Madden NFL Football
Few companies execute so quickly on the blatant cash grab than Electronic Arts at the launch of a new console or handheld. With Madden NFL 12 just a handful of months away, Electronic Arts still wanted to capitalize on the lack of sports games at the launch of the 3DS. They have done so with Madden NFL Football for the 3DS, a bare-bones version of Madden that shows off the tech of the new device, but severely lacks the depth of the football game on any other platform (even the iPhone). Not surprisingly, they are trying to charge the same price as other launch games, a lofty $39.99 MSRP. However, I'm a huge fan of college and pro ball, so I was willing to give it a shot.
Before I launch into the laundry list of shortcomings, let's talk about the positives. Madden NFL Football offers up with regular 11 on 11 games or a faster paced 5 on 5 arcade style of play. There's an exhibition mode as well as a season mode to tackle (the 2010-2011 schedule). It also brings Gameflow to the 3DS version, something that's extremely helpful on the Apple version of Madden. This allows the AI to call plays and it significantly speeds up the pacing of the game. You can almost get in 2 games in the same amount of time that you would have to play a single game with your own play calling. In regards to controlling play calling and player movement, the new thumbstick (Circle Pad) on the 3DS is fantastic. Sony needs to take note on how well this works for the upcoming NGP release.
On the flip side, Madden NFL Football doesn't include a franchise mode, superstar challenge or mini-camp. It also doesn't include any online or local multiplayer, a giant mis-step for the persistent online 3DS. This is a single player only game. Also, the season mode has nothing in the way of stats. It only records the number of wins / losses throughout the season. I didn't find the AI to be particularly brilliant, opposing players and the playcalls during Gameflow on my end. Similar to the console version, Gameflow still has difficult protecting against the pass and match the correct defense against the opposing play. It also lacks the tweaks that can be made in the console versions. My team's AI also seemed somewhat stupid at times, particularly on the punt returns and even getting to the line of scrimmage quickly.
The visuals in Madden NFL Football are certainly a massive step up from the last outing of Madden on the NDS, specifically due to the extra resolution. Character models are polished and the majority of the animations are fluid. However, there are some framerate hitching issues during the game. You occasionally have to adjust your play style to compensate.
I didn't find the 3D effect particularly appealing, quite the opposite from watching an actual football game in 3D (which I enjoy). Some of the camera pans looked cool for the presentation, but it doesn't improve on the gameplay. I tried several different levels on the 3D slider and nothing popped for me. The fast paced game also gave me a bit of a headache when I cranked it up to full strength. Frankly, playing Madden in 2D on the much improved 3DS screen was perfectly fine and felt comparable to playing on the PSP or iPhone.
There's plenty of commentary attached to the game, but you will run into a bit of repetition when playing through a full season. I ran into that problem after playing about 5 games. The sound effects are typical Madden, but the crowd noise seems a bit muted through the 3DS speakers. However, it definitely sounded more solid when using a decent pair of headphones. The music in the game (mostly rock) worked well with the genre.
EA's biggest problem with Madden NFL Football is that it insults fans of the series by only offering a shell of the NFL game they love, but while charging them the price of a full featured release. Truthfully, this game is worth about 50% to 75% less than what EA is currently charging. Just look at Madden 11 for the iPhone, a version with a similar feature set, plus multiplayer, priced at $7.99. To go a step further, if EA has included this game as a pack-in with the system, they would have had fans desperate to shell out $39.99 for Madden NFL 12 later in the year.
Instead, they are going to disappoint the core Madden fanatics that purchased the 3DS and make them hesitate when the next version rolls out. I cannot recommend Madden NFL Football to anyone at this price. If it drops to $10 to $20, it's worth picking up to check out football on the 3DS, but be wary of the lack of multiplayer or major features like franchise mode.