News

'NCAA Football 09' and 'Madden 09' fumble the ball

Victor Godinez
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

"NCAA Football '09" and "Madden '09" are guaranteed blockbusters and will sell millions of copies.

But the reputations of Electronic Arts flagship sports titles are clearly flagging among the most devoted gridiron gamers.

First, "NCAA." The game has been soundly trashed on gaming blogs and Web sites for the stupid, blundering play style of computer-controlled characters. For example, in one profane and hilarious video posted online, a gamer narrates a replay showing his computer-controlled offensive lineman wandering away from an oncoming defender during a blitz on third down. Worse, the lineman strolls directly into the path of the ball that gamer-controlled QB has just launched at an open receiver. The balls dinks the addled lineman in the back of his helmet and falls to the grass.

Fourth down.

"Madden," scheduled for an Aug. 12 release, looks no better. It's probably a bad sign, first of all, that EA opted for Brett Favre in a Packers uniform as its cover boy. At this point, I'm more likely to be the Pack's opening-day QB than Brett.

But the real problems with "Madden" are much more than superficial. "Madden" (and most sports games, for that matter) traditionally include menus where you can adjust the skill level of computer-controlled players. These settings are known as "sliders," since you slide a button back and forth to raise or lower the skill.

But the developers of Madden apparently forgot or didn't bother to include sliders for the computer characters in the new version, according to one reviewer who got an early copy of the game. On a discussion forum at OperationSports.com, a "Madden" designer jumped into the discussion and admitted that, yeah, EA really messed up.

"There are in fact no CPU sliders. I discovered this myself about 2 weeks ago as well, and was kind of wondering when I should break the news. I wish I had an explanation, but I don't. There's not all that much more I can say about it. ... There's one other bit of bad news that I discovered at the same time, and that is there is no custom controller configuration anymore. Again, I don't really have an explanation."

It would be one thing if EA left out these features for a reason and presented some kind of argument that the game is better without them. But it sounds as though they just forgot.

Austin, Texas, blogger Bill Harris (http://dubiousquality.blogspot.com) has been doing yeoman's work linking to all these goofs, if you want to examine the evidence.

Criticism of EA for slapdash design and hurried development has been mounting over the last few years, and the executives have recently been saying all the right things about a renewed focus on quality. But these seemingly inexplicable fumbles on the company's most important franchises are making EA look both incompetent and dishonest.

Of course, it's hard to argue with success. Three of the top 10 best-selling games of all time in the U.S. are "Madden" games, and recent ones at that ("Madden '07," "'06" and "'05"), suggesting that the drop in quality has so far deterred only the hard-core.

But there can be long-term downsides to taking your customers for granted. Just ask Ford and General Motors.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?

Music

Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.

Music

Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

Music

Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.

Music

Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.

Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Music

Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.