2010 – Madden NFL 11

Madden NFL 11

madden11

Developer(s) EA Tiburon, EA Canada
Publisher(s) EA Sports
Series Madden NFL
Platform(s) PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, PlayStation Portable, Android
Release date(s) August 13, 2010
Genre(s) American football simulation
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer

Liam:   Pad up fat men. It’s time for gridiron. Blue 42, Blue 42, hut, hut, hike!

American Football is a series of advertisements for fast food, terrible cars and erection medication all leading up to the Super Bowl which is a really important set of advertisements for fast food, terrible cars and erection medication; also occasionally featuring Janet Jackson’s nipple. At points during this onslaught of consumerism, two teams of heavily armoured fat guys are directed head first into each other by two blue eyed American heroes called quarterbacks. There are also cheerleaders and massive hot dogs.

Now that the intricate explanation of the sport has finished I can go onto explaining the game. It’s pretty much the same… but instead of adverts every 30 seconds, Microsoft Visio diagrams appears and ask you to make totally meaningless choices between throwing it a short distance to a guy who then collapses on the floor or throwing it a long distance to a guy that then collapses on the floor. You can kick as well but this involves taking off one of your big burly Americans and bringing on a tiny European guy, who has never fully recovered from being rejected by the Lazio youth team – why the hell would you do that?

As you can probably tell, I don’t know much about American football – although I have to admit I find it fascinating. The game we are playing Madden 11, has all the good bits of American Football (you know, the actual game without the adverts) and even has a handy mechanism for skipping the endless tactical decisions that make games like this entirely unplayable for the uninitiated. As we didn’t get a chance to play Jonah Lomu Rugby (if it was up to me we would be playing that instead of Goldeneye) I really wanted to get a contact sport in and when it comes down to utterly over the top hits and hijinks, American Football is good value for entertainment so much in fact that I am actually going to my first American Football game this Autumn (or should that be Fall). Madden is the premier American Football franchise and is named after ex-commentator John Madden who as far as I can tell is the Andy Grey of American Football without the rampant sexism.

The main reason this game is on the list is that despite really only being played in a single country, this game franchise has managed to rack up over 100 million sales. That’s pretty impressive in anyone’s book if you consider that is only a few million less than the FIFA series which represents a sport played worldwide. Due to its massive sales it has a huge amount of resources thrown at it by EA meaning that the end game is a highly polished and fluid affair. There are only a few sporting series that are in this top tier of games, dominated by repeatedly high sales and yearly releases and we are lucky enough to see two in this challenge. Sadly we couldn’t find a space for the third – the Tiger Wood’s golf series.

I know Joel is going to be terrible at this. He lacks any sort of sporting mind set and I believe when he was doing his testing phase he was getting his ass kicked by his little boy. Great news for me as this should be a perfect opportunity to crush his already waning spirit as well as throw in some hilarious puns about tight ends, huge sacks and penetration. That’s right, beating Joel, contact sports and terrible dirty jokes after being awake for 27 hours straight… I can’t wait.

Joel:  We’re getting so close to the end now, I can almost smell it. I think in some weird way, I’m actually going to miss writing these things… The only drawback of them is that every now and again I have to try and write about a game I’ve never really played. Aside from testing this (where, as Liam rightly points out, I got my ass handed to me by a nine-year-old) the only American football game I’ve ever played was on the Atari Lynx. A little research leads me to the conclusion that it was the originally titled “NFL Football” going by screenshots on the intertubes. I was pretty rubbish at it too, but I seem to remember it being pretty good fun. Though it seems at least one reviewer disagrees with me:

SUMMARY:

It doesn’t help if football games on other portable game systems are no more sophisticated than NFL FOOTBALL. The bottom line is that this game is a futile exercise in boredom, and is certainly not fun to play nor worth the price asked for it.

(http://www.atariarchives.org/cfn/08/07/0052.php)

Interestingly, this is how I usually feel when I try, most years, to watch the Advertbowl. For a game with a scheduled playtime of 60 minutes, you can watch in amazement as this stretches into four hours or beyond. All the while not having a clue what’s going on. Which is a shame, because, I think it would probably be pretty good otherwise.

Anyway. What to say about this one? It’s a massive franchise, probably propping up the US-side of EA all by itself, having released a game every year since 1990. In fact, in researching that last statement, I’ve just learned that Trip Hawkins actually founded EA games just so he could start work on a predecessor to the line. So there you go, it not only props up EA, but is, in fact, its raison d’etre. Well you learn something every day.

The more astute among you are probably beginning to notice I’m doing everything I can to avoid talking about the actual game – You’re right. I’ll stop wasting your time now. I know nothing. I don’t stand a chance here. I might just take a nap. No not really, that would be cheating, but I’d probably do better.

2006 – Wii Sports

 

Wii Sports

 wii tennis
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Group No. 2
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Designer(s) Keizo Ohta, Takayuki Shimamura, Yoshikazu Yamashita
Composer(s) Kazumi Totaka
Series Wii
Platform(s) Wii
Release date(s)  December 8, 2006
Genre(s) Sports
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Wii Optical Disc

Joel: Well, here we are. The “home stretch” if you will. We have reached the 7th Generation of consoles and, after this we will also have reached 24 hours. I am genuinely concerned that we won’t be able to even stand to play these games. That point actually brings me nicely to where I wanted to start writing about the actual game, so here goes:

If you aren’t familiar with this game you’re probably wondering what makes it so special. Well it’s the fact that it actually gets you off your backside, forcing you to mime the actions of the players in order to properly control the action. I’ve managed to cripple myself a few times playing the baseball “homerun challenge” just to name one example.

However, If you don’t live in Japan and you bought a new Wii, you will have at least initially, owned a copy of Wii Sports. It was the launch game bundled with the Wii and what an introduction to the one truly original console of the past few generations it was! Everyone I’ve persuaded to play this from 5 year-olds to 65 year-olds have had a whale of a time with one sport or another on this wonder of a game. Simple to learn and difficult to master, there is a game or a mode for every level of player- Whether you want to idly knock a ball back and forth whilst pretending you’re Andy Murray and crying into your Cheetos or you think you’d give Rory McIlroy a swift kicking in the back nine, there’s something in it for you.

In case you somehow missed this phenomenon, I’ll give you a brief overview of the game – You (or rather your painstakingly crafted in-game avatar) can choose to compete in any of the following games (listed alphabetically as I’m a little OCD at times)  – baseball, bowling, boxing, golf or tennis. When you start out, you play against appropriately inexperienced AI players, but as your aptitude increases, so does that of your opponents. If you reach a “level” of 1000 at a particular sport, you become a “Pro” and are rewarded with something shiny – a glittery bowling ball, golden bat and whathaveyou. There are other play modes as well – the fitness test thing is pretty good – you are randomly given three different games (and modes of them) to play and based on your performance given an apparently arbitrarily determined “Age.” This is always a fun way to compete with your co-habitants.

Sadly, we aren’t going to have enough time to play each game mode really, so we have decided ahead of time which games and formats we’ll be using – Standard rules baseball, 3-set singles tennis and 9 holes of golf. That, golf that is, is going to be hilarious. I can’t make par on a good day, never mind the state we’ll be in on the night.

I suppose it’s time for a prediction then. We’ll be reaching new levels of staying power for either us by this point and it’s going to messy, whoever wins. But I have decided I will win. Just because I really can’t even begin to fathom how this is going to play out.

 

Liam:  Did you know Wii Sports is the biggest selling video game of all time with over 82 million copies sold? That’s roughly the total number of record sales of the Red Hot Chili Peppers over their 30 year career. Mind blowing stuff. This does however take into account the fact that the game was bundled with consoles in all places but Japan

Wii sports was a launch game for the Nintendo Wii, a console which has changed modern gaming a great deal and threw console gaming back into the front rooms of the casual gamer. Everyone knows someone who owns a Wii and this game was the perfect launch game for the console and worked out as being the quintessential ‘Killer App’. The fun of motion gaming cannot be explained in trailers or described in articles, instead Nintendo released a series of mini-games all of which use the Wii’s motion control in a manner so intuitive that this game is truly pick up and play. It was exactly what Nintendo needed for their new console and soon people had in their room a gaming system which could involve the whole family from young children to pensioners.

The game represented five games: Bowling, Boxing, Tennis, Golf and Baseball. Over the hour we are looking to play all but bowling and boxing, with bowling sadly taking too long to complete a game and boxing being far too much bloody effort. All of these games are a very simple representation of the game and controlled by swinging, waggling or flailing the ‘wiimote’ at the screen. None of the games require a great deal of skill and compared to modern motion games feel a bit clunky and imprecise, to the point where you realise that a quick wrist flick of the ‘wiimote’ while lying on the sofa is just as effective as getting up and prancing about like an idiot in front of your television. After 23 hours solid awake staring at a computer screen I will be very grateful for the opportunity to stretch out.

Quick predictions based on the three games. I think Tennis will be fairly even, I have the advantage with the Golf and Joel is probably just ahead of me on the Baseball so we are looking at a pretty tight contest. It might just come down to who is the least stiff and retains the most flexibility leading into the matches; I think this may be my secret weapon. If we spy someone surreptitiously limbering up during Need for Speed at least we know why.

1999 – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

The player, as Tony Hawk, has just collected a...

Developer(s) Neversoft (PS1 & NGE)
Edge of Reality (N64)
Natsume (GBC)
Treyarch (DC)
Publisher(s) Activision (PS1, N64 & GBC)
Crave Entertainment (DC)
Nokia (NGE)
Series Tony Hawk
Platform(s) PlayStation, Nintendo 64,Game Boy Color, Dreamcast,N-Gage
Release date(s) PlayStation NA August 31, 1999 EU 2000 JP March 30, 2000

Nintendo 64 NA February 29, 2000 EU December 10, 2000

Game Boy Color NA March, 2000 EU 2000

Dreamcast June 29, 2000
N-Gage EU October 10, 2003 NA October 13, 2003

Genre(s) Extreme sports
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Joel: Arguably one of the biggest and best skateboard game franchises started right here. …And what a start it was! This game really took advantage of the power of “modern” 😉 CD based game media and processing power, incorporating outstanding graphics, a rocking “real music” punk soundtrack and a relatively decent physics engine making this a game one could come back to time and time again – if only to (try, repeatedly, in vain) to knock your friends off your high score table. The music alone is almost enough to be fair – it’s one of my personal favourite game soundtracks.

I’m not sure I need to explain the concepts of a skateboarding game really, but I suppose for the uninitiated it wouldn’t do any harm: You, represented by your chosen big-name-in-skateboarding avatar compete with other people on a variety of pre-arranged tracks ranging from the most excellent “Warehouse” to the slightly absurd “Area 51” to score the most points by carrying out a series of tricks against the clock. Simple. And great fun. 

It was obviously a winning combination as there were many sequels, re-imaginings and spin-offs but to be honest, I really preferred the first one. The tricks rapidly became ridiculous, as did the scoring system: 150k points after two minutes on the warehouse level probably qualifies you as a “skilled” player on THPS, however in later games 150k points on a single trick qualifies you as, at best, an amateur. Scores escalated into millions, often for single tricks. I didn’t like that. 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous review, I recently (probably not so recently now, but within the last 6 months I’m sure) acquired a most bargainous -if that’s not a word, it should be- Dreamcast and I picked a copy of THPS in a bundle of games purchased from a certain well known auction website. Couldn’t believe my luck! I summoned Liam as quickly as he could muster and we set about tearing chunks off each other. I took an early lead and felt very pleased with myself. Then he seemed to remember how it all works and before long I was screaming at him like I did when we were 17. All that was missing was a Domino’s Pizza and a few of our other friends. We had regressed ten (I’m sticking to that number, say what you will) years in the space of about 20 minutes. As it stands, I believe he holds all ten positions on the high score table, and I’m sure that will be the photo he uses when he posts this article. We got to chatting about things 30in30 related and I mentioned that I still had my old PS1 memory cards so we decided that when he shipped me the game (another one I’d misplaced over the years, I even still had the case annoyingly, just no disc) I’d fire it up and check out the score tables on that one in order to settle the debate as neither of us had played in on the Dreamcast before and hadn’t put in our best performances. Yeah – he had the top three scores on that one too. That may also be the photo he posts to accompany this. (LF – Both photos are attached 🙂) 

This is going to be a high point in the marathon, that’s an absolute certainty. He’s going to win, I’m fairly convinced. But I tell you what – I don’t even care. I get to play Tony Hawks. To quote a song by my favourite band – Nothing else matters.

 Liam:  I remember when I first bought this game second hand from a game store with a broken box and no manual. I sucked. I didn’t have friends who skateboarded and despite being a fan of pop-punk (I had a 2nd hand copy of Full Circle, a NOFX t-shirt and had once seen Reel Big Fish in concert by this point – I was clearly an expert) I had never even heard of Tony Hawk or any skateboarding terms. Once someone showed me how to play the game I was away. I learnt on THPS and I was capable of scoring 200k+ on the warehouse in an average run. I would be lucky to hit half of that now. I used to get to the point where having played a long session, I would view the world through ‘Tony Hawk goggles’ noticing interesting items to grind off and places to do tricks. Funny thing is I can’t skateboard –in fact I can’t even ride a bike without falling on my face after a few minutes.

This game and all the preceding sequels are renowned for having some of the best soundtracks in games. I may be a bit biased as this is the kind of music I listen to anyway but the THPS series gave me introductions to bands like Guttermouth, Zebrahead, Sublime and The Distillers. These music influences finally killed the Grunge phase I was going through (except Bush, Bush rock).

I had no exposure to skateboarding until this game. It seems in the few years after the whole scene exploded with Tony Hawk being a household name and skateboarding through TV shows like Jackass became mainstream alternative culture. The game spawned multiple sequels of varying degrees of quality, sadly moving away from the slick arcade action of the first game. I still believe the first is the best in this case. The graphical superiority of the newer games impressed me for a few months, but the game-play of this version still impresses me to this day. I did own THPS4, THUG and THP8 but none came close to this game. I think once you were able to string tricks together to the point where you could perform a single trick that lasted for minutes it got a bit silly. I remember after figuring out how to do manual and handplant variations, being able to win HORSE competitions (a game mode where you take it in turns to perform a trick with the lowest scorer gaining a letter from ‘horse’ until you lost 5 games and spelt the whole word) without moving from the spot I started in.

I‘m going to go out on a limb and say I will comfortably destroy Joel at this game. Although to be fair THPS score runs always end up as you challenging your own previous score rather than direct competition. I think there will be much more danger of one of us falling out with ourselves (possibly launching a controller across the room) then falling out with each other although I dare say there will be some light ribbing of each others scores.

Here are the promised screenshots of me performing the most humiliating thing in gaming. Owning the high score table on someone else’s console – swish.

dreamcast

 

PSX

1993 – FIFA International Soccer

FIFA International Soccer

 Fifa
Developer(s) EA Sports
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Cover Star David Platt
Series Fifa
Platform(s) PC, Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System, Mega-CD (As “FIFA International Soccer Championship Edition”), Game Gear, SNES, DOS, Amiga, 3DO, Game Boy, PlayStation 2 (on FIFA 06)
Release date(s) 15 July 1993
Genre(s) Sports
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Media/distribution ROM, cartridge, Compact Cassette, floppy disk

Liam: I fought tooth and nail to get this onto the list as Fifa is one of the biggest video game franchises in the world. The original Fifa has on its cover David Platt, McDonalds advertiser and occasional England football player. Readers of a certain age will remember the line ‘You mean to tell me that you signed David Platt for a Big Mac and a Filet o’ fish?’. Ironically a Big Mac and a Filet o’ fish would have been more expensive than the price I paid picking up this beauty of a game.

I freaking love Fifa (there was a brief period of time when PES was far better but the circle has most definitely swung back to Fifa). It’s the atypical ‘lads get together over a few beers’ game and I have clocked up a countless amount of hours over the years playing the various iterations of Fifa on every nearly console I have ever owned. The main reason I love fifa is that I am a rugby player, a front row forward at that, and I play football with the level of grace and skill you would imagine for a front row forward. However, when I play Fifa I am a beautiful proponent of Total Football – skilful, fluid and creative. I am a freaking joy to watch. Not sure how that is going to work with the older version of the game… I haven’t played it since it was the incumbent version and quite a bit has changed since then. I currently own Fifa13 on the PC (PC gamer supremacy) which I can output to the TV when I have guests or play on the laptop screen if the missus is watching the telly.

Joel isn’t really a football fan, evident by his support of Nottingham Forest. Playing the first Fifa should level the playing field considerably compared to playing a newer version – which Joel’s 9 year old son would put up a much better fight (actually he is pretty good!). Thankfully for Joel this will be past his bedtime so he won’t have to witness his dad being utterly humiliated (again)!

Joel:  Roight… Here goes…

This, for me, is a very difficult review to write. It’s causing me a fair degree of internal conflict, as the following wordage will no doubt demonstrate.

One simply cannot deny that this was the beginnings of what has turned out to be one of the most significant gaming franchises of current times – and with good reason too. This game launched when I (and, it would appear, a fair number of our audience) were at an age when there was little more in life than “footie” and video games. My current day feelings about the sport aside, this was massive to me at the time. Before too long, I had figured out all the moves, the weird physics bugs and the spot to shoot from to be almost guaranteed to score. I remember playing against Qatar over and over and over again trying to get higher and higher scores – the best I ever did was somewhere in the high thirties to nil I think. If memory serves, this might also be the game where you can actually run away from the ref when he issues you a card, preventing said issuance until he caught up with you. When Liam sends it over to me for testing, it’ll be interesting to see how I get on. (Don’t worry Liam, I’ll only play a couple of games, just to make sure it’s working!!) But what this game did in real terms was begin to change the very concepts of video gaming from being the reserve of sandal wearing, myopic, social outcasts to something that everyone did – Over the years I’ve known a few “gamers” whose entire library has been built of 5 consecutive releases of FIFA and one edition of International Superstar Soccer they tried but didn’t like because they didn’t have the rights to use real player likenesses and names. That was probably the case for the person who sold me a SNES with 13 games, 8 of which were football! Presumably it’s their copies of last year’s FIFA you see at your local game store for 49p – one of the worst value retentions I’ve ever seen.

On the other hand, I gave up on football a long time ago. I’m not getting into the whys and wherefores here, but it’s fair to say I have zero interest in it. As such, I haven’t played a football game in anger since FIFA 98 RTWC for the PC, of all platforms. I’m going to struggle with this one – I predict a humiliating drubbing from Liam. We’ll be ten hours in by this point too, tempers will be frayed and thumbs beginning to ache.. There’s a good chance this is the first time when Rachael will have to break out her umpire shirt.

1989 – Speedball

 

Speedball

speedball

Genres Sports, Action
Developers Bitmap Brothers, Kylotonn, Vivid Games
Publishers Image Works, Arena Entertainment, Empire Interactive Entertainment, Akella, Tower Studios
Platforms Acorn Archimedes, Atari ST,Amiga, Amiga CD32, Commodore 64, PC, NES, Sega Master System, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Sega Mega Drive,Windows Mobile, PlayStation,Xbox 360, iPhone, Symbian, Android
Platform of origin Atari ST
Year of inception 1988
First release Speedball
1988 (Atari ST) 1989 (Commodore 64)
Latest release Speedball 2 Evolution
February 2011

 

Joel:  Well folks, it’s time to come clean about something… No doubt, you’ve all been looking forward to another example of our excellent prose, expounding the virtues of Turbo Outrun- well I’m afraid it’s not to be. We took the difficult decision last week to drop T.O. due to technical and practical reasons. I’m just as disappointed as you as Outrun was a gaming staple for me for a lot of years and I fought hard to get one on the list. Still, onward and upward, here instead, is my take on its replacement- Speedball for the c64. It only arrived this morning so I have played it precisely zero times. I do remember renting its sequel for the Mega Drive when I was a young buck. I also remember it being one of those games you run home with as fast as your little legs can muster only to fire it up and find it’s nothing like you expect. I found it remarkably difficult to understand the power up system, which is a very important part of the game and was routinely stomped by all comers. I’d be lying if i said i was looking forward to this one especially given what it replaced but hey, I’ll keep an open mind and assuming my brain doesn’t fall out you never know, I might like it. Put your money on Liam here though, form definitely puts this one firmly in his court.

 

Liam:  I would lament the loss of Turbo Outrun but I’m delighted that now we are cooking on gas. High octane, technologically augmented gas. I’ve never played the original speedball but played a lot its sequel, the imaginatively entitled Speedball 2 (which is available on Android if you are interested). The premise is simple- you control a team of metal clad meatheads against another team of metal clad meatheads in an futuristic, ultra-violent game of handball where battering your opponent is rewarded just as highly as actually scoring. If you are a fan of Scottish League 3 Football or supported Wimbledon AFC in the 90’s you would love this game.

Game was developed by a company called Bitmap Brothers who produced a whole set of great games around this time. Xenon being a fantastic vertically scrolling shooter, Z a RTS which relied on quick thinking and a series of platform games like Gods and Magic Pockets. All of these games are utterly fantastic and represent a good portion of my time in my early years and are well worth checking out.

I spent hours when I was younger playing this game so I think I will comfortably beat Joel. In fact I think this will be so comfortable I will be spending most of my time showboating. To save time I don’t even have to memorise the button combination to ‘do the robot’ as luckily every button ‘does the robot’.

SNES Games Charity Auctions!

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Eur...

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) European version. Photo by User:Sandos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charity Auction o’clock!

Right then folks – As you’ll no doubt have been keeping a close eye on our updates, you’ll obviously have already seen my post with the SNES in? Obviously. Well, in case you missed it, it came with a load of games. Most of them are football – Got the original FIFA international Soccer in there! Anyway, I’ve decided to put some of them up on a certain auction site. Any profits made from these sales will be promptly handed over to Child’s Play. Can’t say fairer than that, can I? So, click the link, check the list and dig deep!http://goo.gl/pxJI3


-Even if you don’t bid, take a look at the Virtual Soccer listing to see the original Woolies till receipt from 1994! That alone has to be worth something, right?