NFL Tour Review

I think we should designate the day that NFL Tour came out as the official Madden Appreciation Day. We’ll roast hot dogs, visit with old friends, and at the end of the night we’ll all sit down to a game of NFL Tour, become maddeningly frustrated (no pun intended) and beg for the nuances of the Madden series.

NFL Tour is a re-branding of sorts of the old NFL Street series. The roots are unmistakably similar, but while the NFL Street games offered a degree of fun to football fans who were weary of the simulation-heavy Madden and NFL 2K games, that is a compliment that cannot be extended to its bastard child, NFL Tour.

The concept is simple: take a game of football, and remove everything that isn’t totally X-TREEEEM! That means no punting, kickoffs, field goals, protective pads, and fewer players on the field (it’s down to 7 on 7, apparently that makes it more extreme). Although it’s fairly obvious to me that the reason there isn’t any punting or kicking is because the developer wasn’t given enough time to input a kicking system.

I have to admit that I was impressed with NFL Tour at first. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when my review copy showed up. I had fun in those first few minutes though. The reason for this was that I simply assumed that it was my lack of experience with the game that was to blame for the whooping I took. I was very wrong. The game is a very simplified version of a modern football game. That means everything is dumbed down. The main effect of this is that there isn’t very much room to grow as a player; you’re probably going to be just as good at the game by the second time you take the field as you ever will be.

I was also impressed, because the whole experience appeared to be clear of bugs, the hallmark of a good budget priced game. It all ran very smoothly with good animations and overall fluidity. That also was an illusion. The bugs are there, but are hard too see until you get screwed by it for the fifteenth or sixteenth time. For starters, your players are moronic. They routinely run right past the man they are supposed to be blocking and continue sprinting at full speed towards the end zone until the play stops. This makes running any play in which you follow your blockers to be an exercise in complete luck.

Passing is also fundamentally flawed in NFL Tour. I can’t be sure, but it seems to me that it never mattered at all whether my receiver was wide open, or in triple coverage. It always seemed like he caught it the same amount of the time no matter what. It’s also problematic, because no one is ever open. If you run a simple in-route over the middle of the field and your receiver is wide open, instead of throwing a bullet right into his hands, the quarterback will lob up a pass 20 yards ahead of him to wherever the nearest defenders are. The game forces you to throw into coverage.

The most annoying problem with the game, whether it’s a bug or not, is that defense is, with no exaggeration, impossible. In all my time with the game, which encompassed well over 100 games (games are short, usually not taking much longer than 10 minutes) I never once was able to stop a computer controlled team from getting a first down. It’s simply impractical to try and stop them from getting ten yards. Which means, you guessed it, that the only time I was ever able to stop an opposing team from scoring was when I got lucky with a fumble, because I never got an interception either.

The reason for this is that at least 95% of the time a computer player will break a tackle from one person. Even if Peyton Manning is running headlong at Brian Urlacher, there is almost no way Urlacher will bring him down one on one. There is even a chance you won’t make the tackle when there are two defenders on a rusher’s back at one time, although that’s usually only when it’s a premier running back. If you play against the Chiefs or the Chargers, you will be continuously, mercilessly beaten into the ground again and again by star running backs Larry Johnson and LaDanian Tomlinson. Playing against them is pointless, and took me at least 20 tries against each team to beat them.

It’s a shame really, because when you’re on offense, the game feels normal and fair. Big plays are exciting and few, and tackles are fair and happen when they should. Sometimes you’ll break a lot of tackles in a row, but when that happens it’s because you did something miraculous. The computer does it whenever they want, every single play. To give you an idea, once on a kickoff the computer return man actually broke a tackle attempt by every single one of my guys on the field. The process took so long that a couple of the guys who failed in the beginning of the play were able to run back into the fray and fail again. I honestly didn’t count how many tackles were broken before he ran in for the touchdown, but it had to have been at least ten. (Note: I was using the Chicago Bears, the team with the best defense in the game.)

Graphically, the game is fine, and is what you’d expect a budget football game to look like, maybe even a bit better. The big name players all actually look like they are supposed to, and as for the less well known players…well I couldn’t exactly tell you, because I don’t know what they look like. The stadiums on the other hand, are all practically identical. The only difference in the stadiums is that an orange tarp that is stretched over the roof-like scaffolding in every stadium, is in a different shape. They even have the logo of every NFL team on the side of the field and ambiguous end-zone logos so they could copy and paste the same stadium underneath the orange tarp.

By now, I’ve pointed out some terrible flaws in this game, but none of them is as atrocious or annoying as the sound. The sound effects are on par with what you’d expect, but the music and commentary will make you want to plunge a screwdriver through your ear. There are only four songs played endlessly throughout the game, between plays, in menus, and in loading screens. You’ll get to know these horrid faux rock/emo songs by heart in a few short games. I grew to hate them intensely. It would be a forgivable flaw if it weren’t for the commentary. Guest commentator Trey Wingo has about 50 lines of dialogue for the entire game, and no less than half of them are making fun of videogame announcers who repeat themselves. I was awestruck. This is compounded by the fact that he never freaking shuts up. He talks constantly throughout the game, and never has anything interesting to say.

It sounds like exaggeration, but I would honestly estimate that 1/3 of the things said by the commentator actually had to do with the game. Even then the extent of its relation to the action on the field was Wingo saying, “Sweet!” or “Please tell me you saw that!” at the end of a play. If he wasn’t saying vaguely relatively comments to the game, he was making jokes about how he likes Earl Grey tea like Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard. The rest of the time he would make lame jokes about repetitive game announcers like, “Don’t you hate repetitive videogame announcers? So do I. Too bad,” and “I’m just going to repeat myself over and over again, and you’re going to sit there and take it.” This isn’t a joke about how bad the announcing was…he actually says that.

He was right though, I had to “sit there and take it.” Such is the life of a game reviewer. I had to trudge through countless frustrating, infuriating, and boring hours of play, but I hope that you, my dear reader, won’t make the same mistake. Even at the discount price of $40 this game is vastly overpriced. The only way I would consider purchasing NFL Tour is if it was being sold for $6 in one of those Burger King kids meal specials alongside those games starring the King.

Truthfully, this is one of the worst football games I’ve ever played. If you crave arcade action football, go pick up one of the NFL Street games. They’re cheaper, and even though they’re five years old, they’re still much better.


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Author: Andy Groen View all posts by

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