Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: NFL Tour

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Developer: EA Tiburon

Publisher: EA Sports BIG

Release Date: Jan. 8, 2008

Systems: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3

ESRB Rating: E

Official Web site

0:00 I absolutely loved Midway's NFL Blitz games, and have been looking for a replacement ever since that series stopped. I'm also a fan of EA Tiburon's NBA Street, so I have high hopes for this one.

0:01 Fireworks and bright lights over a multicolored field. Football players without pads, getting thrown about. Leaping catches with pyrotechnics in the background. Streaky effects behind the runners. Players bouncing off padded walls. More fireworks! Even more fireworks! This music is pretty catchy, and... title!

0:02 I choose "PLAY NOW" and dive into a Bears vs. Colts match-up. I'll figure it out, right?

0:04 "We've got a great match-up tonight on the NFL Tour," says an off-screen announcer. He does not elaborate on this at all.

0:05 "You know, if a tree falls in the woods and it hits a kicker, would anyone care?" Odd that the announcer is making fun of kickers, as the game actually starts with a "throw-off." I play around with the buttons and find "dive," which is great, except it stops my run after only five yards. D'oh!

0:06 I get sacked on my first play from scrimmage. "Clearly the O-line doesn't love their quarterback." Clearly.

0:07 I'm liking the tackling animations. The defensive players really work together to wallop me, and that's a good thing.

0:08 Uh, it's fourth down, but I can't seem to find the punt option. Are there no punts? "Oh, please just pick a play," the announcer says helpfully.

0:10 On defense now. Hoo boy. On their first play from scrimmage, my "power tackle" gets broken for a touchdown. This is gonna be a long game.

0:11 "Did you know that the charter creating the United Nations was signed in San Francisco?" What the hell is the announcer talking about? Meanwhile, I complete a pass for 10 yards. My first first down! Passing controls are pretty simple.

0:12 "And now folks, some repetitive commentary." This self-referential announcer humor is growing on me slowly.

0:13 I dive too early on fourth and inches and get a turnover on downs. That was not a dive, it was a flop. In NFL Blitz the guy would have leaped five yards in the air. Sigh.

0:14 I have no idea what's going on on defense. A receiver breaks my tackle on the second play for another touchdown. Better than last time, slightly, I guess.

0:16 Just when I think I'm getting the hang of the offense, I get stopped four times in a row after a first and inches to the goal line. I can't seem to get the run going. The turbo, it does nothing!

0:18 I think I've figured out the secret on defense. Call blitzes! I get two sacks in a row to end the half.

0:19 They seem to have figured out the all-blitz strategy, neutralizing it with a quick pitch. D'oh!

0:21 I set up a brief goal line stand, but I can't read the fakes. Another touchdown. At least this one took a dozen or so plays.

0:22 Announcer non sequitur of the moment: "The NFL would like to remind our viewers at home that tickets are very reasonable."

0:24 "Do you like videogame announcers that repeat themselves? Too bad!" This one draws a genuine smile.

0:25 The throws have been working for me, but I'm determined to convert the second and one from the three-yard line with a run. No go. There's a wall at the line of scrimmage or something.

0:26 The announcer is going on about ancient Rome, now. Is this a Dennis Miller joke or something? I don't get it.

0:27 Just as the game is finishing, the computer breaks a fourth down blitz with a short lob pass that goes all the way. The final score is 26-0. Sheesh. "That does it for this game, but the question is, who's ready for the next game on the NFL Tour?" Me, I guess.

0:28 Ah... the game was set to "All Star" difficulty. That might explain my troubles. Down to "Rookie" it is.

0:30 On to the "Tour Mode," which is I guess is what I'm supposed to be playing. I make a bald guy with handlebar mustache -- a QB with pumped-up passing and speed. Oh, yeah!

0:32 I love the choice of nicknames. Count Dracula, Granola Sweetwater, The Beast, The Grey Ghost are just a few of the great ones. I go with "Buzzsaw" because it was my nickname in second grade. True story! (Not really.)

0:33 Introducing Ace Masterson, #99 from Timbuktu, Alaska!

0:34 "All right, you've made it, you're here. Everything you've been dreaming about... the National Football League." For a game that's so obviously not real football, they really are pushing the NFL connection.

0:37 "Videogame announcers are like shampoo. Lather, rinse, repeat, and do again if necessary." Despite this self-mocking, I have yet to hear the announcer repeat himself, despite constant chatter. He makes a promise, though: "I'm gonna repeat myself a lot, especially the more you play the game, so keep playing. I'm in your brain!"

0:38 Four passes, three broken tackles and a speedy dive lead to my first score! This rookie difficulty is much more to my liking, thanks. I don't like the lack of the extra point. Even Blitz had a freebie point option.

0:41 I get an interception, and what's more, I think it was even my fault! It's hard to be sure though, given the semi-random way I mash buttons on defense.

0:42 The announcer, encapsulated in one quote: "The wall is not your friend if you're carrying the ball... hey, this shirt itches, really."

0:43 Crap. The last play of the half and I let them break my blitz and score from 40 yards out. That's it, no more blitzes! I'm joining blitz anonymous.

0:44 "Throw-offs? Throw-offs? Throw-offs, are you kidding me?!" The announcer encapsulates my thoughts from back at 0:05.

0:45 I just noticed the field is only 80 yards long. The 40 is midfield. Yet they're trying to sell this as the real NFL? Please.

0:46 I'm about to get a stop on fourth down, but it turns into another loose pass. Grumble.

0:49 "I've run out of new things to say so I'm just gonna start repeating myself." He has a LOT of ways to say he's repeating himself, and, ironically enough, he hasn't repeated any of them yet.

0:50 My man is wide open in the backfield for a 70-yard pass. Maybe Rookie was too easy.

0:52 "Buzzsaw does not fear the Raiders," the announcer correctly determines as the game ends. The Tour Mode doesn't seem to focus much on ol' Buzz. It feels just like the regular game, actually.

0:54 Can't see any reason not to hold down turbo the whole time.

0:55 Just for fun, I try running about 50 yards backwards before a second and goal pass. Still works. Rookie is a little ridiculous.

0:57 "All right, be the ball. Be the ball. I bet it's hard for you to be the ball with me talking like this." The announcer is by far the best part of the game. "My contract specifically stated only a certain number of lines and then you get the same stuff over and over again." That number must be really large.

1:00 The last three minutes go by a lot like the three before that.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.


Why? Though it has a bit too much complexity and "realism" to be the next Blitz, it's satisfying hard-hitting and arcade-y. Gotta love that announcer.

This column was based on a retail copy of the game rented from GameFly.



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