NFL 2010 delivers a fun football experience…once you get past the controls

Posted: August 6, 2009 in Sports

Being that gaming is synonymous with sports for many, it’s been a rather thin bunch when it comes to full sports games. Football has been one of those sports that many have eagerly awaited since the iPhone/iPod Touch platform became a viable gaming device. So when word came of Gameloft’s NFL 2010 literally just days ago, people have been waiting with baited breath. Now that it’s out, does the game satisfy our craving for hot sweaty men jumping on each other? While the game provides a rather decent and challenging experience, it also misses opportunities to be a much better game. It is the best football experience you will have on the platform, but how long remains a valid question.

The game feels like football and delivers the obligatory green turf, giant arenas, and loud cheering from the stands. It offers four modes of play: Quick Play, Exhibition, Season and Playoffs, and all the NFL teams are included. Each team is rated according of offense and defense, and you can choose from three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard. You can also choose the length of each quarter: 2, 5, or 8 minutes. One thing I don’t like about the menus is that they require tapping through each choice which is a bit tedious especially when clicking through the teams.

Visually, the game has fresh graphics which are more than adequate. This is typical Gameloft with intro scenes of players entering the stadium similar to what is found in Real Soccer. As you play different teams, the uniforms all have the team colors that you would recognize, and one nice touch is that there are different home and road uniforms. In addition, the look of the stadiums change as well based on each team which shows the detail that Gameloft is known for.

To add to the immersive experience, Gameloft added an announcer voiceover which you can also turn off. The announcer is a good idea, but in many ways, poorly executed. For example, I chose the San Francisco 49ers as my team, and the voiceover would announce that the game is coming from San Francisco. The stadium appeared to look like Candlestick, probably newer looking and earthquake retrofitted. The problem occurs later when I’m obviously not playing at home in San Francisco, and the voiceover announces that I’m in San Francisco. It’s inconsistencies like this as well as in the gameplay itself that while not a deal breaker, can be amateurish.

NFL 2010 also has roster management capabilities so you can alter your roster and even see statistics for each player. In Season mode, statistics are kept for players as well as for each team through the season which for this type of game is more than adequate for the typical gamer. And a schedule of the 17-week season is also provided.

The controls in NFL 2010 are what will determine the replay value of this game. In general, the controls are manageable but they also leave room for improvement. A set of action icons appear depending on whether on offense or defense. On offense, the base control is a virtual pad that allows you to move the quarterback, running back or the receiver with the ball. Carrier move icons appear that allows whoever has the ball to juke, spin or truck. On defense, depending on which player you choose to control, similar juke, spin or truck icons appear. You can also tap on players to switch control from player to player.

Whether on offense or defense, a selection of basic and advanced plays is provided for you to choose from. As in a real football game, a clock is ticking and you must choose a play before the clock runs out or be penalized. A camera option is provided that slightly the changes the visual angle.

On offense, pass and run play options are provided, and honestly I think there are plenty of plays to use especially since plays are categorized by basic and advanced. One issue is that the same set of plays is used throughout regardless of which team you choose. Once you’ve selected and run a play, icons appear over the top of eligible receivers that appear in green, orange or red. Green represents a high likelihood of a pass completion and red means a low likelihood. You tap the icon over the receiver to which you want to attempt a pass. I find that just because it’s a green icon doesn’t necessarily guarantee a completion. In fact, many times, passes are deflected or intercepted although even more likely when the icon is red. My suggestion is to practice with the exhibition games because the controls do take a bit of acclimation, and they can be rather frustrating because they’re not intuitive. On pass plays, I would also recommend changing the camera angle because this provides a view of eligible receivers with appropriate icons which isn’t the case in the normal camera angle.

On punts and kicks, there is a two-step process for choosing direction and then power. First, a pendulum gauge appears that you must tap based on the direction in which you want to kick. Then a power gauges is activated that you tap when it reaches full strength. It’s not the most streamlined approach, but it works.

Back to the voiceovers…the inconsistency can be irritating. On several occasions, a receiver made a catch and lost yardage, and then the announcer would say it was a great catch. Or there are numerous times where the wrong team is mentioned when scoring. While it’s not rampant, it’s obvious when it does happen.

The gameplay is pretty good and fun once you get comfortable with the controls. But, I’m not a big fan of icons that pop up during the game because it can ruin the momentum a bit. Keep in mind that the team you select will determine your success and even your ability to play. I mention I chose the 49ers as my team, and no matter what I did, I played like Alex Smith, missing passes and throwing interceptions. When I switched to Kurt Warner, I completed 10 passes in a row. With Eli Manning, I was gunning them down the field. So in my limited field test, those offense and defense numbers for each team do make a difference.

The big question is “Should you buy this game?” That depends. In many ways, this game has room for improvement, and the gameplay while not the best that it could be, is still the best available football game for the platform right now. But, I also know that for some, the experience can be rather shallow, and the control scheme is definitely not one-size-fits-all. I gave this to a friend to get her thoughts on the controls (she’s better at games than I am in many respects), and she was much less forgiving than me. It’s safe to say that until you get those controls down, the game will be immensely frustrating.

NFL 2010 is a solid game and has plenty of content and depth. Gameloft did a good job with this, but it’s not perfect in many respects. While this will satisfy the urges of football fans, it will also bring its share of frustrations.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommend it for football fans for the content and depth; control scheme may not appeal to everyone; those who throw chips at the television set may want to sit this one out)

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