NFL Tour: Street or Blitz?
NFL Tour is a budget arcade title from EA Sports BIG. I’ll have to say I was not excited to play this game going into it. I figured it was simply going to be a mildly reworked NFL Street title that I was going to loathe. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. This game plays a lot less like NFL Street and a lot more like the outstanding 90s arcade title NFL Blitz from Midway. If you’re expecting a Madden-like experience, then you’ll hate this game. However, if you like to run up the score on your opponents, want non-stop action, and like to have the computer crush all of your hopes with the occasional last second sacking of your QB right before you’re going to throw to the open man for the win…this is a good game for you. I’ll have to admit it; I really liked this game.
Gameplay is punctuated by big hits and big plays. You’ll play seven a side, but don’t get too excited rugby fans; this is more or less Arena-style football. Your players wear no helmets or pads, and the kickers have been relegated to riding the pine. That’s right. You’ll have to throw the ball off to your opponents and make one or two point conversions after scores from either five or ten yards respectively. There is no punting and no field goals so each team has four full downs with which to work. This can be incredibly maddening on defense, especially at the beginning. In fact, it is downright tough to stop teams from scoring every trip down the field.
However, if you don’t get frustrated easily you will get the hang of it. I suggest picking a team with a great linebacker. I played the Tour mode as the Bears with a created QB that was a lights-out passer. I was unstoppable. Urlacher is an absolute weapon in this game. He turns O-lines into Swiss cheese and then grates QBs. Other than trying to master defense, it’s important to stop conversions and convert your own. These few points often make the difference between victory and defeat. You’ve got to know that this game is a shootout. Whether you’re playing against buddies or the A.I., you will get scored on often. You’ve got to deny the opposition their points after touchdowns and just march right back down the field then score and convert.
Game modes are both varied and fun. The NFL Tour mode is essentially the career game type. You will create a player with simple tools and add skill points to the attributes that will best suit his position. If you’re looking for deep character creation, you should be playing Madden, not Tour. From there you will go to specific venues in order to play a set of teams. You will be tasked with beating each team under a particular set of guidelines. For example, you’ll start off by playing teams from the AFC West in San Diego. You’ll advance if you can outscore each team in the time allotted. Next, you’ll be off to New York to take on the teams of the AFC East. In this new locale, the criteria have changed, and you’ll have to beat each team by being the first team to 24 points; there’s no time limit, and you’ll start with the ball. The venues, teams, and criteria continue to change as you advance through the Tour. In fact, winning criteria can get a bit goofy the longer you play. This is unfortunate because the Tour ends up losing its luster because of it. If you’re persistent, you’ll eventually take on All-AFC, All-NFC, and All-NFL teams. If you do make it all the way through the meat grinder to Washington D.C., then you’ll be ready to sign an NFL contract.
Other than the Tour mode, you can also play an Exhibition. Exhibitions are great because you have full control over the game’s parameters including the site, teams, players, positions, and even the rules set. For example, on offense you can actually make touchdowns worth negative points or you can edge them up all the way to 10 points. You can also make five or ten yard conversions worth more, and are even able to award or punish power moves and offensive reversals. On defense it’s the same. You can make defensive plays such as safeties, fumble recoveries, interceptions, sacks, tackles, and reversals worth anywhere from -10 to 10 points. As you might imagine, this changes the complexion of the game quite a bit. Changing the rules set is novel, but at the end of the day the default rules are the most fun.
There are two other modes of play that are interesting but not great. They are creative mini-games worth a look, but I don’t feel that they add much to the overall fun. Smash & Dash and Redzone Rush will have you take on the computer or your friends. Smash & Dash has you rack up a point total by running around in a circle with the ball trying to avoid the opposition. We used to play this game on the playground, but we had a much less politically correct name for it that you may also remember. Redzone Rush has you take on either one or two opponents and try to bust your way into the Redzone. The team with the most successful tries is the winner.
As fun as the single player modes are, the multiplayer action is even better. This is the kind of game that makes you want to throw the controller at your so-called friend’s head or do the Dirty Birdie in his face. If you’ve got three friends over, you can play co-op, but I suggest playing “winner stays” one on one exhibitions. If you’re alone on your couch you can connect to Xbox Live as well. That way you can always find human competition. On Xbox Live you can build a gamer profile, get matched up, chat, send voice and video messages or download new content. Everything you’d expect from an EA Sports title is available online.
The graphics are clean, but nothing special. I did like the various city-specific venues though. There’s nothing grainy or any glitches to be seen, but don’t expect this title to knock your socks off. Fortunately, the controls are very easy to use. They truly are pick up and play for both novice and expert alike.
The music is clearly reproduced and the track selection is quite good. Sadly, the commentary by ESPN’s Trey Wingo is utterly repetitive. Thankfully, the comments are at times pretty funny. My favorite is Wingo’s nod to Dennis Green’s immortal, “The Bears are who we thought they were!” The developers poke fun at repetitive video game announcers all through the game. They do this by having Mr. Wingo purposefully repeat his comments and take jabs at the industries lack of announcer comment variety. This is supposed to be ironic and clever, but it actually accentuates the repetition. You’re probably going to want to mute the volume and slap on some tunes.
As you already know, I really liked this game. I had a ton of fun. Unfortunately, I can’t call this a great game. Some of you will absolutely hate this title. The wacky gameplay, broken tackles, and cheating computer may get the best of you. On the other hand, those of you that are arcade buffs or are particularly good at sports games should love it. I can’t tell you how great multiplayer showdowns can be against stiff competition. There are a lot of things that could be adjusted in order to make it a better title. For example, I would love a much deeper offensive playbook. However, this game is exciting and is probably still worth your $39.99 plus tax.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
There’s nothing grainy or any glitches to be seen, but don’t expect this title to knock your socks off. 4.2 Control
Controls are simple and smooth. 2.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music selection is pretty good if you like Hip-Hop, but the commentary is far too annoying. 4.2 Play Value
Invite over some friends and have a ball, as long as you don’t kill each other. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.