Want to stand by your team? Want to score alongside them on gameday? Want to kick the behind of the Jets, Cowboys or Raiders? Want to use the Jets, Cowboys or Raiders to kick butts? Now you can be part of your team, and duke it out on a global scale. This is NFL Rivals, and may the best team win.
NFL Rivals is a re-skinned version of Backbreaker 2. What it adds to the game in terms of online functionality makes it the most attractive of the games, and I can actually see past the limited control options and repetitive gameplay.
The controls used are a combination of touch, and tilt. You tilt to move your player in all directions. That means you have to be able to tilt forward to run, and that limits the possibility to play in bed laying down. There is a multitude of buttons to use for special avoidance moves, sprinting, and ducking. If you play defense you also get a tackle button, and if you play offense you get a swagger and special swagger button to gain points. It sounds like a lot of buttons, and there certainly are. You also have an area in the middle of the screen that you tap to jump. At times there is a lack of response, or even the wrong response to tapping in the middle. Keeping track of the buttons is the hardest part of the game to me. It has taken a completely different path than other iOS games that instead hides the controls, and favours swipes.
When you boot up the game the first time you will be asked to join your favourite NFL team. Once this is done you are part of the global version of that team. Any point you gain goes to the team, and the rankings are constantly updated. I went with my old-time compadres the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it was a joy seeing them soar. Sure I got to play around with a few select fellow writers, and thus my scores made a huge impact. The idea behind the online team is brilliant, and what fan wouldn’t want to be part of actually helping the team. Not with just shouting on the bleachers, but by actually adding points.
The gameplay is exactly the same as in Backbreaker 2. It has both offense, and defense. What it does add is the gameday mode where you get to play at the same time as your chosen team. This gives the game a real life vibe, and it is also a perfect way to spend the breaks if you watch the game. During gameday you score double the points. As you only get one try it also adds an old-school nail-biting sense of excitement.
There are online leaderboards both for the teams, and for the players. You also get to level up your player, and start as an undrafted free-agent. This alongside in-game achievements, and Game Center integration to watch your friends progression cater for a lot of hours of fun. It turns a casual sports game into something that actually matters on a daily basis.
The presentation is top notch with fluently moving players, excellent lighting effects and a great attention to detail. Everything from loading screens to menus are polished, informative and interesting. The music takes a bit of a backseat, but still manages to captivate a driving energy. You can play your own music alongside the sound effects.
I really enjoyed playing NFL Rivals, and the setting makes it much more enjoyable than the predecessors. It is the same gameplay, but injected with real teams and a global competition. If you have enjoyed earlier games in the series, but thought that something was lacking this might be what you have been looking for. I guess we will see this formula in other sports as well. Go Steelers! Go Penguins?