Long have I missed the days of the N64 NFL Blitz games. Since those golden years, I like to think I have matured somewhat; and with that maturity, a sim sports fan has emerged. But going back to my arcade football roots is something I have always been hopeful of.
Madden NFL Arcade is EA’s latest attempt at bringing casual, arcade-style football to both XBLA and PSN. And with a genre that is slowly drying up, you would think EA would be able to capitalize. Right?
Madden is one franchise that I will continue to support and enjoy for years to come. Since Madden NFL 10, I have continued to play online and offline franchise modes, and don’t see that stopping anytime soon. Having taken a look behind the scenes of the Madden franchise, I know that EA Tiburon has the ideas and tools necessary for making sure things continue to be an enjoyable NFL experience.
Madden NFL Arcade takes the traditional NFL game and creates a bite-sized version as each player is given 60 yards of field, four downs, no special teams, a very small and elementary playbook, and “game changers” to mix things up. With these gameplay elements and the casual player appeal, Madden NFL Arcade has started something that can become a yearly success – just not this year.
Game changers are quite simple. Each player, prior to a play, has a random chance of receiving a game changer. With thirteen game changers total, players are given the opportunity to make games interesting and make any comeback possible.
“Entourage” will allow for a complete offensive or defensive line to become available for the current play, while “Make It, Take It” will provide the opportunity for the player to get the ball back should the next play result in a score. Each of these thirteen game changers brings a touch of strategy to the game and helps level the playing field for anyone. While this element of the game is enjoyable the first few times, it becomes old and repetitive quite fast.
Despite these game changers, the core football mechanics cause gamers to play with the same strategy every time. This is partly caused by the bare bones, small handful of plays available to each player. Should the defense blitz, and you are running a short or medium pass, dump it to the running back in the flat. Should the defense sit back in coverage, and you are running a short or medium pass, throw the slant or post just as the wide out breaks into his pattern. And the worst of them all, should you be playing as the Tennessee Titans, just run with the QB, or fake the run with the QB and throw the flat to the running back.
The latter of these issues is disappointingly prevalent in online play. Should there be future updates to this game, balance is the first thing that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately for EA, the online appeal of this game is slowly being ruined by the community itself as players either only play as the Titans, or continue to exploit the issues in mechanics.
However, this game truly shows its potential in local multiplayer. With the approachable nature of the game, and the many highs and lows that can occur due to game changers, the local competition can build into a very enjoyable experience. Over time though, this appeal begins to diminish as those you play with start realizing the ins and outs of the game.
It is at this point, when both players understand the ins and outs of the game, that matches become long and drawn out. The appeal of what could be a five minute game quickly turns into the commonality of fifteen to twenty minute games. The game then starts losing the spark it had when you played your first game; but that spark was there, which is something extremely important for EA to take away from this game.
Madden NFL Arcade is, to me, a proof of a concept. A spinoff of a game like Madden NFL Season 2, which does not get nearly enough respect at local arcades such as Dave & Busters. Should Madden NFL 10 be too intimidating for you and you are looking for a casual, approachable football game, this may be right up your alley. But for Madden fans out there, this seems a bit on the light side for a $15 price tag. Ultimately, I genuinely hope that this is the beginning of a yearly arcade installment from EA, assuming they fix the issues with this one.
Cartoony graphics and stadium designs give just what is expected from an arcade football game.
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NFL Arcade is an extremely user-friendly title for those that may feel overwhelmed by what the true Madden experience has to offer. The issues that do exist take away from what could have been a fantastic multiplayer title.
Never has the constant loop of one arcade song frustrated me more. I strongly recommend turning the music options to zero.
With an online multiplayer that is saturated with people exploiting the issues with this game, the local multiplayer is where the true enjoyment will continue to lie.
Madden NFL Arcade is a very approachable game for a majority of casual sports gamers. However, the game's issues make online play unbalanced and unenjoyable. And at a $15 price tag, the little you get just isn't enough. Should the game ever drop to $10, give it a shot.