Madden ’09: Madden-sized Disappointment

I finally got my hands on my copy of Madden ’09 earlier this week. I had actually gotten the game pre-ordered way back in early-July, but didn’t end up getting it until this week.

Let me get this part out of the way first: Dear EA Sports. For the love of god, please hire some fracking user interface designers. The user interface for Madden sucks, and seems to get worse every year. Quit spending all of your time making everything glossy and shiny. Just make it better. If you’re unsure of how to do this, WWDC might be a good place to start.

Moving on. My first impressions of the game went something like this:

  • Loading, Waiting, Loading, Waiting
  • Madden Test. Neat idea. What’s with the weird glassy field and see-through players?
  • Apparently I am close to all-madden on offense, but am still at rookie level on defense. Interesting. The combined IQ puts me at below 500.
  • Loading, Waiting, Loading, Waiting
  • Start up franchise mode. No need to save, I just started.
  • Start first game. Oh wait, I can practice for points. Umm, really confusing, I have no idea what I’m doing. OK, I completely buggered up whatever that was. Let’s start the goddamned game already.
  • Loading, Waiting, Loading, Waiting
  • Because of my offense in the madden test, playing offense now is completely impossible for me. I quickly throw one interception and punt twice. Despite my rookie-level defensive settings, the Jaguars quickly pass and rush their way down the field and score on me. This is not going very well.
  • What’s with all of the ridiculous camera angles?
  • Is it just me or is the game-pace faster?
  • Sometime in the late first quarter or early second, I call a play from the play call screen. The sound continues, but the screen freezes at the play call. I hear my players run the play I called, the controller vibrates, announcers continue talking. I can actually continue picking plays an even call timeouts, but the screen is completely frozen. I have to restart the game.
  • At this point, I realize that I had not saved anything yet and decide that maybe I would rather do something else.

That was Wednesday night. Thursday night went like this:

  • Repeat all steps from Wednesday night

So basically, I’ve attempted to play exactly two franchise games. I have not even made it to halftime without the game freezing on me. WTF EA Sports. This is the sorriest excuse of a release game. It is unplayable. Even worse, a quick Google search shows that I’m not the only one:

Madden Freeze Search

Keep in mind here that this game is brand new and I played it exactly twice; both times it froze. My PS3 is only a couple of months old as well. The official EA Forum has a thread about the freezing issues. It’s currently 37 pages long.

I was really hoping that this game would look great on the PS3. I didn’t expect for it not to work at all. I really hope that that class action lawsuit succeeds and they sue the shit out of EA.

Gamers Suing EA

It sounds like some gamers are finally fed up with Electronic Arts monopoly on NFL licensing. The Escapist is reporting that two gamers are suing Electronic Arts for monopolizing the market on football video games:

The class-action lawsuit, launched by two gamers in Washington, DC, and California last week, alleges that EA is engaging in “blatantly anticompetitive conduct” by raising the price of its football game offerings after securing key licensing deals.

Hurray for gamers.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the issue, Electronic Arts is the maker of the very popular Madden Football game series. One of the big reasons for the recent success of the series is that since 2005, it is the only game that is licensed to use the real NFL teams and players in the games. Many gamers have been frustrated with this arrangement because they feel that this licensing deal provides EA with very little incentive to actually improve the game, because there are no real competitors. From the Wikipedia entry:

In 2005, the producers of the Madden games, EA Sports, signed an exclusive licensing deal through 2009 with the NFL and the NFLPA to give them the exclusive right to use the NFL’s teams, stadiums and players in a video game, something which has been widely criticized (this deal has since been extended through 2012). This exclusive license has put an end to competition in NFL video games and, some have suggested, this gives EA less incentive to maintain quality and a greater opportunity to increase prices.

I think that this lawsuit is a win-win for gamers. The Madden series is not bad, by any stretch. In fact, I just got Madden 2008 last Christmas and was blown away by how much fun it was. The point is that if you are a real NFL fan and want to play a game with the real teams and players, this is the only game to choose from. That’s a huge advantage for EA, and puts a lot of potential game makers out of the market. Lack of competition is always a loss for the consumer.

I don’t think there’s a gamer out there who loves football (and even loves the Madden series) who will argue that EA has stopped releasing anything more substantial than yearly roster updates in regards to the Madden series. That’s a shame.

John Madden: Boom

Yesterday I somehow found myself looking at the Wikipedia page for John Madden. I was trying to figure out if he had ever actually played pro football or not (the answer is no).

There was one part of the Wikipedia entry that really made me laugh. You see, he’s always driven me crazy whenever I watch football games that he’s announcing for. He never says anything enlightening and has the annoying habit of overstating the obvious. Apparently I’m not the only one who noticed:

Madden sometimes ends up the butt of jokes, as occasionally his commentary borders on the rhetorical and blatantly obvious. This tendency may have increased since his final years of working with Pat Summerall. It’s not uncommon for someone to rib on Madden’s “Maddenisms” by saying something like “You can’t win a game if you don’t score any points.” or “If the quarterback completes a pass in the endzone, it’s a touchdown.” In November 2006, The Onion ran a sports brief headlined, “John Madden Reminds Viewers Of Importance Of Quarterback To NFL Teams.” Madden has also been made the butt of jokes for his frequent “BOOM” comments, such as when a player hits another player hard. [Wikipedia]

That article in The Onion that the entry mentions is actually pretty funny. The Wikipedia entry also mentions comedian Frank Caliendo doing Madden impressions. So I looked them up and was laughing pretty hard in no time at all.

Last but not least, the famous John Madden Popcorn Popper skit from Mad TV. Make sure to watch the whole thing because the ending is priceless.

Top 10 Games of All Time

I’ve been thinking for quite a while about the idea of the “greatest games”. What makes a truly great game? In my mind, it’s not just a matter of how fun the game is, or how much replay value it has (although that’s important). What was it’s impact on the gaming industry as a whole? How innovative was it? Do I still remember it ten years later?

I’ve put together a quick list of qualities that I think a great game should have:

  1. Innovation in it’s genre
  2. Originality
  3. Replay value
  4. Just plain fun

Video games seem to be a dime a dozen these days, and honestly, most of them suck. I can count on one hand the number of games in recent years that were amazing. I’m talking about games that I would make me buy a system just to play. This whole idea struck me when I first started playing Katamari Damacy. It was without a doubt the absolute best game I’ve played in a long time. Everybody I know loves this game, including non-gamers. Hell, my Grandma thought it was great.

So what are the top ten games of all time? So far, I’ve only been able to think of four definites and two maybes that meet my standards. It’s probably no coincidence that all of these games have multiple sequels. Here they are, without further ado:

The Definites

Katamari Damacy

I already talked about this game a little bit. Quite simply, it is the most original game I’ve seen since probably the birth of video games. All you do is roll over things and get bigger. The concept is so simple (and weird), yet it’s so much fun. The game also presents endless amounts of oddities in the cities and towns, story line and sound effects. Every time I show this game to somebody whose never seen it before, it’s like rediscovering it all over again. The soundtrack is great also.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

This game puts it all together and wraps it up in a neat little package. Although this is actually the fourth installment in the GTA series (I think), it’s the first one that really brought everything together. The Scarface-style storyline is great as is the 70s-80s theme. The game is long, immersive and challenging, with tons of side games. I also love how well the radio stations tie into the theme of the game.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1 or 2)

Tony Hawk completely revolutionized the genre of XTreme sports video games. Does anyone remember what those games were like before Tony Hawk? I do, regrettably. They were terrible.1 Tony Hawk was truly the first of it’s kind, and it was amazing.

I have a tough time deciding whether it should be Tony Hawk 1 or Tony Hawk 2 on the list. The original was the innovative title, but the second one greatly improved on it by adding the ability to string tricks together using wheelies. You could also use this same argument to include Tony Hawk 3 since it introduced reverts, allowing you to basically string an infinite number of tricks together.

Tetris

I don’t really have much to say about this one, except come on, it’s Tetris.

The Maybes

Super Mario Kart

I just loved playing this game when I was a kid. It was a fun and goofy racing game to play with friends. Oh the joy that came from waiting until your best friend was just about to cross the finish line to win the race and then hitting them with a red shell.

Secret of Mana

I still love this game. Actually I own it, but not a Super Nintendo to play it on. This probably isn’t the first action RPG game released, but I do think it’s got to be one of the best.

What Else?

Okay, so Super Mario Kart and Secret of Mana probably shouldn’t even come close to making this list. They just happen to be two of my favorites. But what other games should? What about Super Mario Brothers? Isn’t that one of the first side-scrolling action games ever? Should we go back even further? Pong?

I still haven’t been able to pick a game from my personal favorite genre, RPGs. There should definitely be one on the list, but which one? There should probably also be a sports game (Madden?), one of those bloody shooting games, and maybe even an MMO (World of Warcraft?).

What else have I missed? I think there should be something about the Wii in the list. The Wii definitely qualifies as innovative, but is there a game for it that is truly amazing yet? I’m not so sure.

So, I guess I’m stuck here. I’ve picked four games so far. What do you think should round out the rest of the list?

  1. Except for maybe Skitchin’. How often do you get to hang on the the back of a car while hitting a fellow competitor over the head with a crowbar?


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