When EA unveiled NFL Tour, the question many people found themselves asking was "What's the difference between NFL Tour and NFL Street?" After spending a lot of the time with the game, we can finally reveal the answer: NFL Tour isn't played on the street. There's also a little less "attitude" and fewer customization options in NFL Tour. If this sounds like a significant step backward--it is. You'll probably be able to squeeze out a few hours of enjoyment from the game, but there's nothing to keep you coming back for more.
For starters, NFL Tour is light on game modes--really light. You can play an exhibition game, online game, two minigames, or tour mode. The two minigames are Smash & Dash and Redzone Rush. Smash & Dash is essentially keep-away in a small arena, whereas Redzone Rush has players taking turns going one-on-one in an effort to score from the 20-yard line. Both games are ultrasimple and fun for a few minutes, but there's very little reason to revisit them once you've played them a few times. Online play is limited to ranked and unranked play, which is about what you'd expect for an arcade-style football game--it's better than nothing, but nothing special.
If there's any depth to be found in NFL Tour, it is in the tour mode. Here, you pick a team, create a player, and then take on all the other NFL teams in ladder-style tournament. The mode is similar to what was found in NFL Street, but more straightforward (read: stripped-down). Your goal is always to win, but there's often more to it than just being ahead when time expires--sometimes you'll have to hit a certain score to win, but other times, you have to come from behind. It's a fine format for an arcade game that you're going to drop a few quarters in to kill some time with, but there's no stat-tracking or real customization--just beat a team and move on.
Tour's lone bright spot is its gameplay. That's not to say it's amazing or anything--it's not--but the game is fun to play. The action takes place in what is essentially an outdoor Arena League field, complete with walls. Teams consist of seven offense players and seven defensive players. Other than your quarterback playing special teams because he's the person who throws the ball off, players don't have to pull double-duty on offense and defense. You can pick from a small number of passing and running plays. There are a few trick and option plays to choose from as well. Like real football, you get four downs to gain 10 yards for a first down. There are no field goals or punts, and after a touchdown, you must run a normal play for either one or two points.
The play on the field is fast, and the controls are easy to learn. There's a button for turbo, one for juking, and one to power through tackles. You can avoid tackles or make them with well-timed presses of a button. The only button mashing you'll need to do is to pound a button to break certain tackles or overpower a blocker. On the PS3, this is done by shaking the controller--a mechanic that is not only uninteresting but also curiously not covered in the instruction manual. For the first hour or so, it's quite satisfying to break off huge plays, blow up would-be tacklers, pound ball carriers into the wall, and decimate quarterbacks with huge sacks.
After the first few hours, you'll realize that there's not much of anything to the gameplay. You can run up walls to avoid a tackle, but the mechanic doesn't work very often. Slants are particularly unstoppable, and it's possible to successfully run the same few plays repeatedly. Heck, the Xbox 360 version even rewards you with an achievement for running the same play four times in a row. Eventually, you'll learn a few tricks to play a bit of defense against the CPU, but stopping a real person who can adapt to cheesy tactics is nearly impossible. It doesn't help that it only takes 10 yards to get a first down and that your players tend to knock the ball carrier toward the first-down marker, giving just about any play that gains one yard a few more bonus yards at the end. It's nice that there aren't a whole lot of cheap turnovers, but this--combined with how difficult it is to stop someone--makes it so that most games end up being won by the last person to score. In fact, there's such little emphasis on defense that in some of the tour modes (such as first to score 24 points) you'll find that you win faster by letting the CPU score in one quick play rather than spending time trying to slow it down.
Tour's visuals show off some decent-looking player models that are nicely animated, but the overall presentation leaves a lot to be desired. There are several different arenas, but other than slightly different-looking cityscapes, they all look the same and don't play any differently from one another. It really feels like the "No Fun League" had a lot of input on how over-the-top to make the game, which has a negative impact on the overall experience. The tackles aren't all that nasty-looking, and players convey very little personality before, during, or after the play. The only bit of visual flair is a bit of blurring on a player when he's using turbo, a trail on the ball, and some really ugly fireworks after lead changes.
NFL Tour is the worst-sounding sports game since video games made the leap from cartridge to disc. All the other aspects--the graphics, the gameplay, the game modes--seem like the best things ever when compared to the unbearable play-by-play of ESPN's Trey Wingo. His entire performance centers around the notion that announcers in sports games tend to repeat themselves too often, so he has about a dozen "jokes" like, "You ever notice how video game announcers repeat themselves too often? You ever notice how video game announcers repeat themselves too often?" He repeats these jokes over and over again. He'll also make the same stupid quips about repetition multiple times on the same drive. Whoever sold the development team on this idea has a future selling snake oil because it's absolutely astounding that commentary this terrible could have even made it past the idea phase. It will not only annoy you, but also anyone in the immediate vicinity. You're better off turning the commentary off and asking an ex to yell the things he or she dislikes about you into your ear for the duration of the game.
Outside of the fact that there are no NFL Street games available for the PS3 or 360, it's puzzling why NFL Tour even exists. If you're cool with spending $40 on a few hours of entertainment--go to town, but don't say you weren't warned. However, if you don't like wasting money, take a pass on this one altogether and pick up an old copy of Street (or even Blitz) if you need an arcade football fix.