I have a soft spot for sporting video games that translate their razzamatazz to the pick-up games of youth. And EA Sports have been building something of a renaissance in its monolithic annual titles. FIFA 20 laid out some street football with Volta, NHL's World of Chel took hockey to the ponds and, now, the main addition to Madden NFL 21 is The Yard. A 6-v-6 pick up game where superstars of your choosing take part in quickfire scrimmages complete with wacky plays and even wackier outfits.
As either an introduction to the complexities of gridiron or a bitesize compliment to the real thing for veterans, The Yard is by far the most interesting part of this year's Madden. This comes as a double-edged compliment due to failings in the package elsewhere, which has seen something of an internet fan revolt.
But more on that later. The Yard allows you to drop into games where, rather than being dictated by a game clock, each team has a set number of drives each. Players can pass the ball as many times as they like from behind the line of scrimmage, while the play selection is brimming with elaborate cross-runs and movement. But with little in the way of offensive blocking, these rapid passing moves need to be executed before the defense can steam through.
It's really good fun, and eminently more accessible for newbies, while the frisson of drama that comes with limited drives means some terrific all-or-nothing plays. If you score a touchdown, you then have the option of trying for an extra one, two or three points with increasing yardage for each. Weighing up your choice on your final drive knowing the opposition has one more to play is a tense piece of game management.