I buckled down with my PS3, and ignoring the giant pile of awesome games I have in my possession, I popped in Madden NFL 08 into my console to give the game a test run. I was worried: was I going to get AIDS? Was my IQ going to drop and my muscles suddenly bulk up? Was I going to get an insatiable thirst for beer?
Well, I think you can figure out the answer there. That's right, Sony's been working on a beer dispenser for the PS3 and I got to demo it. More importantly, though, you all want to hear about my encounter with Madden. It was a unique experience, and despite my abilities to write from beyond the grave, I am in fact still alive.
I don't have much knowledge of the intricacies of football. I understand the basics and the various ways to score points, but all the penalties and technicalities escape me. Besides idly watching football with my Dad or friends on occasion, my only other knowledge comes from Eyeshield 21, an anime about Japanese high school students playing American football. I'll let you process that one for a minute, and then just hang your head in shame.
Finals preparation put me on the ropes, and so I struggled through three games this week. Starting out on rookie rank, naturally, I pitted the New England Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts. I was initially freaked out by selecting my plays and stuck to Madden's suggestions at first for what to do, so that I didn't get penalized for being indecisive with my plays.
Soon, though, I got fed up with not being able to find the plays, and finally decided to explore the menus on my own. I learned the effectiveness of some of the plays (I still don't see the use in rushing down the center), and I slowly built my repertoire of favorite moves. Flipping through the menu, I didn't see the subtle differences in many of the moves, and so out of some 40 odd plays, I would find three or four that I was satisfied with.
My first game went alright -- a back and forth, leading to me winning 34-28 in overtime. I had trouble holding back the opponent while I played defense because I had no idea what the hell I was doing. The explanation about each player did was up to interpretation, and whoever I was playing barely did anything. I prefer to tackle, and so when I play the front line, I'm stopped for the entirety of the play by their offensive line. Needless to say, I would end up costing the team yards when I controlled someone.
My second game, I decided to try my luck and play on medium difficulty. Right away, I knew I was going to get screwed, but I decided to make things even more fun for me -- I played as the San Francisco 49ers against the Colts, and screwed around with the weather settings. Now, I've never known it to drop to -20 degrees with high winds in San Francisco, but for this game, it was.
I tried playing a passing game, because I was stopped at every turn when I tried to do a run. Unfortunately, it was nearly impossible for any of my players to catch a ball, seeing as someone had surgically removed all of their hands. Or at least that's the only explanation that I could come up with. My players would frequently fumble, drop the ball, or just get intercepted. I loved it when the ball fumbled, switched hands three times, and then the Colts ran the ball for 80 yards to score a touchdown. I cried a little bit inside, losing the game some 28-0.
I had to seek revenge. I wasn't about to let the computer trash me so badly. So, I went back to the Patriots and stuck them up against...well, I can't remember. Some team with a horrible rating. The game went well in my favor, with me playing a passing game, primarily, and coming out 38-14. This was back on Rookie mode, and in 120 degree weather. I really don't understand the point of it save for aesthetics, but whatever. The only "new" thing I learned was how to play defense: select a play, and then go put the controller down and grab a snack.
I was still confused about defensive maneuvers, and so I've just come to let the computer handle things. It's a bit of a cop-out, I feel, but the computer ends up doing things much better than I'm able to. Assigning pre-play moves is an overwhelming concept that I can't manage to deal with yet.
I'm glad to see that after my first week, I can play the game and not cause my team to shit themselves in frustration over who is controlling them. The plays aren't clearly explained as of yet, and it's mostly trial and error that causes me to choose what I go with. The "tutorial" mode was utterly misleading -- it consists solely of video tutorials (that take up only 1/5 of the screen), detailing some more advanced techniques, with it assuming you already know what it does in the game.
So, while it's frightening to new players, it is possible to enjoy Madden when all is said and done. I would scream at the TV when my play got intercepted or someone fumbled the ball, and jump for joy when I was able to break away and return the ball for a 90 yard touchdown.
I have a question for the Madden-heads in the crowd: what should I do about defensive plays? I'd like to actually get in there and sacking the quarterback, but I rarely get past the offensive line -- is there any way to actually participate in a blitz, or is leaving the controller alone the best possible action?
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