With the NFL season off and running, the impressive plays, hard hits and tactical magic of the first two weeks has got us in the mood for some iPhone football. Scanning the App Store you’ll notice that there are two main contenders sitting at the top of the sport games chart; EA’s Madden NFL10 and Gameloft’s NFL 2010. Although Gameloft’s title was released almost a month before EA’s franchise title, Madden NFL currently holds the number one spot on the store with Deer Hunter 3D splitting the two. We’ve decided to run play-by-play analysis using our own colour commentary to determine which app is on target for the playoffs and which will languish in the lower leagues. Starting with Gameloft’s offering we’ll compare the two apps and let you know the pros and cons of both over a series of posts and also point out some other worthy contenders you may be interested in trying.
Launching NFL2010 you’re immediately immersed in a complete football experience. With an intro video, interface and menu transitions that mimic the Sunday/Monday Night Football TV shows and rocking soundtrack to complete the package. Jumping straight into the Quick Play mode you’re assigned a team and an opponent from the current NFL pack and it’s straight to the coin toss, continuing the television style production. The graphics take a slight dip as game play begins with blocky (although fully 3D) characters taking the field, however the stadium and pitch detail is still fairly impressive. The latest update sees real player profile photos added to the in-game analysis making for more true to life coverage and main menus now include an RSS feed of NFL news (should you choose to turn the feature on). In terms of overall presentation, NFL 2010 can’t be faulted.
Get In The Game
Picking a play requires simple swipes and taps of the screen with the option of basic or advanced selections. Basic is for the amateur player or those keen to get going quickly and provides pre-set patterns from runs, special teams and three different lengths of throw. Advanced allows you to be more tactical by picking your formation first and following it up with one of a number of play styles. The same applies on defence.
Once on the field, control of a player in open play is much the same as in Gameloft’s Real Football using a virtual stick to direct the action. What’s different is the contextual buttons that appear depending on the play and situation. When on offence you are provided with a number of options to avoid incoming tackles or, if you’re feeling lucky, smash straight through onrushing defenders. We had limited success with the Truck, Juke and Spin moves which didn’t seem to pop up as often as we would like, resulting in some painful collisions with no real option to avoid opponents. For example, a quick running play sending the halfback out wide almost always resulted in a punishing hit without any way to counteract the attack. There’s no run button in NFL2010 either, the virtual stick covers this too, so there’s not even the option of a change of pace to beat players when the buttons prove elusive. When the action buttons do appear, however, the effect can be game changing and lead to clear streaks up the field, often all the way to the end zone. On both offence and defence, game time slows down slightly when the buttons appear in order for you to decide which to press. It’s only a momentary slow down though, enough to merely allow you to notice that buttons have appeared at all, so your reactions will need to be sharp in order to take advantage of them and not blindly hit the first one you see.
While the running could use a little tune up, especially when players come into contact with others or approach densely defended areas of the field, passing is a lot of fun and simple enough for even football novices to master within a couple of plays. Using simple colour-coded shapes, a receiver can be quickly found and hit with a touch of the finger. The greener the icon, the more likely a player is to make a catch and, once caught, you’re immediately in control of the receiver to make a run for the line. Before each play you have the option to see the Coach Cam view by hitting the camera button which shows all the available routes and corresponding icons so you can plan your throw. Obviously, the quality of your quarter back plays a part in the accuracy but, with the right timing, you can make effective passes into space. We particularly enjoyed a few QB tricks when in possession of the ball; Scramble and Out of Bounds, which appear as buttons when the QB has the ball in hand. As in the real game, you have the option to throw the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack or interception and stop the clock and also to run or “scramble” with the QB instead of passing, should you see an opening. This freedom, along with a number of other neat touches, make for a more realistic experience, fake plays (both punting and running) are another example. Fumbles are largely infrequent but a jarring tackle can cause the ball to break loose and make for an exciting twist in the match. By hitting the NFL logo at the top right of the screen you can pause the game and take control of your Roster or choose to watch a replay of the last piece of action. To continue the televised feel of the game, we would have preferred to see instant replays and a little more control over the outcome too with multiple angles or at least a decent set of playback controls. As it is, you only have two replay options – watch it or head back to the game.
Defending Your Lines
While everyone loves offensive play, we found the defence more rewarding in a strange way, with more tactics and strategy on offer when defending your lines. One such defensive trait is the assigning of individual players to specific roles before the snap. You may have set your field to provide coverage for a long pass but, if you need to, you can simply tap a lineman and then tap on an opposition player you want him to mark. This can have a devastating effect if you select to mark the QB and often results in a sack when used correctly. Obviously, opposition players will attempt to foil your moves and so the juke and spin controls come in to play again for defensive players allowing you to break free and target your man. You can also control defenders using the virtual stick to set them in motion or chase down passes where you can opt to deflect the ball or attempt to intercept a pass. With both cover and blitz options, you feel more in control of the game and can lay down effective strategies to bolster your defences. After a few practices we found we were able to completely pin down an attacking team and force them to punt every time. We were also helped by some frankly awful AI decisions (improved in the latest update) on the part of the QB and coach facing us. This was, of course, in amateur mode and we can assure you, things become a lot harder the further up the skill rankings you go. Special Teams aren’t left out of the equation either with a smooth kicking system in place involving direction and power bars that need to be tapped at precise moments for optimum angle and distance.
As your experience grows you’ll likely get bored of the basic plays, not to mention become predictable and will look to try out some new moves from the advanced set which will ultimately reward you when you move on to other game modes outside of Quick Play such as Season and Playoffs. These additional modes take the game beyond a simple pick-up-and-play and allow you to launch complete campaigns which can take hours if not days to complete. Perfect for the long journey to the stadium!
Official teams and branding make the game look great however it is let down by the quality of its player animation and some of the commentary which feels a little stilted at times and, in some instances, simply grammatically incorrect due to limited audio samples available. “The Giants, it looks like they’re going for it on fourth down” is an example, but there’s also a distinct lack of excitement in the audio department when it comes to touchdowns and big hits. In fact, the first time we crossed the line we weren’t sure we had even scored. That said, this is a very complete sports package for the $2.99 asking price and streets ahead of other sports titles on the App Store. It’s criminal that the game is only available in the states, we can only assume due to licensing restrictions, but US users should truly rejoice at this well-rounded, decently priced football app. It has its issues as do most games but if the recent update (that includes not only fixes but new features and updates to rosters) is anything to go by, it’s a good game that’s only going to get better.
Fun Factor: 8.9
Value For Money: 8.7
Kung Fu Verdict: 8.5
Why not try…?
Price: £1.79 ($2.99)
Developer: Coresoft Inc.
Throw passes at your receivers running set routes on the field. Make sure you avoid the opposition players and achieve completed passes in a row to build your high score. Simple, addictive fun.
Price: £0.59 ($0.99)
Developer: FuzzyCube Software, LLC
As the lone quarterback on the field you must hit moving targets as they cross the screen in order to beat your high score. Timing is essential as is the selection of pass type in order to ensure your throws are accurate.