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Arena Football
Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Los Angeles
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Multitap 1 - 8 / Online 1 - 2)
Genre: Sports (Football)/ Arcade/ Sports

Graphics & Sound:
Borrowing from the Madden franchise, EA Sportsí newest gridiron addition takes on many of the same styles, but takes place completely indoors. Unfortunately, it is easy to tell that Arena Football is in its infancy graphically, as the player models and arenas are really not all that spectacular. In fact, every stadium is the same, and only the text and graphics on the scoreboard and field actually change, making the game a bit boring visually.

I have to applaud the effort in trying to spruce up the game with small cut-scenes in a first-run game. In the same manner as with the graphical content, the voice-overs and animations need plenty of work because they seem a bit forced. The commentating during the game isnít bad. However, it really only happens between plays, rather than during. Fortunately, the music and sound fx are well-received, and help to get you pumped as you get into the game.


Gameplay:
"Mostly Madden; with a slash of Blitz." Thatís the only way to truly describe EA Sports' Arena Football. Graphically, and in the presentation, the game does takes a lot from its big brother at Electronic Arts. It also takes even more, however, from the gameplay of Madden. Nearly everything youíve learned in the NFL brethren returns in Arena Football, whether it be the style of play, play-calling, gameplay, or even the button layout (for the most part). The unfortunate side of a new game is that there are also many elements that can further be tweaked, but especially that catching passes near the wall always counts you as out of bounds if your player happens to flop over the top, even when the catch appeared to be legit.

If you havenít yet watched the Arena Football League (AFL) on television before, you may not be that interested in the video game version. But if you are a fan of the AFL, or just love to play offense in football games, then Arena Football is definitely for you. Just like in real life, playing through a season of Arena Football is all about scoring points. Most of those points will come from passing, as running is a bit difficult on such a small field. Defense is doable, but the limited number of players on the gridiron make for an extremely offensive endeavor. Playing defense is very tricky, in fact, because the fast-paced nature of the game doesnít allow for much time to put up a stand.

And if you are new to the AFL, youíll have a small learning curve to overcome in the way of the rules. First off, the field is fully enclosed by walls that are still considered in play. The only way to go out of bounds is by falling, or being hit, over the wallís top. This is where the splash of NFL Blitz comes into play. Some of the hits in Arena Football are slightly over the top, defying the laws of physics, but also adding to some of the excitement and energetic nature of the game. In addition, your defense has restrictions to further promote offensive production. It should also be noted that in the AFL, players are true iron men, playing both sides of the ball, which also typically stifles the defensive side of the ball.

The game modes of Arena Football are quite limited too, unfortunately. Youíll basically be able to practice, play exhibition games, or play through a full sixteen-game season. Youíll also be able to take your favorite team online and challenge other turf-loving gamers from around the country. Itís quite disappointing, however, to not have any available challenge modes or skill sessions of any kind. In the AFL, you can use the walls and/or net to keep the ball in play, and it would have made for some very entertaining mini-games. Thereís always hope for next year.


Difficulty:
The crazy thing about Arena Football is that itís not difficult, at all. Once you get the flow of the game down, it can be quite easy to score. This is partially due to the similarities with Madden, and partially because the game has a relatively (and an unfortunately) few number of plays to choose from. Defensive control is a bit more difficult, however. Because of the restrictions placed on defenders, you may often feel at the mercy of how well the offense youíre up against can perform.

Game Mechanics:
With controls very similar to that of Madden, Arena Football should be very easy to pick up and play for a great number of people. Actually, the controls have been slightly dumbed down, in fact, which can help newbies in the transition as well. The fast-action that happens can sometimes make you feel as if you have no real control, however, especially while on defense. On offense, youíll be able to change receiversí routes, hike the ball at any point in the motion, and even directly control the receiver instead of the QB. In this case, the quarterback will take his drop steps as you run around the field to the open spot, and you can then pass to yourself, or any other open player. This is a great feature, but I feel it can be exploited a little too much because of the rules that prohibit the defense from blitzing.

The bottom line is that Arena Football is an entertaining game, but doesnít have near the options as a game like Madden. However, if youíre looking for a fast-paced football title, youíll definitely want to check out EAís first attempt at an AFL simulation. That said, Arena Football is definitely worth a rental or possible purchase for sports fans.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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