By Kris Roberts
Before I begin, I should tell you that I’m not normally a sports gamer. In fact, I’m not very much of a sports enthusiast at all! The 3DS version of EA Sports’ Madden NFL Football is the first football game I have spent any significant time playing, so this is a new experience for me in more ways than one.
Madden NFL Football is a cornerstone of EA Sports, and was first released in 1988 under the name “John Madden Football”. From 2003 onward, a new version was released each year with new features, player rosters, and improved visuals. Today we find out if the game holds to its values on the Nintendo 3DS, and how it performs in stereoscopic 3D!
General Game Review
I have to admit that while I’m inexperienced with football video games, I walked in with high expectations. Experienced or not, everybody at least knows about Madden NFL Football!
On the 3DS, you can either play in a single “Play Now” exhibition game, or a “Season” of competition with all the teams in the league participating (and actually you get the secondary option of a “Full Season” or “Half Season” depending on how many games you want to play). Seasons can take a while to complete, and the game will save between matches so you can quit and load later – but only one Season can be active at a time. If want to loan your 3DS to a friend, they could end up overwriting your game if they want to start a new season – so be careful!
All the teams in the NFL are available to play and the stadiums for each are modeled and presented depending on whether you are playing a home or away game. The production value for the 11 on 11 Season mode is impressive. From the initial coin toss to the final touchdown, the voice over announcers give play by play descriptions and the replays are well presented and fun to watch. However, the music sound track gets repetitive, and I ended up turning it down to focus on the game rather than Metal/Rock tracks.
This is where my football newbie status becomes a problem: I didn’t know how to play! The manual was pitiful, and it was very frustrating to have to learn by trial and error. Football is more complex than people give it credit for, and a little more direction would have made a world of difference for me. Even the “Practice” mode doesn’t provide any additional instructions if you don’t already know the basics.
For me, the 5 on 5 games were the most accessible, and after a little practice, I managed to get a basic understanding of the game. Sadly, after tackling a few 5 on 5 seasons, I found myself ill prepared for an 11 on 11 match as I still had much to learn! In the bigger matches, there are deeper options for “Audibles” for calling plays and setting up custom playbooks that are well beyond me. There is even a comprehensive “Roster” of players that you can tweak with the “Depth Chart”, and it will organize which players take the field and when. You can also browse the “Individual Stats” for players and game standings in the current Season.
It took some time, but once I got past my initial confusion (“initial”? HAH!) and had some success, the game grew fun to play. What finally worked for me was to use the “Play Now” mode and jump from team to team to experiment with different strategies instead of committing to entire seasons with just one team.
All things being equal, Madden Football had a lot of potential, and I was very disappointed that there isn’t a multiplayer mode to play against other opponents. This is such a natural title for multiplayer mode, I really hope a future version takes this into account because I think a big opportunity was missed here.
The in-game stereoscopic 3D screen presents the view of the field and the 2D screen shows the player positions and overview. The quality of the 3D is generally good visually, but doesn’t seem to give the player much practical information as far as depth queues or improving intuition for the relative distances between the quarterback and receivers or the end zone. The replays and game intro sequences seem to benefit the most from the 3D presentation.
The menus and in game UI are pretty straightforward and do use the 3D to highlight options. Before each game there is a static 3D loading screen shot of the stadium where the game will be played. Viewing the player rosters shows images of each player, but they are clearly 2D photos on a 3D layer.
For a first stab at this, I think EA did as much as they could with the 3D in Madden because the nature of wide (football)field camera angles is they diminish the 3D effectiveness. Neil Schneider also informed me that according to U-Decide 2011, sports games ranked lowest as far as which game classes are most appropriate for 3D according to experienced stereoscopic 3D gamers. When EA gives it another go, they may need to come up with innovative ways to compensate for this 3D limitation in some sports games – we’ll have to wait and see!
While I had fun with 3DS Madden NFL Football, it hasn’t converted me into a sports game fanatic. By far, its biggest problem was the lack of a good tutorial mode or at least a detailed manual. Without this, Madden felt more like work than a game, and I don’t think this is what EA was after.
While the basics were there, this game would have ruled if it had multiplayer, long-term team and player tracking that went beyond a single season at a time, and much more use of the 3DS’ passive downloading and interactive features.
Given Madden’s well earned reputation in the gaming industry, I would best describe this 3DS version as a practice round for a more robust and memorable future release.
How Memorable is This Game
6/10 (NOTE: This score is subjective and is not calibrated by M3GA)