Madden NFL Arcade is a spin-off title of EA’s NFL 10, developed by EA Tiburon. The Madden series continues to sell (but less well than EA would like), but for fans of fast paced and hard-hitting football (of the funny American kind, you understand), there hasn’t been anything of great importance since the sorry demise of NFL Blitz’s glory days.
Before we get into this, an admission: I may be a Brit, but I do watch it an awful lot of NFL, I even have my own team! (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in case you were interested, and yes, I know, they’re not doing very well right now).
is an aptly named title – I’m glad we seem to have stepped beyond NFL-Urban-Street-2k10-Bazooka
– hoping to reintroduce American Football to the arena of proper fun. Not that the simulation iterations aren’t fun, it’s just that I’m not very good at them, and they’re also not as entertaining on Friday pass-the-pad games night.
has a very basic gaming mechanic; it’s five-a-side Football, four downs to try and get the touchdown, and very little in the way of rules. No timeouts, no 1st down, no kicking. Each attacking team consists of your quarterback, running-back, two wide receivers and offensive lineman. For the ill-informed, that’s playmaker/throwy man, the slightly bigger one who runs with the ball, the catchers, and the fat bloke who stops anyone getting to the throwy man.
On defence ('deefence'), it’s a fairly obvious counter line-up. We have a pair of cornerbacks, a safety and a linebacker. The lineman stays put too.
Early into the game it seemed that the advantage was always with the attack, spaces would form quite easily, and passing or running into that space was simple enough. As you hit the last down (the 4th, that is – though this can be changed pre-match) I tended to find yourself in and around your opponent's 10-yard line, or you’d already scored. This resulted in an extremely fast race to 30 points, with the advantage going to the player who was on the offence ('off-fence') first. Occasionally mistakes would be made from the attacking team, possibly a loose throw, or a few bad plays, but the majority of the time this was the 30-point outcome.
Then I started to get a grip of the game, particularly on defence. Once you’ve grasped the controls and timing of tackles, as well as learning the fairly obvious attacks of your opponent, the game became largely tactical. That quick race to 30 soon became battles for possession and attempts to formulate your own tactics. The plays available to you are very simple:
Offence – Run, Throw Short, Throw Middle, Throw Deep.
Defence – Blitz, Cover Short, Cover Middle, Cover Deep.
How you control your players after the snap can change a middle cover into a blitz. Or your quarterback might use the deep runners as decoys as you go on your own suicidal run. It’s simple but very effective.
After a couple of hours in multi-player all involved were doing pretty well at cancelling each other out, and it was also nice to see how we’d developed different play styles. Constantly cancelling plays could get pretty boring though, as you’d imagine, so that’s where the game changers come in. At the start of each play, a small window for each team will roll with icons, pub bandit style. It will then either land on a Game Changer special, or nothing at all. There are 13 game changers in total, some examples being:
– Brings in extra brutes to either defend your quarterback or help in running theirs down.
– Disguise your pass by throwing three balls at once.
– The entire game goes into fast-forward, handy for making offensive runs, but can also be used on defence to hurry quarterback passes.
– As you’d expect, catching and keeping hold of the ball becomes quite difficult. On the first fumble, the effect stays for a while too, often resulting in fumble followed by fumble.
There’s an obvious element of luck involved here, which keeps things interesting. Sometimes I could be winning, potentially whitewashing my opponent, and still I’d get the perfect game changer to finish them off. But other times it works out really elegantly and evenly, or balances out an already unbalanced game.
The above formula equates to an almost perfect multi-player experience. It’s not really worth purchasing as a single-player game, it’s a bit like taking the M out of E=MC2
– M meaning multi-player, of course – it just breaks the equation.
There are also no game modes other than quickplay against the AI, local multiplayer, or online multiplayer, so it’s stripped down and might seem a little bare to some gamers out there. The graphics are smooth, and the art style adds to the natural humour of the game.
Overall it’s a fantastic multiplayer experience, and for such a cut down game in terms of game modes, 1200 MS points (about 10 quid) might seem a little steep. Still, the longevity in the multiplayer is definitely there for me and my friends, and it’ll be headlining the JLR games night bill for a time to come.
SPOnG Score: 85%