Madden NFL Football

This professionalMaddenNFLFootball3DS football game is the first EA Sports title on the handheld Nintendo 3DS console (FIFA 15 followed soon after). Madden originally hit the handheld Nintendo DS in 2004. Since then the graphics and controls have definitely improved and continue getting sharper in this installment. Hard core fans and casual gamers get familiar formats and new features. All 32 authentic NFL teams and their corresponding stadium settings occur in the standard 11 vs. 11 and special 5 vs. 5 game modes. Quick and easy rules the field here as the 3DS circle pad makes movements much more enjoyable than using the directional D-pad.

The new features enhance the experience while utilizing several 3DS capabilities. The Call Your Shots feature (press Y before the ball snap) allows players to draw their own plays on the screen using the telescopic stylus then execute them – a strong creative addition utilizing the Nintendo 3DS touch capabilities. The visual lines and relating angles from this feature carry over to the basic overlay on the field, so players get a greater sense of the game and what each players can or will do.

The bottom touch screen mainly provides players with optional plays among gameplay and a real-time view of the top screen action using colored dots instead of Xs and Os. Play calling features four squares so players can choose by hand without the stylus. Hopefully, the 3DS capabilities advance towards voice recognition so players could also perform the quarterback hike and even call audibles (the L button works for now).

The 3D capabilities take the stage during special Spotlight Moments where players experience different speeds and camera modes at crucial game moments. A nice, unpredictable element that is strong enough to make players miss it. The three moments are evade the sack, open field tackle, and spring to the end zone. Developers could expand this feature, especially since the replay camera follows the ball, not the players.

The season mode allows for full, half or playoffs only. This handheld format limits customization, statistics, player/team management, and large game modes like franchise, multiplayer, and online. Play calling satisfies all players levels with the easy GameFlow (use R button to check routes through the “coaches’ view”), complete conventional (a.k.a. classic), and shorter arcade playbooks. GameFlow calls work best for novices, especially since the game must process current scenarios to call a realistic play (check status message on bottom left of touch screen). The short loading time does not really interrupt gameflow and did not stop or “crash” the game either. Players can always try out moves in the helpful practice mode as well.

One save slot is available. Use the SD card for saves to conserve system memory. Player profiles and statistics are much lower here and saved statistics only include wins and losses. These elements can lower the sense of player accomplishment, which would have been a great opportunity for Mii incorporation so players could track performance and take their player to future EA Sports games on Nintendo DS systems (Mii incorporation on Nintendo Wii EA Sports games would be possible once 3DS created Miis could download to the Wii).

Developers could have rewarded players with special bonuses like extra field goal yardage boosts. Accruing stats could also build up rights to special unlockable players or even additional music jukebox tracks. Future installments could easily incorporate the upcoming online 3DS features, especially “StreetPass”.

Developers pack in amazing graphics that push this handheld experience to a high level, even without much help in the 3D category. Stadium fans are sharper as developers use the small screen to their advantage. Loading screen gives players a peek at the depth they can experience on the field, especially when aiming for that special receiver.

Size is the obvious factor here. The close camera shots and running/returns plays typically work better because the bigger graphics are more distinguishable. Smaller objects get some distinction from the 3D effect, but some pass plays are better without 3D (just move the 3D slider down). Extended gameplay longevity is not the goal here, especially since players already get warnings to rest their eyes for 15 minutes of every hour. The fast, fun game modes typically do not warrant prolonged play any way.

Big plays are common across all difficulty levels (four total) while offensive running plays and kickoff returns are incredibly fun thanks to the smooth circle pad control. This important 3DS control addition successfully bridges an important game element from the big consoles. The dives have a painful delay and controllable defenders often fall victim to a hurtful offsides penalty when the AI calls for a hurry up offense. Customizable controls would have been nice.

The 5 vs. 5 format games work well on the 3DS system. Players choose plays from four options (run, short, med, long pass) and must score touchdowns (until reaching 30). No penalties, time clock, field goals or extra points. This format represents a hybrid of Madden NFL Arcade and recent Madden NFL console games.

Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth call the plays. The limited audio memory centers the action on the quarterback, so hopefully other positions get more  mentions in future installments. Great crowd noise and sound effects boom through the surprisingly powerful 3DS external sound system (do not put on the headphones unless you must). A great pick-up-and-play sports game, the only football title and one of two sports games currently available on the 3DS, but not the breakthrough 3DS game people are looking for.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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