Every fall, football fanatics across the country have a nice bounce in their step in anticipation of the season. Whether you are a fan of a frontrunner like the Packers or a suffering Raiders fan, everyone has an optimism that this season is going to be special. On iOS, we have had a few years of football from EA Sports and Gameloft. The games have been okay, but we are still waiting for that stellar effort that gets it right. NFL Pro 2013 has arrived and unlike prior editions, this year’s model is free to play. Does it deliver the top notch experience we have been waiting for? We hit the gridiron to find out.
NFL Pro 2013 can be a frustrating effort during gameplay. From a controls perspective, it attempts to cram in all the functions and controls you would typically see in a proper Madden game on consoles. It uses a variety of onscreen buttons and gyroscopic controls that, on paper, would seem to cover everything. The reality is that using these controls when live bullets are flying is incredibly impractical. Juking your ball carrier by tilting your iOS device is a great way of losing some visibility during gameplay. It is also easy to accidentally hit the trucking button to run over defenders when you mean to hit the speed burst due to the placement of the virtual buttons.
Blue forty-two, hut hut.
First person passing is new to Gameloft’s football franchise, and we haven’t seen anyone attempt this since 2K tried it in the NFL2K series a generation ago. Whenever you drop back to pass, you have a view of the field from the quarterback’s perspective to find an open receiver. Again, in theory this sounds awesome, but in practice it doesn’t quite work. Part of playing quarterback is making reads on the defense and finding your open receiver. In NFL Pro 2013, the passing angle is very low to the ground, making it difficult to actually see who is open. To make it easier to pass, each receiver has a color coded icon that changes from red to green when someone is open. It’s stupid easy to score on the brain-dead computer artificial intelligence. Their defense usually has no pass rush and you have all day to sit in the pocket and wait for someone to get open. It’s unrealistic and boring.
Playing defense is just as flawed, with the offense being nearly unstoppable. Sluggish controls and weird animations make some funny things happen. When you do finally manage to get your player into position to make a play, the offense somehow magically finds a way to catch the ball. This makes blitzing the only real option for getting pressure on the offense to cause a turnover or punt; forget about playing coverage based defense.
Put a little mustard on it.
As free-to-play gains steam on iOS, it is not surprising to see the model get extended to sports. In NFL Pro 2013, though, it’s a big fat fail. We don’t even know where to begin, but virtually everything is locked behind a paywall and requires virtual currency to unlock. Sure, you can earn credits from simply playing the game, but there are several layers of gameplay locked behind paywalls. Everything from football stadiums, play books, and player edits are not available unless you want to pay for them. Let’s say you are in the middle of a game and you want to call a deep pass play for the winning score. You better make sure you buy that particular set of plays, or you’re out of luck. We would much rather pay for game once and have all the features and functions available immediately. You also have to tolerate a ridiculous number of ads for other Gameloft titles. There is no way to sugarcoat it: NFL Pro 2013 is a nickel and diming machine.
It is a shame such bad strategic choices ultimately kill the appeal of NFL Pro 2013. The game looks good enough and has the bones of a solid game. On top of what we detailed earlier, there is no online multiplayer or real players either. If you have a shiny new iPhone 5, be prepared to play with black borders, because that extra half inch is not supported. If you are dying to play football, you can give this a shot, but NFL Pro 2013 is not a game we would recommend at all.