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.

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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.

1996 – Brian Lara Cricket ’96

Brian Lara Cricket ’96

 Brian Lara
Developer(s) Audiogenic
Publisher(s) Codemasters
Series Brian Lara Cricket
Platform(s) Sega Mega Drive
PC
Amiga
Release date(s) 1996
Genre(s) Sports
Mode(s) Single-player
Multiplayer
Media/distribution Cartridge
CD-ROM

Liam: Cricket games are awesome. Sadly the only countries they sell well in are the UK, and the ANZACS (who get royally screwed over with game prices), and they always end up missing out on the more lucrative North American markets mean that cricket games get a tiny percentage of the money going into a franchise like Fifa or Madden. Still I believe they manage to punch above their weight. 2 player coop games are just as fun as 2p competitive games with co-ordination and communication required to beat any team. They require very little knowledge of the game and are generally very accessible for the average gamer. Although I know Joel isn’t looking forward to this game I think he will be pleasantly surprised by a generally great game.

British publisher Codemasters have been the biggest player in the cricket game market, first through a series of Brian Lara endorsed games in the 90’s and early 00’s, and after the legends retirement, in Ashes cricket 2009 and International Cricket 2010. Barring the annual International Cricket Captain release and the fiendishly difficult Cricket Revolution (Pakistan’s first commercial computer game) they pretty much have the field to itself. This is set to change this year with Ashes Cricket 2013 which has nothing to do with Codemasters.

Brian Lara is a worthy cover star for this game. In a sport rules by statistics and numbers, few players are capable of being numerical powerhouses as well as possessing the finesse and quality of a player like Lara. As a kid growing up he was my favourite batsman to watch by a long distance. This game was branded Shane Warne cricket in the Australia, who at the time was probably my favourite bowler to watch – despite mostly having to watch him utterly take apart England – however Brian Lara remains a highly respected legend of cricket while Shane Warne is ‘that metro-sexual banging Liz Hurley’.

As you can probably tell by this point I am a bit of a cricket nut, in fact I probably love cricket as much as I love video games and the thought of a world without decent cricket based video games leaves me in a cold sweat. I think this is because although I love cricket… I am fucking awful. I’ve long abandoned any possibility of a call up to the England team (if you are reading Mr Flower – Give me a call!) and I have relegated myself to playing cricket games and being the ranked world #1 ‘air cricket’ batsman/bowler.

I haven’t played this game for probably about fifteen years – I think my base knowledge of cricket and ancient muscle memory will take over and I will be a comfortable winner. Hopefully the winning runs coming from a streaky French cut down to 3rd man after fishing outside off.

Joel:  This one’s clearly here for Liam, I think he’s worried and needs a shoo-in. Let’s see, what do I know about cricket? There are some guys (or girls, I assume girls play too) some of them bat well, some of them bowl well and presumably they all catch pretty well. The ball is red and has been known to break people’s faces. You run back and forth a lot. There’s a few more things I know, but I think you get the point – I’m not a fan. I’m struggling to come up with anything constructive to say here as I’ve never played this or indeed any cricket game before. How about a vaguely entertaining cricket anecdote? That’ll bulk out a few paragraphs. Yes..

Sometime in my late teens, my dad asked me, at the 11th hour, to help him out by filling the last place on his cricket team. He knew full well my feelings about the game but inferred that if I couldn’t fill in, the game would have to be forfeit. What could I do? So I reluctantly agreed to come along.

When we arrived, I was sent out to what I would call “the sticks” – I could just about see the crease- (look, look, cricketing word, I didn’t even have to look it up! No idea whether I spelled it right mind you..) -in the far distance, but it was a beautiful sunny day so I tried to make the most of it, knowing that eventually I’d get to bat – the only remotely appealing part of the game. So there I stood, baking in the summer sun, for what felt like at least 40 years, in truth it was until the end of the first innings (again, I think that’s the right word) when it was time for our team to bat. And time for the missing player for whom I was filling in to arrive. Great. Take a seat Joel, whatsisface has arrived!

Well that was the last straw, frankly. Enough was enough, I headed to the pub. Now, this part of the story is going to be much less verbose as things quickly became hazy after I saw the sign behind the bar saying “FREE T-SHIRT WITH EVERY 4 PINTS OF BODDINGTONS!” I’ll just leave you with this – when my dad arrived to collect me, I had 3 new t-shirts and a mild case of sunstroke.

So to summarise – The only important thing I know about Brian Lara Cricket ’96 is that I’m going to get absolutely spanked. Maybe I’ll use this opportunity to take a nap.

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.