Last week, Madden NFL 11 slipped in a 3D presentation mode through a promotion with Doritos. It's the old-school red-and-blue 3D, and if it's not entirely free, it only costs a bag of chips. Is it worth even that?
Short answer: Not really. The biggest problem isn't anything in the mode, it's what isn't in the bag: A pair of 3D glasses. Getting the download code from the Doritos site is just step one in a process that turns an ostensibly free, immediately enjoyable novelty into something that costs about $US6 and involves some waiting. (The site says the download code's valid beginning Nov. 11 - it is usable now.) EA Sports chose to split the promotion across Doritos and ESPN the Magazine, whose next issue will have a free pair of glasses inserted. Or you can have a pair shipped to you for $US3 from the Doritos site where you get the code.
Also disappointing is the fact this appears to be on-the-disc DLC. I can't remember the size of the download, but it was tiny, and you get 3D plus a new opening animation, replay wipe, and Gus Johnson's dialogue. EA at minimum had plans to do this all along, and that's fine, but buying chips I shouldn't eat and a magazine I don't want to get at something already on the disc I own is irksome.
The good news is if you hate Doritos, it looks like any bag of Frito-Lay snack chips will do. I grabbed a code yesterday using the number off a bag of Funyuns. Not wanting to give them any more cash, I picked up a pair of 3D glasses from Amazon for about $US5 after shipping. Those who wear prescription glasses will want to go this route.
So what do you get for all this? Well, check out this video, featuring this weekend's most least anticipated matchup - the winless Buffalo Bills embarrassing the 4-3 Chicago Bears and Mike Martz's vaunted offence. Because if this 3D deal makes even that travesty watchable, you know it's a value add.
If you have a pair of 3D glasses you should be able to see the effect. It may have been lost in conversion. Either way, without glasses on, you only notice stereoscopic blur for figures at the sides of the screen, although overall it's dimmer. I don't recommend it, but people without glasses can watch along, or if you or your pal lack a second pair, it's still playable.
The depth effect is not that strong and some colours tend to blow out or shift between red and blue depending on how your eyes focus. After some adjustment though, you can start to see it a little more naturally. Some have complained that it's headache inducing. I think that's a bit hyperbolic but even then, this isn't something you'll want to play for a solid hour. Good thing Madden's shortened the time it takes to play a full game, I guess. The 3D effect carries over into all aspects of the broadcast, including your replay camera, as you can see at the end of the video.
In the end, it's a potato-chip novelty so my expectations weren't that high. But Madden 3D didn't exceed them, either. What's getting me concerned is this is another branded feature in a game packed full of them. EA Sports has a right to make money, and we should expect to see it in its flagship game. Given how commercialised an NFL broadcast is, I've had a high tolerance for the ads this game serves. But I am beginning to wonder what EA Sports would consider too much in-game advertising, and how much further it'll go.