Madden Jr. (The Lite Version)
It’s not unreasonable to expect a little less when you play a handheld version of a console title. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule (Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, being one recent example) but on the whole, I’m always one to lower my expectations just a tad when it comes to a handheld port. However, Madden NFL Football sets the bar so low for what a 3DS game can be that it’s almost criminal. The game feels more like a demo than something you might pay $40 for, and if you are a big sports fan, there probably won’t be anything here you’ll like.
The only sect that Madden NFL Football might appeal to is the casual audience. The game features a barebones approach to the gameplay that has you making plays, passing the ball, and attempting interceptions with single button presses. The gameplay is so simplistic that there isn’t even a tutorial mode. The game is constantly reminding you how to play, and even though you can ramp up the AI difficulty, the game never really crosses into the “challenge” zone that you would expect from a console version of Madden. From what I’ve seen so far, the 3DS is courting gamers of all types, but those hoping to have a hardcore experience in Madden NFL Football will be sadly disappointed.
If you don’t mind the ease of play though, there is still plenty of room for disenchantment. The game only features two modes for play, and a lot of the signature elements that make Madden the king of football sims are truncated or completely absent. The standard mode allows you to play through a game of either 5-on-5 or 11-on-11. There are no team swap-outs, no variables to factor in, and there’s not even an option to change your team’s uniform. This mode lets you play a game of football between two teams that you like, and that’s it.
The second mode, Season, allows you to follow a team all the way to the Super Bowl. Again, no options are included, so this mode feels pretty hollow. One of the biggest draws of the Madden series is its ability to pool together stats and help you make managerial decisions as well as gameplay decisions to lead your team to victory. Here, there are no such options beyond free agent signing. Just play through the game, win the season, and then you’re finished. It’s really hard to get excited about a game when there just isn’t that much to do, and you know it is a bad sign when you are running through the “Options” and “My Madden” modes to see if there is anything else to do in the game. But when all you have is two basic play modes, options menus, a practice mode, and “Credits” to view (no really, the game credits is a selectable mode from the main menu), it’s hard to believe that someone thought this game was worth $40.
The lack of content really is the biggest problem with the game, and I would almost be ready to accept the game as it is, if it weren’t outshined directly by its DS predecessor. The last Madden game to be on the DS (which was released nearly two years ago, if anyone’s counting) featured modes similar to the offerings on Madden NFL Football, but at least it had the courtesy to include online multiplayer. Seeing as how multiplayer is such a big part of the 3DS experience (with StreetPass and the new persistent online friends system), you would think Madden NFL Football would at least have a local multiplayer option if they couldn’t implement anything online. But alas, this football game is one you are doomed to experience alone.
Visually, Madden NFL Football is disappointing as well. Player models all suffer from strange proportions, and animations are frequently awkward and don’t always make sense. For instance, after making a tackle one of my players made a strange bridge-like movement over the tackled player’s body before returning to the field via teleportation. Though these animation issues are humorous at first, they are all too frequent and show a general lack of polish in the game.
The 3D in the game works well enough, but it includes far too many “gimmick” shots. We get that when a player throws a ball it looks like it’s coming towards you. The novelty has worn off. I’d much rather have 3D visuals that enhance the gameplay and give me a sense of really “being there” on the field. The 3D visuals also have some of the highest contrast I have encountered in a 3DS game, and if you have borderline sensitivity to 3DS images, Madden NFL Football will push your eyes to their limits. Ironically, the best part of the game’s visual design is the loading screens, which feature some cool 3D images of football stadiums.
Madden NFL Football is a very simplistic game. I wonder if the game was rushed to market just so the next iteration of Madden, when it comes this fall, can make a better showing on the 3DS. If this is the case, and this initial offering of Madden was just released now so that the inevitable release of Madden 12 will be far enough away for football fans to feel good about purchasing it, then this is a sad day for gaming. Madden NFL Football feels like an over-long demo, and its $40 price tag is a hard thing to swallow for the amount of features that are present in the game. If there was more to do in the game, better production values, or even just a multiplayer mode or two, this Madden NFL Football could have been decent. But as it is, the experience is far too thin and definitely forgettable, which is perhaps what EA is banking on.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
Visuals in-game are satisfactory, but jerky animations and too many “gimmick” shots make this one of the least-impressive 3DS titles I’ve played. 3.4 Control
Controls are easy to use, and very simplistic. 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Crowd noise and commentary get repetitive fast. 2.3 Play Value
The single-play and season modes are fun, but don’t provide any lasting value beyond a few hours’ gameplay. 2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|