Madden Time

On August 11, 2005, in Games, by psu

Another August, another copy of Madden NFL. I can’t help it. People will mock me. The general public’s evaluation of my intelligence will plummet. What little cred I had as a “cool” or independent-minded personality will go down the toilet. But that’s OK, because nothing changes the fact that the game is fun.

With the exclusive license and other press around EA in the past year, it has become fashionable to decry Madden as a symbol of everything wrong in the modern game industry. EA, we are told, is the great Satan, churning out the same game year after year to great reward while crushing the creative spirit of the poor serfs who must toil under intolerable conditions in their slave-master’s dungeon with a large masked man standing over them beating a drum. This is bunk.

If EA is somehow evil for franchising great gameplay, then why aren’t people taking Rockstar, Bungie, Valve, id, and most of all, Nintendo to task for exactly the same set of sins? It is not rational to me that someone can tell me that GTA:SA, or Zelda:Minish Cap or Halo 2 is some great artistic achievement and in the same breath spit on Madden as mass-produced drek.

When I look at Madden, I see a large scale piece of application software that is released with relatively major changes on a yearly schedule. This is not an easy thing to do. You either have to use staggered teams on longer schedules, or a single team on a very short production schedule. Either way, it’s hard.

And look at what is new in this year’s game, just off the top of my head

- A completely new passing mechanic. Sure, it looks kind of stupid, like a yellow Eye of Sauron scanning the field, but you can’t say they aren’t trying.

- Many small tweaks and adjustments added to the pre-snap controls, especially on offense.

- When you are running with the ball, the right analog stick gives you a power move. I think this is the third right analog stick mechanic in the last three years.

- New graphics for the front end.

- New motion capture for player animations.

- Music from NFL films (great stuff!).

- A new “superstar” mode. This also appears to be stupid.

- The PS2 version of the game can apparently download games to your PSP where you can play them and then upload the results back into the PS2. Sweet.

- Various AI tweaks are apparent from playing a few games.

- Added two platforms (DS and PSP).

Any one of these new features would be a large production effort for any development team. And you have to tip your hat to a team that can integrate all this together and keep the game feeling basically the same as before. Everything that makes Madden fun is still in the game. Some things work better now than they did before, other money play holes have been plugged up. There are still annoying bugs (hello, why can’t I turn off the Tony Bruno show under my menus?) and many of the same strange glitches (bullshit long passes near the end of close games). But when you filter all that out, what you end up with is a simulation of the football experience which is just good enough to be believable once in a while, and a game that makes you feel like a genius several times a night. And that’s just irresistable.

With that though, I’ll bring this little EA ass-kissing session to and end, and look forward to swimming in a sea of angry anti-EA screed.

Next time: How Madden football is really a strategy/RPG in addition to a sports game.


5 Responses to “Madden Time”

  1. Elvis Flathead says:

    Does it still have the vapid, space-case cheerleaders?

  2. psu says:

    Actually, no. I think the zombie cheerleaders are gone.

  3. Adam says:

    I think EA can still be criticized because they’ve been releasing the game *every single year* for years…none of the other companies mentioned are guilty of that. And across those years, no, I don’t think the changes have, on average, been particularly substantial. I’m not anti-EA – in fact, I’ve worked for them and I do think their philosophies are in the right place, but they’re still a company that consistently makes C and B games at best, and yet wields an almost unstoppable force in our fair industry — to its detriment.

  4. Phil says:

    What’s evil about has nothing to do with the games and everything to do with business practices. I love Madden. I’ve owned a copy every year since madden ’94 on the Genesis.

    I just think, as a corporate entity, they’re monsters.

  5. Brian Hook says:

    The NFL exclusivity is what pisses me off, not EA doing Madden. I think Madden is tragically bad compared to what it COULD be — I mean, hello, a basic time acceleration slider would be miraculous for letting you become a better player, instead of the mind alteringly stupid mechanic of “on easy, you always do well”.

    The lack of any substantial tutorial that shows you how to play football (the drills don’t count). Passing a ball in football is more than just “drop back, look for an open receiver”. The game tries to have high levels of sophistication but in the end you aren’t playing football, you’re gaming Madden, looking for the secret mega plays or the team with the overrated stats (cf. Ravens or TB defense after their respective wins — Sapp would actually beat the ball to the QB on some snapps).