphere of organized sports and delivering an enjoyable over-the-top experience. While games like Street Hoops and NFL Blitz were falling to the wayside, EA Sports Big’s games were garnering a devout following.
So, it is a shame that while NBA Street fared incredibly well last year with its first move to the current generation, NFL Street has been replaced by this year’s watered-down release of NFL Tour – yet another thing to be ruined by the NFL’s overbearing pretentiousness and self-important posturing.
You see, rumor has it that the NFL put the morality clamps on the NFL Street – much like they did to Midway’s NFL Blitz series a few years back – in yet another attempt to throw their weight around. The guise was that the NFL felt that Street was getting a bit too violent for their tastes, but methinks it is just another way for the NFL to exact their control over their license and see if they could make EA jump. EA did – right into the NFL’s super toilet bowl, because NFL Tour just plain stinks.
If you have played any of the NFL Blitz games over the past decade, then you have played NFL Tour already – it cops the same two-button, crunch-and-munch football that made the Blitz games so much fun. The problem is, NFL Tour’s gameplay seems so contrived and outdated, that it lacks any of the enjoyment the Blitz games carried in their heyday.
Really, the only difference between NFL Tour and the old school NFL Blitz games is that Tour gives the player the option of pulling off tackle counters and reversals during plays. The mechanic is overly simplistic – requiring a single timed button press when prompted by the onscreen icon. Pulling off a counter is so easy that most gamers will master the process within the first half of their inaugural game. Pulling off a string of counters is only slightly harder, and most often ends with a gamer scoring a TD from first down.
Do not think though that easy scoring necessarily equates to an easy win, because the unfair catch-up logic will often render AI teams unstoppable as they quickly score to even the outcome, or outright win at the last second. If I believed for a second that the computer was honestly taking advantage of my weaknesses then I would not mind half as much as when you see the AI opponents moving at twice the speed to break coverage, or when my own QB misses a pass by half a field width, and tosses the ball directly into the hands of a waiting defender. Nice work, guys.
Couple that with a bunch of small glitches; like the fact that while the game allows you to design a player, it somehow also lets you number the player the same as an existing player on the team resulting in two number 11’s onscreen. While the numbers don’t really matter, it just makes the game look cheap and unfinished.
The main game mode is the Tour, which takes gamers thorough a series of half-length and half-baked football arenas that look surprisingly similar to the glass boarded structures of the Arena Football League (AFL). The play is very similar to arena football; only NFL Tour’s gameplay is only a fraction as deep as EA’s own Arena Football titles.
Players play sans helmets and pads, and despite the NFL’s concerns about violence, the hits are big as hell. The defense has the option of either standard or power tackling, but if the computer needs a score, the computer gets a score – either by making exceptionally unrealistic passes and/or runs, or simply by countering every tackle on the way to the end zone.
Whether intentional or not, the game does not keep good track of forward progress, nor does it make very good judgments on ball placement. Nothing is more frustrating that diving for the end zone and breaking the plane with the ball, only to have the ball downed at the runner’s knees.
Visually, NFL Tour makes the grade, but only barely. The players sport a fair share of definition and detail, but the backgrounds are sparse and lonely, and the fields are plain and boring. Whereas previous iterations of NFL Street featured interesting alleyways and otherwise appealing makeshift fields, NFL Tour’s background look vanilla in comparison.
The video does seem to feature a bit of tearing and v-sync in the opening fly-ins, but these are not apparent in the actual gameplay. The presentation does have one high point, in dome mildly entertaining full motion video (FMV) during the opening sequences.
NFL Tour takes the prize for sound stinker of the year, with some of the lamest crunches, grunts, groans, and trash talk.
But even these pale in comparison to the incredibly annoying and horrible announcing, which even it its attempt to make fun of itself isn’t all that funny. Within the first half of the first game, I heard the announcer allude to the fact that “you know a game is cheap when an announce repeats himself”, only to repeat himself three more times. I thought the joke might be funny that first time, until he pulled it again in the second half…then the second game, and third, and on and on… This is bad.
At least NFL Tour does allow you to assign your made character from a dozen or so pre-determined nicknames, which the announcers use to refer to your character. It’s nothing like NBA Live 2000’s ability to find similar first and last name matches in the league’s roster and piece together a real “John Smith”, but it is better than the nameless references.
Well, even at an MSRP of $40 NFL Tour is no deal. The gameplay is just too darn shallow and sketchy to throw your hard earned money at. While EA has done a lot in the past year or two to bring the hardcore gamers back into their camp (especially after the NFL licensing fiasco), NFL Tour undoes by embodying every pitfall that gamers expected from a single NFL license holder.
NFL Tour is all fluff and no substance. We have been playing this tired formula for years when the NFL allowed it in the far-superior NFL Blitz. And while EA’s own NBA Street series has made significant progress with each subsequent release, NFL Tour is huge step backwards for the franchise.
I suggest you save about $20, and pick up a copy of All Pro Football 2008, which is currently being liquidated most anywhere for between $15 and $20 – it might not be the best game out there, but it is infinitely more enjoyable than NFL Tour.