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Madden NFL Football

Score: 50%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA North Carolina
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Sports (Football)

Graphics & Sound:

Madden NFL Football is likely the most featureless version of the series to hit since the original. Other than the core football game, nearly everything is missing. No franchise, no multiplayer, not even a cool victory celebration after winning the Super Bowl. In short, it's a complete rush job.

The first indication that something is wrong with Madden NFL Football is the 3D. It's a complete mess. Everything you thought would spell doom and gloom for the 3DS is here. Unlike other launch titles, where you're allowed to focus on one object and let your eyes relax into the 3D, Madden requires you to scan the field and pick out constantly moving targets. It's hard to focus and enjoy the effect, not that you really need to since it adds very little to the gameplay.

The rest of the visuals are okay, though offer nothing to get excited over. Player models are realistic, but with a bit of exaggeration in a few points. Animations are smooth, if overly repeated. It's not terrible looking, but at the same time, it's a step down, even for a handheld version.

Gus Johnson and Chris Collinsworth add their insight during games. Both performances are on par with the console versions. I wasn't a major fan of the new team (it still needs some time to gel), but it's better than no commentary at all. Unfortunately, commentary is only available during Season play. During 5-on-5 games, you're serenaded by selection of tunes from the EA Trax collection that doesn't always fit what's going on.


Gameplay:

Madden NFL Football is as barebones as a football game can get. There's no multiplayer (even local multiplayer), no mini-games... there's nothing here for Madden fans to get excited about.

Gameplay is divided between two modes, Single Season 11-on-11 Play and a 5-on-5 mode. Single Season offers a chance to replay the 2010 season with your favorite team (half-season and Play-offs only are also available). Once you start, you immediately jump into the first game without the opportunity to go through the draft or pre-season. The goal is to make it to the Super Bowl, but once you do, you're given the digital equivalent of a handshake and the opportunity to restart the season you just played through.

5-on-5 Play at least attempts to offer something different, and was probably the only aspect of Madden I really enjoyed. Games follow the same general play principles, though you're instead given four downs to make it to the endzone without the benefit of special teams or extra downs. It's not perfect, but still fun in a puzzle-ish sort of way. Still, the lax rules and high probability of big plays quickly drops the level of fun.


Difficulty:

A.I. is way too easy to smash. You can always up the difficulty, but even then you won't get much of a game from your opponents. This doesn't mean that every season will be an undefeated one, though losses are usually in the 3- to 7-point range rather than the double-digit victories you usually see in the main version. Massive blowouts are, however, uncommon since the computer has a way of making sure at least one play blows up in your face.

There are ways to get a competitive game out of Madden, though you'll need to make a few slider adjustments and just keep tweaking the settings until you get what you want. It's a nice option, and something incredibly hardcore players might get behind, but I just didn't have the patience.


Game Mechanics:

Once again, I have to sing the praises of the 3DS's Analog Slider. It's incredibly responsive and easy to use, making those big running breaks easy to pull off. I just can't get over how accurate the stick is, especially considering it doesn't feel like it would be all that stable. Madden also makes excellent use of the touchpad for calling your own plays or even drawing out custom routes.

Gameflow is available, which is a nice touch. Instead of choosing plays manually, they are automatically selected based on the situation. Games are quicker, though not that you'll really need the option once you figure out what's going on. Though I haven't found any major money plays yet, I don't think you'll really need one. Count on setting single-season records for kick returns; they're pretty common. Long bombs and breaks for long yardage are also commonplace.

No matter how you spin it, Madden NFL Football is a disappointment. It's hard to find any sort of silver lining unless you're in desperate need of portable football fix.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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