Hands-on: NFL Tour demo

You don't have to play the newly released NFL Tour demo for more than a few minutes before you realize that something is wrong ... very, very wrong. From the game's incredibly woeful character models and jerky animations to the most annoying commentator in the world, EA's NFL Tour feels like it should have been an added feature buried deep inside the bowels of the next edition of Madden than to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting gaming audience.

The game tries to combine several aspects from NFL Street and the career mode we've come to expect in Madden. However, judging from the demo, it looks as if it fails on both fronts.

First off, the game features 7-on-7 football in what's supposed to be crammed full of bone-crunching, extreme football. But because the framerate is so sluggish and jerky, you never get a real sense that players on the field are moving very fast or hitting that hard at all. Sure, there's a turbo button and it does help a bit, but it will probably make you laugh even more as the "wind" coming from the player looks as if giant icicles are hanging off his body.

Graphically, I must say this is a huge step backwards for video game football. Character models are noticeably low-res and appear to be made of too few polygons. Some characters like Randy Moss look somewhat similar to their real-life counterparts, but Tom Brady's character looks more like Joe Namath than he does of the guy who led the Patriots to an undefeated regular season.

Actually playing the game is easy enough as you really only need to worry about hitting the X button to hike and pass the ball and pressing the O button to change receivers. Additionally, every so often, your ball carrier will get wrapped up by a defender, and you'll have the opportunity to quickly hit the X button or shake the SIXAXIS to try to shed a tackle. Aside from those button presses, that's pretty much all you need to worry about.

The game's main attraction, however, is supposed to be the Tour Mode, which allows you to create a player, compete against NFL teams in games with different rules in an attempt to be rewarded with an actual NFL contract. Since the demo doesn't actually show anything more than a static page telling you what to expect, we don't really know how well it works. But we'd like to think if the game is based around this mode, EA would want to highlight it, right?

Like other games of its ilk, NFL Tour will also feature mini-games, but amazingly enough, they aren't present in this demo, either. Just like the Tour Mode, though, there is a page that describes a few of the games, such as Smash & Dash and Redzone Rush, which appear to be the same style of mini-games we've come to expect in other similar titles.

Sadly enough, I used to be somewhat of a Trey Wingo fan, until he signed on for this game. Wingo not only commentates but also narrates throughout. He's by far the worst commentator in any NFL game I've ever played. He utters such quips as, "Did you know Istanbul used to be Constantinople? And I'd like to buy a vowel!" He also makes several remarks about how video game commentators mumble the same lines over and over again, and while it's mildly amusing the first time, it only becomes both ironic and annoying once you've heard it the fourth time in the game.

The AI itself seems to be just as dumb, however. After leading my team on a scoring drive, I was given the option to try for a 1 or 2 point conversion, where I'd start on the 5 or 10 yard line, respectively. After successfully running a half-back pitch the first time, I tried it again ... and again and again. The AI never learned from my tendencies like it does in most other modern NFL titles, and I pretty much ran untouched on that play every single time.

After sitting through several play sessions, it's painfully obvious EA Sports BIG has its work cut out for it if it plans to deliver any sort of entertainment with NFL Tour. There's a myriad of other smaller complaints I could go into, but at this point, I just hope something can be salvageable from this game. Like I said before, it'd probably have been better being an added feature in a more fleshed-out NFL title rather than a stand-alone game.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.