Review by Oggy00

"Arena Football feels more like a watered-down version of NFL Street than it's own unique gaming experience..."

For most people, the NFL is the only (American) football league in the world that most people know about and pay any attention to. If you live in Small Town America, or even in Canada, you know that isn't the case. With EA Sports locking up the NFL license this year, they thought they would try something different. Enter the AFL (Arena Football League). For 20 strong years, the "50-Yard Indoor War" has been playing a modified, smaller, indoor version of the traditional game of Pigskin. While most people don't know it, the AFL is one of the few silent leagues of North America, as it has a major television contract with NBC. When EA Sports recognized this, they merged with the AFL, and produced a game, that, while not the next big thing in the football gaming industry, does manage to somewhat impress fans of the AFL. Even if it's not the dream game most people were expecting, Arena Football manages to deliver a solid video game conversion of the real life league...

Gameplay: 7/10 - Arena Football is the "50-Yard Indoor War" of football. The game plays like a more strict version of EA's previous football offering, NFL Street, and this both hurts and helps the game. Arena Football includes all 18 current teams (however, it does miss out on the developmental "AF2" League), features all of the stadiums from the AFL, and it includes all of the minor things that make the AFL a lot less like an NFL clone.

The gameplay of the AFL league translates very well into a video game, but leaves room for improvement. All of the fast paced action that you would expect from an AFL video game are here. From the play clock that never stops, all the way to high scoring shoot-outs and over-the-wall hits. The game also does a very good job of representing the "Wall Nets" that are used in the AFL to keep the ball in play. The wall net physics are a little off from real life, but it works fine in the actual game. Also, field goal kicking is a little tougher, since the uprights are way closer together than they are in the outdoor game. Another staple of the AFL would be the over-the-wall tackles. While this is a good addition to a video game, in the real AFL, you aren't allowed to tackle people into the wall. I don't know why this made it into the game, since it's not in the AFL. The playbooks in Arena Football are also a lot smaller than those found in Madden. This isn't so bad however, because of the size of the field, it's very hard to create something new and original. Because the receivers move in forward motion before the snap (which is allowed in the AFL), it makes for a neat timing game in snapping the ball before the receiver hits the line of scrimmage. While it's easy to time the snap, the CPU will snap the ball for you if you don't make the call in time. This is good for rookies, but it would be nice to see some offsides called in the game once in a while. Probably the most complicated feature in Arena Football, is that only one linebacker can blitz the Quarterback. Even though it may seem simple, there are many movement rules involving the two linebackers. This does turn off some rookies, who may be looking for a simple game. For the last point, there are a ton of money plays in Arena Football, and this makes the game easy even on the hardest difficulty. For the most part though, all of the quirks that are in the real AFL are in the video game...

There are a few different game modes in Arena Football. You have your standard practice and exhibition game modes, as well as a tutorial mode and a season mode. Season mode in the more in-depth of the bunch, and it lets you take your team through 20 years of AFL seasons, and hopefully to the Arena Bowl. For the most part, it's just a standard season mode where you play games and sign free agents. In fact, because there is no draft in the AFL, rookies come into the league via the free agent system. It's not the perfect franchise that Madden has with all of it's owner mode stuff, but if you just like to play games and watch your team grow, season mode is the way to go. The other mode, the tutorial mode, consists of 7 different challenges that teach you about the rules of the AFL, and some of the different features in the game. After that, the exhibition mode is a simple pick-up game between any two teams, and practice mode lets you take any team and practice any play in the game.

While being the first of it's kind, Arena Football features a few new quirks that separate it from Madden. The first, is the telemetry system. The telemetry system supplies you with all the information you'd ever need when playing a football game. When on the field, you can flick the right thumbstick and the game will show the fatigue levels of everyone on the field. This works well in trying to figure out the best Receiver/Defensive Back matchup, or simply seeing which linemen will break the offensive line down. During the play selection screen, you can see an in-depth fatigue level for each of the players on your team, check the tendencies of each team's Quarterback, and even check which part of the field each team has scored on. The telemetry system works well on paper, but it sometimes doesn't really help out in trying to find a way to beat the other team. Just like in Madden, you can call Hot Routes, Audibles, and exclusive to Arena Football, you can send all of your Defensive Backs to cover one receiver. This works okay, but most of the time, the Quarterbacks can read this, and respond to it, which make you end up letting the other team gain some big yardage. Another major feature in Arena Football is the introduction of the analog kicking meter. Gone are the days where 3 presses of the "A" button would let you kick a ball. Now, you can set the direction of the kick, then move the right analog stick down for power, and move it up at the last second for accuracy. If you move too far left or right, the kick will be way off. This is an awesome feature, as it is more precise in putting the ball where you want it to go. Create-A-Team and Create-A-Player are back, but both of them are a lot more entertaining than Madden's. The team aspect only has a small selection of logo's, and the ones that are already in use in the AFL, you can't put on the helmets. As for Create-A-Player, it's merely okay, but there as not as many accessories to put on your player as you would like. To round out the features, there are 40 unlockable teams (such as the Iowa Barnstormers and Toronto Phantoms) from the AFL's past. To unlock these, you have to complete certain tasks in the middle of the game, from winning the Arena Bowl, to catching 4 touchdown passes in "Be The Receiver" mode. Be The Receiver mode is a very interesting feature, as it lets you control any receiver from the snap of the ball, and run your own route. This is another great feature, as you can exploit the coverage and possibly either score a touchdown, or take the coverage off of one receiver. This adds a whole new level of playability to the game. In all, Arena Football plays like a watered-down version of NFL Street, which is both good and bad...

Graphics: 8/10 - Arena Football is a fine looking game, even more so than Madden. All of the player models look fine, however, compared to real life, there are some inconsistencies when you compare the players in the game to the players in real life. Also, most players faces are loaded with freckles, which looks really weird. The stadiums look good for the most part, but the crowd is only 1D (flat), unlike other game's 2D or sometimes 3D crowds. The menu's are unattractive, and there is no real flair to them. The jersey's are well done, and most of them are pretty accurate, but there is no "mesh" on them like in other football games. For some reason, all of the stadiums have a purple tint to them, and it looks really weird. However, the turf looks pretty realistic, and all of the arenas are based on their real-life counterparts. In all, Arena Football has some fine graphics...

Sound: 5/10 - The sound in Arena Football is very disappointing. The soundtrack consists of little-known songs, and only a few of them (Twisted Transistor, Paper Jesus, Down) are catchy. Because Arena Football doesn't have a broadcast-style presentation, the only announcer is the P.A announcer, and he is very dull. There is very little chatter on the field, except in the cut-scenes between possessions, which are very basic, and consist of the coach doing nothing but yelling at the players and saying "Okay get the ball back! Here is what we need to do...". Beyond that, it's very generic. Overall, the sound is nothing special, and is just on the borderline of being bad...

Overall: 7.6/10.0 - Arena Football is a fine first effort in a world of football video games dominated by the NFL. Although it's a good game on it's own, and the fact that it's $10.00 less than Madden, doesn't make it more than an average football game. In fact, it feels more like a watered-down version of EA Sports BIG's title, NFL Street. If you're a big fan of the AFL and are happy about the first decent Arena Football title made for the current generation of consoles, don't hesitate to check this one out. However, because of it's shallow amount of features compared to its big brother Madden, Arena Football is just another football game, and only die-hard fans (or people with a lot of patience) will enjoy this title...

Buy Or Rent: RENT - Arena Football is a perfect rental, because its novelty wears off quickly, and because there's really not much to see in this game. Even if you're the person who enjoy's every type of football game, there's really not much to do in this game. It still is a blast to play, as it is a fast-paced game, and this is why it's a perfect rental...


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/26/09

Game Release: Arena Football (US, 02/07/06)


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