For the past few years, fans of EA football games have had two real choices for a virtual football experience. The Madden series has always scratched the itch of those who want realistic football gameplay and strategy, and a deep simulation. On the other side, NFL Street has satisfied those looking for a much simpler, arcade football game. EA has chosen to take away the street part of the latter option in favor of a casual form of football that is more realistic-played on a field. I know. I don't get it either.
The general premise here is that you've got a 7-on-7 football game in an arena football type of stadium. It's like a normal football field, but the field is 20 yards shorter and you have that wall around the outside. The best way to describe the way the game plays, however, is like NFL Street without all the cool moves and tricks.
First, how does this game look and sound? It actually looks pretty good. The stadiums look nice and jazzed up for the new experience, with fireworks and shots of giant video screens being somewhat of a normal thing. The players look smooth and shiny moving around, and the animations are smooth and string together well. It's not the best looking game on the console, but it does look like a next-generation game. The sound, on the other hand, is less than stellar. The actual football sounds are pretty standard, but the commentary by ESPN's Trey Wingo is very poor. They were going for a sarcastic, apathetic type of humor in the commentary, but it ends up coming across as bland and insulting. An example of one of these sarcastic lines is: "I'm going to start repeating myself, and you're going to sit there and take it." Humorous? In good taste? You decide. As far as I'm concerned, he may as well be saying: "I can't believe you bought this game, sucker!"
On the gameplay side of things, the biggest addition to the gameplay is the new reversal mechanic. Basically this means that as the ball carrier, you get a split second to choose whether you want to break or avoid a tackle, and in turn the defender gets a split second to hit a button to reverse that move and stop you. It may sound like a nice idea, but the result is a lot of button mashing and frustration, and it never really helps you out at all. It's simple, but it doesn't work. In fact, simple is the best way to describe the gameplay as a whole. It may be too simple.
Each game usually comes down to whether or not you can outscore the computer. The AI is simply unprecedented, and not in a good way. The only chance you'll have on defense is hoping that the offense will make a mistake, which they will occasionally do. They thread passes all over the field and run through your tackles like you're not even there. Luckily, offense is just as easy for you. All you have to do is pass the ball. There is no need ever to run, unless you just feel like it and get bored, which you probably will. As long as you pass, and take advantage of a few mistakes from the AI, you can outscore the computer and win games.
The main mode in the game is - you guessed it - Tour mode. In Tour mode, you'll create a player from a very limited selection of pre-created elements and sign with a team. You'll then travel the country playing games while trying to complete different goals. Some games will have you trying to win by a certain amount, some will make you come back from a deficit, and some will restrict you to passing or running only. These are a nice diversion from normal games, but they get old pretty quick, especially when you're forced to play the same situation over and over again. It's also worth noting that completing the Tour mode gains you absolutely nothing.
The multiplayer mode in NFL Tour actually does a lot for this game. After the new game feel wears off (which it will be rather quickly), the multiplayer will be about the only thing that keeps you playing this game. When you're playing against a buddy, either sitting next to you or online, the issue of repetitiveness is not a factor. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is about the only aspect of this game that is worthy of any praise.
Unfortunately for fans of EA's NFL Street series, your option this year is a relatively thinned out, shallow arcade football game. The presentation is sub-par, the gameplay is too simple, and there is just not enough to keep you coming back for more. Unless you absolutely must own every single football game for your beloved console, it's tough to recommend this one.