Madden NFL Football

April 1, 2011

EA makes a lot of money on Madden. That’s probably the rationalization for the release of Madden NFL Football, EA North Carolina’s launch-day 3DS title. We’re sure it will make them even more money, but is it worth yours?

That’s complicated. We’ll say this: it’s clearly leaps and bounds better than the DS installments of the game. The full 3D engine, the broadcast commentary (including the magnificent Gus Johnson) and the analog controls make it feel very much like the console versions in many respects. The game offers the same level of control of last generation’s console versions, if not the advance tricks of newer installments, and in general, it runs smoothly.

The GameFlow feature, introduced in the console versions and finding its way to mobile adaptations, is welcome here, as the portable is a place people like instant action. Don’t worry, though, full control is an option, too. There’s a 5-on-5 mode like the one in Wii installments, and that’s a bit fun. (It reminds us too much of NFL Street, though, and suffers a bit under its shadow.)

One way the developer found to show off the 3D was with Spotlight Moments, basically quick-time events in key plays of games, when the camera finds dynamic angles and goes all NFL Films on you. It can be a bit silly, but for a launch title, it’s the kind of thing we approve. (Just take it out next year, guys.)

At this point, you’re probably waiting for the caveats. There are two main ones.

The first? It’s a launch game, but even out of this crop, it seems to have the least grip on how the system’s 3D should be used. The field of play? Oh, that’s wonderful. But the interface elements are unfortunate. Why does the score need to take up so much of the 3D screen? Heck, why does that even need to be on the 3D screen? The bottom screen, used for drawing plays, just shows a slightly zoomed-out symbol-based view of the top screen, and that could have been adjusted to make room. As it is, that beautiful depth effect is obscured by these floating numbers. The other problem is that the game keeps trying to make things pop out. Even those of you who haven’t played the 3DS would know this problem from 3D movies. Sure, it’s cool the first time. After that, it just takes you out of the immersion of the world, and on the 3DS, it tends to knock you out of focus to have something appear closer than the screen. It’s a simple fix; let things just go deeper instead.

The second? It’s barebones. As we’ve talked about, the engine runs well, and there are few complaints there. Clearly, that was where EA North Carolina spent their time, and a rushed development cycle meant no frills beyond a simple season mode. (No, not even local multiplayer.) This is a publisher problem. Would it really have been that bad to release the first 3DS Madden in August with the other platforms, and give the team time to implement online or a franchise mode? The game engine has grown up to rival its console brothers. Let the rest rise to that level as well. 

Madden NFL Football is basically like a preseason game. The team’s gearing up and could have a great season, but they’re still shaking off the rust. Except that, in the NFL, those games don’t count. That said, many still like watching preseason games, and for those more curious about the prospects than interested in being competitive could enjoy this. For a little while, anyway. 

Pros: Engine finally starting to rival its console brethren, GameFlow works here

Cons: No multiplayer, franchise, or really any frills at all


Score: 2/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.