You Can Now Officially Start Caring About Football Again

With video games, sports seasons never ends.  You can keep playing all year while looking forward to releases of roster updates and cover athletes. Wait no longer.  Sportsnation and Madden 25 (as its now called due to the 25th Year Anniversary) have started their annual Cover Vote.  Go on over and vote!!  My suggestion, due to the Madden Curse, is to vote for whom you like least. Chances are they’ll suffer a torn ACL in week 2. Use John Madden’s spooky voodoo to help your fantasy team and take your bookie to the cleaners!

Lest you forget, the best back-of-box blurb for a video game ever (you’ll need to click to embiggen):
John Madden Football '92

And Then There Was One……

August and September is a sports lover and video gamers dream. Where the NFL, NHL, and soccer fans from around the globe get to watch their favorite teams in HD and then step into the of those teams when they switch their television settings over to Input 2.

As the years go by my time to play video games is becoming more precious. Whereas I used to buy every Fifa, Madden & NHL title that EA released and play all them until all hours of the night, this year I’m thinking it would be smart if I only focus on buying and mastering one game.  And the lucky girl is (ed.note: Oh, the suspense!)FIFA ’13! Playing Madden ’13 helped make my decision very easy. Not that Madden 13 was bad, far from it.  The graphics were crisp, gameplay was smooth and the commentary by Jim Nance and Phil Simms was actually not zombiefied.  It’s just that…it was so boring.  I felt more and more like I was going through the motions of the game play instead of actually getting invested in wanting to win and improve my game.  I understand that this years Madden changed a lot of its focus to Connected Careers and online game play, but I just don’t think that’s enough to keep my interest, especially when the thing that I have become addicted to more than anything is the FIFAs Ultimate Team (FUT) game mode.

Yesterday at Gamescon, EA announced a plethora of new features in FUT including single player seasons, Team of the Week Challenges, and many more. Check out NowGamer for the full list.  The one thing I’ve always wanted in FUT is for player’s careers to expire after a certain number of games played.  I feel this would be beneficial to people that don’t spend money to get packs and it make games that are played between humans much more even.  Once someone gets Lionel Messi, that person is going to use him until the cows come home or he gets erased from The Matrix.  But limit the number of games he can play and using him becomes much more strategic.  Younger players, such as Messi and Ozil get 100 games or so while older players, such as Drogba and Di Natale, get 30 or so.  Playing with those older would make the games much more exciting you want to end their career on an absolute high note.  NHL Ultimate Team introduced this feature a few years ago and it always something that has stuck with me.

My time with the Madden and NHL franchise has been wonderful, (don’t even get me started on MLB The Show) but the time for me to focus on one sport that I can try to master and dominate has come.  Unpredictable is the key word, and if the USA’s victory in Mexico last was something to go on, it certainly was….unpredictable.

Video Games Genre Improvements You Want to See Made…

Choose...or perish!

I often wonder whether video game makers (if we can call them that at this point) have anything other than the bottom line in mind when they’re busy churning out the next Grand Theft Auto XI / Call of Duty: Modern Warfare VI / Civilization XIV? Are they considering the gaming public at all? For what it’s worth, I think the answer is a qualified “yes” but If I had the ear of a developer working in one of the following genres, here’s what I’d ask them for:

(1) Role Playing: As I mentioned earlier, I hate MMORPGS; I hate them with the fire of a thousand suns. That being said, I LOVE RPGs generally. Favorites include Baldur’s Gate and its sequels, Skyrim of course, and Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTOR!!!). What I really want to see, however, is an open-world RPG, similar to Skyrim, in the Star Wars universe. Now you may say, “But thegreekdog! We have The Old Republic now!” To that I reply, simply, “See above.” Make a free-world Star Wars single player RPG and watch the money flow in. Hell, keep adding DLC and watch the money keep flowing in. Do this now!

(2) Strategy / War Game: Yes, I play strategy games. I’ll play any strategy game that involves something slightly more engrossing than a real-time strategy game. You can have an RTS element, so long as you have the non-RTS element as well (see, e.g. Star Wars: Empire at War which is about as perfect a game as you can get). Hearts of Iron? Great. Civilization? Fantabulous. Medieval: Total War 2? Outstanding (download the Stainless Steel mod and be even happier). The publishers of Total War recently made some 17th and 18th century-type games with grand armies shooting muskets. Okay, the next logical step has to be Civil War: Total War. This is another game that needs to happen… and soon.

(3) Sports: I’m a pretty fanatical sports game player, especially when it comes to two franchises: Madden and MLB2K#. Most people do not like MLB2K#,  mostly because of the gameplay and graphics. Guess what? Graphics never really interested me, so that’s a non-issue. As long as the guys do what they’re supposed to do, I don’t care if Johnny Damon has a beard or not (ed. note: Isn’t that the source of his power?). For those that complain that the gameplay interface is difficult? Well, yeah, it is. But it isn’t broken. Madden, while complex, is enjoyable for me as well. I mostly enjoy the franchise modes in both those games. All that being said, Madden needs competition. MLB2K# has MLB: The Show to compete with (albeit on a different platform). Madden has no competition since the NFL gave EA the sole license to print games. Since then, I’m think that EA’s gotten lazy and not really made any improvements to the franchise.The answer? Madden needs competition!  And competition will breed improvement in Madden (says thegreekdog, Libertarian). For Madden to evolve, we need a competing NFL-licensed football game for all platforms.

(4) First Person Shooter: I generally don’t play shooters, simply because I don’t have the twitchiness for them. I’ve played Star Wars FPS’, I’ve played Halo and others of their ilk. And last year I purchased a Call of Duty box set (starting with II through Modern Warfare II). It was a great investment and I thoroughly enjoyed them. That being said, I think we really need Call of Duty: World War II again. Bring it back. Update the graphics (This is where I  care about graphics). Put us in Africa. Hell, let us fight every major World War II battle.

I sincerely hope some intrepid game designer is reading this and takes these words to heart. Add what improvements in which genres you’re looking in the comments below.

How I Would Improve EA Sports NHL ’13

(ed. note: Intrepid contributor ViciousPjuraHead is spending the summer in Italy and will be filing dispatches of a gaming or comic related nature, when he gets around to it.

Every year sports games try to add innovation to keep their titles fresh, something innovative and interesting to play. I’ve been playing the EA NHL games for the last three years but I think this is the installment I skip, even with the improvements they’ve made to  Hockey IQ (via Digital Trends).

Look, I’m a HUGE hockey fan whose always looking to see the game itself improve alongside the game franchise.  Every year the new version of NHL is one of the games I’m most interested in playing.  However, during these past few years I have found myself getting more and more frustrated keeping up with the strategy it takes to play these games.  Even though the playbooks, general controls and strategies of the Madden franchise are much more complex, I am more familiar with the sport and can hold my own against both  computer & online opponents.  NHL is the complete opposite. If the game’s complexity keeps rising and even avid fans can’t play it anymore, who are these games for?

Now I understand that these games are more and more being made for the die-hard fans of the sport and the series.  You would think that, by my earlier description, that would be me.  Yet it’s not.  Then when EA swings the other way, like they did with Madden 11, it’s equally terrible. EA tried to make the game more for casual gamers and it actually ruined the experience for me because the game was way too easy, incredibly unrealistic, and the online scores were in the range of almost 100 points between both players. The dilemma for EA is how do they straddle those two worlds, between the diehards & hardcore and the casual, “Hey, I used to play NFL Blitz” crowds? Judging by their recent releases, I’d say that the casual gamer is being left in the dust with nary a look book.  Forget it Jake, it’s just videogame sportstown.