Friday, December 30, 2005

Will Madden 2005 ever be topped?

As a tradition, my girlfriend's parents get me 1 video game for my birthday/christmas. It's comical as I am now an adult, but it's an easy gift to ask for and will be used plenty. It started with madden 04, which I took one franchise out to year 12, and then continued with madden 05, which I took one franchise out 15 years and now am on year 6 with a second franchise. This year I got ncaa football 06 because I heard awful things about madden 06. it made me wonder, will madden 05 ever be topped. Because of the gameplay and franchise options, and where do they go from here doubts of the future, I think they can not top madden 05 as a game (excluding graphics).

Back when I was a young lad, I had Nintendo and played '10 yard fight' and 'john elway's football'. Those games were pretty bad, and were blown out of the water by tecmo bowl and super tecmo bowl. I was not ready for the hurricane about to hit, John Madden's Football. My uncle introduced me to Sega Genesis and the inaugural Madden game, which I have still to this day. My favorite play was the HB Sweep in the "Far" formation. This game and it's followers occupied many hours in my pre-teen and teenage years. The Sega series of Madden peaked with Madden 93 or 94 depending on your preference for how players appeared "short and square" or "tall and lean". I was reunited with the Madden series with the PS2 version of Madden 02, which my friend Bill had. I discovered the joy of using brian urlacher on defense, and running with Marshall Faulk. This lead to a gift of Madden 04 which occupied my time, and then the gift of Madden 05, which I have taken to another level.

My friends and coworkers who play Madden all stare in disbelief when I tell them of how far I have taken my franchises. The secret to all of this: my love of Madden's GM/offseason extras. The game took it to another level in 05 with the addition of Morale to the team management piece. The ability to scout, develop and re-sign players is very very detailed. It really gives a user a sense of ownership and responsibility for a piece of data, which is all a player in Madden is. I enjoy scouting and finding a gem of a pick in the 2nd/3rd round who becomes a player that the league kicks itself for not picking. Trading or letting that player go does have an impact on you as an owner. I enjoy seeing a player from draft day to twilight. One addition I would like to see is that you can have roster bonuses to throw into contracts to reduce overall cost and make cutting/trading worth it. I think other ways they could kick things up a notch is if they allowed you to retire numbers and showed you who reached the Hall of Fame. Besides that, if they go into much more detail, the game might become too confusing or you have to care for too many variables and make it way harder than it should be (the EA NHL series and the NBA game with 24/7 tracking have done this). Making it a requirement to practice would be a bad idea. The more you tinker with the extras, the more likely you will make mistakes.

What the EA people can do to improve gameplay is to make the computer a little more realistic. I am tired of being up by 30 points, and then the computer runs back a kickoff for a TD, then I fumble on the ensuing kickoff, then the score a TD so they make it a game again. Another thing would be to make the computer's offense a little more consistent. They should not be able to pull off a flawless 2 minute drill if I've been stuffing them all day. They also should not be able to break off 90 yard runs with slow RBs like Jerome Bettis. Defensively, if they made the Computer's pass defense as bad as the user's, I'd be fine with the game. I don't get how the computer's LBs can make INTs left and right but I struggle to get my DBs 5 INTs a year. These are things you can adjust with sliders, but I don't think users should have to adjust them. The EA people added 'passing cones' to the gameplay which only frustrated users. This was an addition which failed, but probably sounded good in the brainstorming session at EA.

Ultimately, when you look at the positives and negatives, can they make a better game? Graphics will continue to improve but they cannot alter the gameplay anymore than you can with sliders already. The franchise mode is great, not amazing, but how much can they change and make it better while still being user friendly? They are riding on the knife's edge right now and they can improve it and still stand on that edge, but if they tweak it too far, they're going to spill a lot of blood.

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