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Madden NFL Football - 3DS Review

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Madden NFL Football

3DS | EA | 1 Player | Out Now
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26th May 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

I think the early third-party releases have spoken volumes about the sort of effort certain developers will be putting towards Nintendo's new handheld. SEGA and Capcom, for example, have definitely proven where they stand on the matter, each demosntrating positive support in their own way. But as evidenced in this game, companies like EA have shown they simply lie on the fence and are hesitant to put their best foot forward this early on. EA has ultimately taken a minimalistic approach with their launch title, Madden NFL Football for the Nintendo 3DS. Lacking in extended content, the game tries to draw in early adopters with its accessible controls and a small host of other features that are really minor in the long run. At the end of the day, this is strictly for the hardcore sports fans who are so devoted that they don't mind spending $40 on what really is a stripped-down launch title.

    Madden NFL Football starts off introducing players to this new dimension of play through a title screen that makes decent use of 3D. Here you have a quarterback who has the football in hand, moving side-to-side as he looks for an opening. When you press a button to start the game, he'll throw a pass off to the right and actually come towards you in the process. Normally, I would say that this sets things up nicely for the 3D effects used throughout the rest of the game. But the fact is, not only is this the clearest use of 3D in the entire package, it's the only real notable one. 

Making your way over to the Main Menu, the mode selection isn't that enticing. There's a 'Play Now' option where you can participate in 5-on-5 or 11-on-11 matches against a rival team, as well as the progressive Season Mode. You can also select My Madden to customize gameplay settings like quarter length and AI difficulty; Load Game to continue a match; or hit Practice to better acquaint yourself with the controls. Right away, it's easy to discern that the mode selection is very light. But before we go any further, let's see how the rest of the package holds up.

    Playing the game over a series of multiple bouts, I was surprised by the fact that the controls were indeed accessible. After the preliminary procedures like the coin toss are over and done with, you'll have to put your game face on and prepare to get thrashed. When you're on the offensive, press left or right on the +Control Pad to cycle through the different players on your team with the goal of selecting one you'd like to control yourself. Alternatively, you can keep the stylus in hand and tap icons on the touch screen to choose players more easily. Simply press the A Button once you're ready to snap the ball back to get the play started. 

As your other teammates make their way out onto the field, you use the Circle Pad to gently move him in closer, to avoid getting side-swiped by a surprise tackle, or to start running with the ball yourself. But when you're not itching to be named the MVP, you can pass the ball to a teammate once there is an opening by pressing the corresponding button icon that floats above their head. They'll be in a position to receive the pass as soon as the icon appears in green. Simply pressing it a single time will lob it upwards, but if you want to go for a faster more direct hit, you can hold the button instead. 

    At this point, you can either sit and watch the computer take over or press B to switch to the receiver and take control. So long as you're standing in the yellow area on the field and provided no one tries to get the jump on the pass, you should be in the clear. While running with the ball in hand, the ABYX controls serve as the different evasive moves you have at your disposal. You can spin with the B Button, juke with X, dive across a line with Y, or do an All-Play move with A. Holding the L or R shoulder buttons will stick your arm out to the side, useful for partially deflecting an incoming tackle. And obviously the Circle Pad is still used for controlling the actual player. 

    While on defense, the controls do change but not by a whole lot. After the snap takes place, the L Button is used to make your active player jump into the air with the goal of intercepting the ball. Once the opponent makes the catch, you can press the X Button to strafe, Y to do a diving tackle, spin with the R shoulder button, or use the A Button to pull off an All-Play defensive maneuver. Some controls do remain consistent for both gameplay phases for the sake of accessibility. For instance, prior to the snap, camera control is mapped to the R shoulder button to allow for an overhead view of both teams in the ready position. While there are one or two actions that could have been mapped differently to make things easier to remember, it doesn't get in the way of mastering the controls.

In the way of playcalling, two systems have been put in place: Gameflow and Arcade. The former is an automatic simulation of your team's tendencies, while Arcade allows you to manually select your plays. In addition to pressing L to do a flipped version of the selected play, you can also press Y to ask Madden for his professional opinion on what would work best in the current scenario. Once a play has been selected, you'll see transparent lines on the field to indicate the path your teammates will try to follow after the snap is made. 

    Before that happens, you have the option of making use of two additional actions: the 'Audibles' (L Button) and 'Call Your Shots' (Y Button) features. These allow for even more customized plays with the latter giving you the added benefit of using the stylus to draw lines to direct your teammates. Generally speaking, though, once you get the hang of things, you'll find the game flows really naturally with no major bumps in the road. This is especially thanks to the Gameflow playcalling system. The defaults may not be to your liking, though. I know for me, I was getting sick of giving it to the guy behind me instead of actually throwing the ball to someone further up the field. But otherwise, it does help minimize wait times between plays.

    From time to time, you'll encounter special Spotlight Moments that act like quick time events. For example, in making your approach to the touchdown line, the game may slow to a crawl and ask you to quickly press L or R to avoid a rush of players, or press the two buttons alternatingly to out-race a rival for the point. Other times, it may be the quarterback who comes under attack, and he must repeatedly press A to avoid getting downed by an oncoming tackle. These were somewhat fun to experience, even if they didn't occur very often. 

With regards to player customization, EA has decided to take a backseat to custom character creation and simply stuck with the tried-and-true roster approach. The team selection is what you'd expect, with the ability to swap uniform colours for something more appealing. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to see that the roster adjustment isn't emphasized as much, especially if you're looking for something that carries a pick-up-and-play appeal. This is more in line with my personal preferences, but that's just me; I can see others feeling disappointed about seeing traditional features dumbed down.

    On the matter of presentation, Madden NFL Football doesn't do much to impress. Character models look decent on the system, but I didn't notice any big changes once 3D was enabled. In fact, as a whole, the use of 3D isn't very pleasing. At most, it brings the field depth closer together to narrow your focus. It also makes the HUD stand out more, but it does this at the expense of having less of an emphasis on the actual football players. In fact, after you perform a kick towards the opposing team and your teammates make their way over to the other side, you'll find the display does interfere with your vision a bit. There's also slight slowdown in the loading that takes place during gameplay but it's nothing serious. I imagine it has to do with the fact that the game makes saves to the SD Card, but I can't say for certain. 

    I thought the game did a decent job with the audio, though. The announcer comments during season games were appropriate starting out, but after a while they became repetitive to the point that they lost any sort of meaning. Licensed and cover songs have also been included like 'Let It Rock' and 'Song 2'. As nice it was to recognize these songs, I imagine the fact that these songs were just grabbed from Madden NFL 11 isn't a decision some will be okay with.

For me, the best parts of the game were few and far in between. I would seldom do a little dance in my head when I got an Interception or scored a touchdown after having dodged much of the rival's team. The QTE-like Spotlight Moments were also a bit enjoyable to experience. But honestly, those moments of mild happiness were always short-lived. Everything else in the game drags these positive instances down to the point that the entire thing feels underwhelming.

    Madden NFL Football's "quickplay" option is actually pretty fun, especially with the unofficial 5-on-5 ruling. With no clear objective in mind, you can just pop the game in and enjoy battling to secure a couple touchdowns before calling it quits. It doesn't have quite the same feel as season games (especially with the absence of the announcer), but it's still good for times when you can't get into a full game. Aside from the two main gameplay modes, there are no other variations to experience. Heck, there isn't even local multiplayer support which still baffles me. And then there's the fact that the game does nothing to take advantage of the other features that make the 3DS such a versatile platform. I guess EA has chosen to follow a marketing model I'm unfamiliar with, one that detrimentally focuses on short-changing consumers.

    Madden NFL Football for the Nintendo 3DS says a lot about the team backing it. It's not bad for what it is and it does have its moments of fun, but overall it's not deep at all. What's more, the package is seriously lacking in terms of traditional sports game features, let alone additional modes. The lack of multiplayer is inexcusable, but that's not to say single-player can't be enjoyable. The thing is, though, there is no way I can justify this as being worth $40. So regardless of how accessible gameplay may be, Madden NFL Football for the 3DS is just not a worthwhile buy.

16/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Accessible controls, use of the stylus for directing teammates before plays, Spotlight Moments, two different systems for playcalling
Presentation 6/10 - Minimal use of 3D, good character models, decent audio with multiple song covers and licenses, repetitive announcers, distracting HUD
Enjoyment 2/5 - Underwhelming as a whole, somewhat gratifying to score a touchdown with skill, the negative aspects drag down moments of fun
Extra Content 1/5 - No additional 3DS features, basically only two modes of play, no multiplayer, customization is a bit weak, definitely not worth a buy

Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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