Giant Bomb Review


Madden NFL Football Review

  • 3DS

If ever there were a cautionary tale for the early adopter of new gaming technology, Madden NFL Football is it.

People play sports because of a certain competitive spirit imbued within them; a desire to play against the best and persevere. People play sports video games for much the same reason. There is certainly a lazier bent to gaming in favor of the real thing, but the competitive spirit remains. You play Madden because you want to show your friends you have the greatest mastery of Aaron Rogers' throws, Arian Foster's jukes, and Patrick Willis' brutal tackles. You want to go online, or play locally against strangers and friends alike, and reign supreme over them.

Run all you like, generic Lions player. You can't escape the misery of Madden on the 3DS.

In Madden NFL Football for the newly-released 3DS system, you cannot do this. This is a multiplayer-bereft game of video game football. The only witness to your theoretical digital gridiron glory will be mindless AI players, who frankly could not give a flip about how awesome that deep pass was, or how badly you smoked them on that killer interception. What awaits you is not the heat of intense competition, but the icy, soulless embrace of computer opponents who bend and react with all the humanity of a game of electric football. How pathetic is this? The iPhone version, which is less than a quarter of the cost of the version found on this new-fangled device, has multiplayer capabilities. Chew on that one, and tell me it isn't a little salty.

Mind you, multiplayer is not the only thing missing from Madden NFL Football. For starters, there is the obvious year marking in the title, which seems to suggest that this is an iteration of Madden that exists outside of time as we perceive it. Considering what an insane regression this is from what players got to know on the DS of old, credence is lent to that theory. The game offers up 11-on-11 and 5-on-5 permutations of football. In the 5-on-5 game, you play to a score of 30, and the incongruous soundtrack plays incessantly over the action. Otherwise, there is little difference beyond fewer player models on the field.

In either event, you can opt for quick matches against the computer, or play in the season mode. That's not a franchise mode, mind you. It's a season mode. You play a season. That's it. Feature wise, it's actually a little like the online franchise mode introduced to the console versions not terribly long ago. Except there are no other people playing besides yourself, and the computer is seemingly incapable of trades, because that's probably hard to program, or something.

That is the gamut of modes to run through. When you tire of playing through single season after single season, perhaps you can create your own metagame out of "how many scoring exploits can I find in this game?" Handheld versions of Madden have never been the shining beacons of quality of the franchise, but over the years, whatever short-straw-drawing developers EA happened to lock in a supply closet for the duration necessary to churn out the latest DS and PSP editions of the game clearly developed some kind of Stockholm Syndrome, and out of sympathy for their captors, began turning in progressively more playable--if not exactly impressive--handheld football games. Some included multiplayer, even.

In six months, when Madden NFL 12 is released, feel free to just set your old Madden cart on fire. It'll be cathartic.

While this Madden plays a generally functional game of football in some scenarios--specifically when tuned to the All Pro difficulty, and after half-an-hour or so spent fudging with the few available gameplay sliders--it's effectively broken outside of those specific scenarios. All Madden is, predictably, impossible, cheap, and annoying. The default Pro setting cannot be considered anything but an elaborate, jokey reference to Tecmo Bowl. Every running back capable of moderate speed can regularly punch in huge gains like the great, diagonal Bo Jackson. On kick returns, the touchdowns you don't get are the anomaly. Run forward, then run sideways, then run forward again, and watch as opponents struggle mightily to catch up. I got 14 return touchdowns in a row before I finally found a kick returner slow enough to negate the exploit. He was a linebacker, by the way.

But what of the 3D? Or, you know, the only possible remaining reason to buy this thing? It's OK. The primary functionality of the 3D is to take the UI overlays and make them stand out against the depth of the play field. So scores, game clock, and other display-related bric-a-brac are all up in your face, while the field remains mostly the same. There is a bit of visual depth to the field you wouldn't otherwise get, but its purpose is elusive. The on-field action does at least look reasonably decent, with player models receiving a bump in quality over previous DS iterations. It looks more like the old PSP games than anything else. Still, animations are as janky as ever, especially when two players happen to rub up against one another, and while it's admirable that EA was able to shoehorn the console versions' commentary track onto a 3DS cart, it also seems an entirely superfluous and mildly cruel inclusion, given the giant, gaping holes found elsewhere.

Madden NFL Football on the 3DS is a senseless endeavor. Its sole purpose seems to be to exist as a Madden game on store shelves at a platform launch. It's a crass, vacant husk so lacking in personality or substance that it might as well just be called Football Video Game: IN 3D!!! It's the worst kind of opportunism at $40 a pop. The tragedy is that it will work. People will buy this, because it exists at the right moment. Perhaps EA will release the rest of this game--namely, the fun parts--as part of its next Madden suite. That would be little solace for those who purchased this dreck. They'll still be saddled with this worthless, untradeable lump sitting on their game shelf, like a benign inoperable tumor.

Alex Navarro on Google+
77 Comments Refresh
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Posted by stalefishies

Oh, sports games.

Posted by Dopey2400


Posted by KarlPilkington


Posted by Milkman

There's nothing I love more than angry Alex. 

Posted by ComradeCrash

Oh someone messed up with this game.

Posted by EgoCheck616

But.. But.. IT HAS 3D.
That MUST make it better, right?

Posted by MrKlorox

WM needs to commission more portraits. I wanna see an illustrated Alex reflect the 1-star rating.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I always love reading reviews for bad games. 

Posted by Treythalomew

Yeah new console madden is the worst. I'm remember seeing the graphics on madden 2006 on 360 and buying it and finding it devoid of any features besides the most basic playing. The xbox version was so much better. 
Kind of a shame when SSF4 already proved that multiplayer on the 3DS can be a great experience.

Posted by Video_Game_King
@Milkman said:
" There's nothing I love more than angry Alex.  "
What about an avatar of Angry Alex?
Posted by SpudBug

Shame shame, EA.
Deadlines are Deadlines but this is just a joke.
EA doesn't seem to care about portable football as I bought the iphone version when it was 99 cents and it crashes constantly and is only barely playable.

Posted by MikeMetal

Ouchie! Good job I'm a dumb Brit who finds Madden too complicated and can just carry on playing Tecmo Bowl Kickoff.

Posted by yoshimitz707

Wow, that sounds terrible. Amazingly written review, though!

Posted by skrutop

Another case of launchgameitis.  Not surprised that EA phoned it in.

Posted by choffy21

Da da da da!! Dun-dun! DUN DUN! Tssh, tssh, tssh! FOOTBALL!!!!

Posted by Rayeth

Alex has some great writing at the end of this review.  I tip my hat to your esteemed vocabulary, sir.

Posted by patrick

Maybe it's just the contrast, but the cover art looks like it's from the early 90s.

Posted by Hailinel

The Madden game so bad, no NFL player would dare risk cursing themselves by appearing on the cover.

Edited by damswedon

Alex this review is kinda magical.

Posted by mosdl
@Hailinel said:
" The Madden game so bad, no NFL player would dare risk cursing themselves by appearing on the cover. "
I bet EA blames the lockout.
Posted by Geno

Is it as bad as Big Rigs? 

Posted by familyphotoshoot

"The same shitty annual franchises you're already used to, now in 3D!"

Posted by RazielCuts

Oh its salty Alex, all KINDS of salty. 

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Ahhhh.... Just like old times. Alex Navarro reviewing bad games and getting very angry.

Posted by Undeadpool
@ArbitraryWater said:
" Ahhhh.... Just like old times. Alex Navarro reviewing bad games and getting very angry. "
I hope he tells us what we can buy with the money we would've used on a shitty game again.
Posted by craigbo180

God damn it, I have never played a madden game and never will (I'm from the UK yo) but this review is a thing of beauty.

Posted by Winsord

I knew this was going to be bad, but not this bad. Good review though, Alex.

Posted by prestonhedges

"An half-an-hour"?

Posted by SileoNex

This is a low score. 

Posted by bucky

I seem to remember the Madden game for the original DS launch also totally sucked shit. 

Posted by Hailinel
@Geno said:
" Is it as bad as Big Rigs?  "
Well, Alex never complained about the ability to accelerate infinitely in reverse or run out of the environment entirely, so, no?
To be fair, it takes a special kind of horrible to be as bad as Big Rigs.
Posted by Purple_Proletarius

I love an Alex Navarro return-to-roots scathing review.

Posted by BigLemon

"An entirely senseless endeavor"
Ahh i love it, Navarro.

Posted by raiz265

1/5 isn't that much. :/

Posted by JJWeatherman
@MrKlorox said:
" WM needs to commission more portraits. I wanna see an illustrated Alex reflect the 1-star rating. "
Here's the big question: Would it be Alex wrapped in a blanket going crazy, like in the Robocop video? Or would it be him laying flat in the middle of a street like the end of the Big Rigs video?
Posted by Donos

Tell us how you really feel.

Posted by Veektarius

Harshest official review I've ever read, I think.

Posted by GalacticPunt

Sooooo.... Sucker Punch vs. Madden 3DS.  Which does Alex hate more? 

Posted by heatDrive88

Alex, if you're reading this, just remember that this single one star you're giving to this game still equates to a 20% out of 100% for a meta-critic review. I want to be sure that you are aware of the extra 20% that this god-awful game is receiving, when your possible score can be unfortunately skewed when reflected elsewhere.    

Posted by vhold

I wonder what the story of the 3DS launch is.  
How did so many mediocre or bad games get made?  Nintendo's own releases were Nintendogs and Pilot Wings?  Huh?  On the plus side there aren't shortages. 
I was amazed that I could buy a Nintendo platform on launch day without a preorder late in the day, until I saw the game lineup.

Posted by ChristianCastillo
@Geno: Nothing will ever be as bad as Big Rigs, NOTHING.
Posted by wolf_blitzer85

Well good thing this is a launch game I didn't even give a second glance. I'm still happy with SSIV and even though it's ridiculously easy compared to it's predecessors, Super Monkey Ball is still pretty fun.

Posted by Echo


Posted by wrathofconn
@SileoNex said:
" This is a low score.    "
It is, in fact, the lowest score.
Posted by thehideousshrew

Wow. That got really vitriolic towards the end there.

Posted by Sil3n7

Wait, was I reading a review for big rigs?

Posted by MisterMouse

I feel like it has a reached a point where we need to get some specific images for various ratings for ALEX NAVARRO!!!!! does anyone agree?

Posted by TwoOneFive

hahaha i actually expected something half decent. 

Posted by JayDee

wtf, you guys review and cover this shit but not sports games that actually matter? where was the 2k11 review? there wasn't even a quick look.

Posted by Jensonb
Ahh, An Alex Navarro-penned scathing review of a terrible game. Just like old times.
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