August is when hardcore football junkies are drafting for multiple fantasy leagues and playing in one on their console. Can they handle another? NFL 2010, a fully licensed football game, takes 17 weeks of skull-crackin' action onto the small screen.
Comprehensive Coverage: Gameloft managed to pack what is basically a Nintendo 64 version of Madden football into an iPhone - and not as an emulated ROM, but built from the ground up. Some might find this alone enough to reward its $4.99 price, and if so, Gameloft earned it. NFL 2010 delivers a playbook more than 100 plays deep, live announcer commentary, pre-game animations, post-play reactions, configurable depth charts, a 17-week NFL season with its real players, and a playoffs mode if you want a smaller-size multigame experience. It's the most complete sports experience on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform.
Camera, Inaction!: The video rarely stays at the same angle or framerate. Sometimes it's because the size of the game is overwhelming the iPhone's processor. Other times, its deliberately slowing the action down so you can hit a special move key, whose appearances are not entirely predictable. There is a horrible camera zoom every time your runner reaches the line of scrimmage, whether you're breaking it to the outside or running up the gut. You're zoomed so far in you can't see the next blocker coming and when you run past the camera position you're often off the screen entirely. The zoom in on receivers catching a pass is likewise terrible. I was rarely able to run after a catch.
Go Back, Jack, Do It Again: If you intend to play a full game for keeps, or any game in a season mode, don't take any calls. Yeah, you can mash the pause button or turn the phone off to go take a dump or feed the dog or whatever, and come back and pick up where you left off. But leaving the application idle as you do something else in the iPhone will take you back to the beginning of the most recent incomplete quarter when you return. That's bad. It commits you to doing nothing else in your device for 30 minutes, or at least to finish the quarter at risk of having that lead-changing 80-yard drive wiped out. Sure, I don't expect to be able to save my game mid-play on a console. But Mom doesn't call me on the Xbox. A mobile game has to reasonably cope with real life interruptions, and NFL 2010 forces you to schedule around them.
As a proof of just how deep an iPhone game can be, NFL 2010 is a stout achievement. It's definitely playing in a console-game league. But of course, if this game was on a console, it'd get crushed in comparison to Madden. So it's grander than just an arcade-style football game, but still very limited next to console season simulators that hardcore football fans, if they're interested in trying one on this device, are probably already playing.
Many will find its price a bargain if they're promised an entire season of football on their iPhone, and for $4.99, NFL 2010 over-delivers. But as a game it's in a limbo of sorts, with long-lasting games at the expense of pick-up-and-play appeal, and a season experience that does plenty but nothing particularly eye-popping. It's both too much and not enough.
NFL 2010 was developed and published by Gameloft for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Released to the iTunes App Store on Aug. 4. Retails for $4.99 USD. Reviewed on an iPhone 3G. Played quick play, season, and playoff modes.
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