Madden out for the iPhone today, at a special discount price. I played it last week at a restaurant in Seattle and discovered the value of slow-motion football.
EA is promoting the iPhone/iTouch Madden as a full-fledged football game. It's 3D, with a full playbook, 2000 players, free agents and commentary from a trio of announcers, including John Madden.
But a full-fledged Madden could be daunting for those of us who can't handle the complexities of that series very well. EA was expecting that.
During my hands-on time with the game last week, the game's producer highlighted a feature that allows the player to slow down the action right as a tackle or other key play is about to occur. A gamer will be controlling the action with the game's virtual analog stick under their left thumb and, during, say, a running play, tapping basic sprint and spin icons under their right thumb. If they tap a stopwatch icon also near their right thumb, the action slows down and a few more move icons pop up, like juke left, juke right. On defense, the slowdown adds key moves like jumping for the ball, dive tackling or making a big hit. Without the slowdown clicked, only sprint and change-players options are available.
I was told that a player could get through the game without it, but I don't see why you wouldn't use it. With the slowdown activated it's much easier to make sense of what's happening and how best to do something about it rather than hoping the computer will take care of everything. The slowing effect expires in a couple of seconds, so the game can't be played in constant molasses mode.
The game's controls are mostly touch-based. Tap menus to select a play. Tap the screen to start the play. Tap the receiver to whom you want to throw the ball, noting the color of the circle over the receiver, which indicates the likelihood of a catch. Kicking is done with an up-down swipe of your finger. The iPhone's accelerometer is used sparingly. Flick the device to dive during a running play. Shake it for a hurry-up offense, skipping the play selection screen.
The main competition for Madden on the iPhone is Gameloft's already-released NFL 2010. It too features a full football game with the teams and players. But our reviewer criticized the game's save and sleep systems, which demanded the player's undivided attention lest they need to re-play in its entirety any quarter that gets interrupted by a phone call or other distraction. In Seattle, the Madden iPhone producer told me that his team's game will auto-save after every play. if the player has a saved game and has left the app, when they re-load the program, Madden will skip its own front-end screens and pick up at that last saved play.
The game is scheduled for release today, retailing at $7.99 on Apples app store. The price will rise to $9.99 at 8:30 PM ET on September 10. Madden for iPhones plays on new and old iPhones and iPod Touches, though only systems with Firmware 3.0 can play to their own music.
EA plans to sell roster updates and authentic jerseys at a later date through the store. A spokesperson for the game also told Kotaku that "multiplayer is soon to come."