2010 – Madden NFL 11

Madden NFL 11


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:


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.


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.


2009 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2


Developer(s) Infinity Ward
Publisher(s) Activision,  Square Enix
Director(s) Jason West
Producer(s) Mark Rubin
Designer(s) Todd Alderman, Steve Fukuda, Mackey McCandlish, Zied Rieke
Artist(s) Richard Kriegler (Art Director)
Writer(s) Jesse Stern
Composer(s) Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe
Series Call of Duty
Engine IW 4.0
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s) November 10, 2009, November 11, 2009 (Steam)
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, cooperative, multiplayer
Distribution Blu-ray Disc, DVD-DL, download

Liam:  I don’t think there would be much point me talking about this game as nearly everyone will be aware of how games like this work. Instead I want to talk about how Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was a brave game.

Don’t get me wrong, Activision weren’t exactly taking a risk commissioning Infinity Wards sequel to the very successful ‘Modern Warfare’. Nor is the game itself pretty brave considering it is essentially a level based shooter. The bravery, and indeed most of the criticism, was focussed onto one level in particular.

Everyone who has played the game is familiar with the level entitled ‘No Russian’ but for people who are not I will give you a quick run-down  In this particular level you play a deep undercover CIA operative infiltrating a Russian Terrorist group taking part in the terrorist attack on a Moscow airport. You start in a lift dressed in NATO armour with NATO weapons and you are told ‘No Russian’. The lift opens and you are ‘on rails’ walking through a busy airport while your companions proceed to gun down all the civilians in sight. You have the option to join them and shoot civilians or you can just walk through while they commit the massacre. This isn’t a quick attack, this is a full couple of minutes walking slowly, shooting unarmed people who are screaming, panicking and running away. Even for the most desensitised gamer it gives you a real feeling of unease which is exactly why I think this is brave.

Violence in video games is well documented. Games such as Postal, Manhunt, and Grand theft Auto look to directly sell copies by promoting over the top violence. The thrill of doing something which you wouldn’t dream of doing in real life drives the sale of these games.  Violence itself however has the potential to be used as a plot device. Games aren’t movies; they have many more skills at their disposal to create immersion. By drawing you into the plot, allowing the player to make moral decisions and having repercussions and feedback for those decisions you become far more involved with the story. This has been known for years and skilled game developers have been using techniques like this. I’m not saying that this was the most poignant moment in gaming history, games have introduced moral decision making not only before but better, for example 2008’s Fallout 3 has a fantastic moment where if you decided, you could eliminate and entire population of people by detonating a nuclear bomb all from the safe confines of a penthouse tower.

Modern Warfare didn’t need to do it though, it would have sold many copies and received a massive amount of publicity regardless, but it felt the scene was necessary in the process of telling the story. A brave technique, particularly considering Video Game violence is already under a massive media spotlight following a series of shootings in US schools and the decision to use an airport in a time when the September 9th attacks on America were still fresh in peoples mind was not a coincidence. With a medium like video games, designers must be allowed to push the boundaries on what we deem acceptable to create a more immersive narrative – for doing this in an ‘AAA’ title that did not need to take the risks, MW2 was a brave game.

Joel:  When someone says the three words “first,” “person” and “shooter” to me, images of Doom, Quake and the unbeatable Unreal Tournament spring to mind. Those are the games that, to me, not only stand out from the genre, but are some of the best games I’ve played. My laptop still has UT on it and I still play it pretty often. Goldeneye, as I’ve said previously was very good, but the control system for that was fairly rudimentary when compared with PC game rivals using mouselook, which Quake and UT did. But as with all things, they either evolve or die out and so did the genre. I’ll leave you to decide whether the modern equivalents of these demonstrate evolution or entropy, but I know which camp I’m in.

Young Joel started his career working in a small local computer store in his hometown. Mostly, he just sold PC’s he couldn’t afford to pensioners who wanted to use them for word processing, but every now and again, someone would come in wanting something a bit more interesting. There was the old chap who bought a computer so powerful we had to spend a good while sourcing the parts – So he could play Train Simulator – quite possibly the most boring game I’ve ever played: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK8zdtMpy2w  – But I had great fun building the machine.

Then there was the chap who wanted a “proper” gaming rig to play “proper” games on. He didn’t really know what he wanted other than the machine had to run the brand new “Medal of Honor Allied Assault” on the highest settings. So this was great for two reasons – I got to build a stupidly powerful machine AND I got to play-test it extensively on an FPS game. Not just any FPS game, but a brand new one! So anyway, some time passes and all the parts are in. I build the thing (IIRC it had a Voodoo 5 5500) – this was graphics card porn if you’re as old as me – and install the game. Fire it up. Crank it up. Initially I was very impressed, it was a lot more polished than UT and GLQuake, which were my staples at the time. So after maybe an hour of testing, I’d finished it. What a load of rubbish! It had absolutely no replay value either, as I quickly came to realise this through multiple test play-troughs.

That was when I went off the “modern” FPS. Sadly MOH became a massive franchise, as did its competitor: Call Of Duty. Unfortunately this was, in my humble opinion, the end of the FPS line. Clearly I was wrong… 1.6billion hours of logged online play can’t be mistaken, but I just can’t get into them anymore. But apparently, so I’m told by the legions of COD players, I’m a “fag,” so what do I know? I’m lead to believe that in America, this has a meaning other than cigarette. I was actually relieved to find the definition as constantly trying to figure out which end of me was alight became quite tiresome.

So where am I going with all this blither..? I haven’t enjoyed a pure FPS game since UT2004. Not even UT3 really and not for a lack of trying. I think by this point in the marathon I won’t care less whether I win at this or not. Liam will probably have an unconquerable lead margin by this point, so I’ll probably just run around like a headless chicken until I become a headless soldier.