January 24, 2008

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NFL Tour, (360/PS3)
Electronic Arts, January 8
By Alec O'Meara production@hippopress.com

Electronic Artsís NFL Tour (Xbox 360, Playstation 3) takes it on the chin more for what it isnít than for what it actually is. Out just in time for the playoff push, Tour is replacing the three-year-old NFL Street franchise as the house of Maddenís seven-on-seven, arcade-style football game.

Put simply, Tour is a sterilized version of Street. All the features that made the Street games so refreshingly original, including the ability to play players on both offense and defense, playing fields littered with trashcans and dumpsters, and the ability to build your own team from the ground up, are gone. Replacing those features is ... nothing, actually. Thereís a gimmicky button-mashing feature to break tackles, and players can still bounce off walls Matrix-style to avoid defenders, but when the two games are compared side by side, Tour canít compete on any level with the Street games, which is shameful considering itís the first current-gen game in the series from the same developing studio. As a result, the single-player ďTour ModeĒ has zero value, as thereís no chance to power up players of your own creation to take on the best of the NFL. There isnít even a chance to play any kind of true season mode, either. Honestly, thereís no reason all these features should be absent from the game. None. Thankfully, someone picked up on the dearth of features, as EA knocked $20 off the price tag to ship Tour at $39.99 instead of the now standard $60 cost.

And thereís the rub. Compared to NFL Street, NFL Tour is lame, but there are no NFL Street games on the 360 or the Playstation 3. In fact, Tour is the only seven-on-seven football game out there with current player rosters and teams. The game play remains tight and entertaining, and though shallow, Tour retains the pick-up-and-play fun that Madden no longer can offer thanks to its colossal list of features to appease sim-heads. Madden is the game for the guy with four fantasy teams who listens to two hours of soul-poisoning talk radio every day. Tour is for the fan who likes to watch their favorite team every week and is comfortable with catching up with all the games through halftime highlights.

Thereís actually a precedent for this feature-suck. When the Madden series first made the jump to hi-def systems, a number of game features players had come to expect, most notably a franchise mode, were pulled. Unlike Tour, however, there was no cut in price.

As far as arcade titles go, Tour delivers a better game than the super-cheesy NFL Blitz games from back in the day, and if youíre willing to look past all the stuff that used to be part of the arcade package, then Tour will deliver a great multiplayer experience for football diehards. B ó Alec OíMeara