Review: Madden NFL Arcade (Xbox 360, PS3)December 8th, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360
While the folks at EA have tried their hand at an arcade football game for a while now, but it has taken until now that they captured the Blitz style of simplicity. Madden NFL Arcade is a much more simple game overall than recent Maddens have been and that makes for an arcadey experience that can really be a lot of fun in multiplayer.
Madden NFL Arcade does trim down what you expect from the traditional NFL experience that football fans get in Madden. Games are limited to 5-on-5 skirmishes with a standard set of positions that sterilizes irregularities like Miami’s wildcat offense and two-back sets, which is a shame though it also creates a great balance where a team like the Browns can easily beat the Patriots with good players controlling them. The online multiplayer is less fun due to people that only play with either Oakland (JaMarcus Russell), Philadelphia (Donovan McNabb), or Tennessee (Vince Young) and use their quarterbacks to run most of the time since your defensive buddies on AI can’t really cope with the threat of the run unless you’re able to contain them with a safety or linebacker. There’s a similar issue with running backs since it’s really easy to dump the ball off to them so that bigger backs can barrel through for big gain, though those plays can be countered easily to be like any other aspect of the gameplay.
Games in Madden NFL Arcade are done once a team reaches 30 points. Touchdowns can be capped by an automatic extra point or a two-point conversion, which means you could need just four touchdowns to win the hard way versus five touchdowns with extra points. You playbook is a simple one with an option to run or throw a short, medium, or deep pass, though each of the passing options includes a few variants so they’re not that predictable. There are no penalties or injuries, so it’s a pure offense versus defense struggle that require you to traverse the 60 yard field in four downs for a simple, fun experience that anyone should be able to grasp. The modes here are just local quick play and online multiplayer, which can make for quick, addictive fun since games are maybe five to ten minutes long at most.
Power-ups are another big part of Madden NFL Arcade and they can add a lot to your chances to win or lose. Before each play, each team automatically gets a pull of a slot machine to see if they get one of the dozen or so power-ups. Some of them offer basic advantages like increased chances of fumbles, freezing a player for a play, a full offensive or defensive line, or an additional fifth down while others are mostly useless. They mostly offer a bit of randomness that can add to an intense game between competitive friends.
The lack of a better mode than these quick play modes in Madden NFL Arcade is probably the key issue in it being worth $15 on XBLA or PSN. We would’ve liked to have seen a smoother way to jump into a new game with a new opponent in quick play since you’re only given the options to replay the same match-up or quit back to the main menu to set up a new game. The achievements/trophies are really the only thing that can give you a reason to play this game alone unless you’re really itching for a quick game without risking the chance of facing a bad opponent online.
Controls in Madden NFL Arcade are really simple, as most of your non-movement controls are for big hits, swatting, power moves, sprinting, and using the power-up. There is an option for “standard” controls that adds more moves to your arsenal that makes it closer to the normal Madden controls, but it seems like a way to add more depth to the controls and gives more power to the defense since they can dive and be more effective. The normal “arcade” controls seem to enhance your offensive potency while giving you just enough defensive control to make turnovers and defensive stops a big deal. Ranked online demands the arcade controls, though standard can bring a new level of depth to the action that Madden vets can better appreciate.
The visual style in Madden NFL Arcade is definitely going to be different from what you usually see from Madden. The style is a bit cartoonier, like the Wii version of Madden 10, which works really well for this game since you can easily tell the more powerful players from the faster players by their build alone. Animations are pulled straight from Madden, so you’ll see a lot of familiar tackle animations, though there are some clipping issues that are probably a result of the art style and the animations not being polished enough. There are no announcers here and the soundtrack is even limited to just one song on the menus and one in-game, so it’s mostly the sound effects, crowd, and stadium effects.
Madden NFL Arcade does a great job of providing a more casual, arcadey experience for football fans that long for the days that NFL Blitz ruled the arcade football genre many years ago. The modes that are offered are a bit lean and emphasize local or online multiplayer heavily, which is the key to whether this game is worth the $15 for you. The multiplayer is mostly balanced with a quick speed that makes it easy to be stuck playing this for hours if you’re not careful. If you find yourself liking the demo, it’s an easy recommendation for a full purchase while those that aren’t persuaded by the demo probably won’t be thrilled by the rest of the game.