In 1999, small-time gaming company Microprose got together with an Idea. The Idea was to make a space exploration turn-based strategy game. The goal: to colonize and rule the galaxy.
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Since 2007 there has been no hockey franchise that could compete with the monster that is EA Sports. Basically owning every sporting title known to man (with the exception of baseball), EA Sports continues its royal lineage of NHL titles with the latest release of NHL 11.
Following the weekend of “Monster Saturday” I knew I had to write a piece about NCAA Football 11. Now, I usually don’t like to play my own card, but I am fresh off a tournament victory so I feel like I should impart some knowledge on the rest of the world.
You know it is “back to school” time when you can feel the anxiety and excitement in the air. It is the time of year where parents of high school and college students fork out all the dough they have from summer to make sure their child has what he or she needs. Well sometimes you need that little thing that takes the edge off. Although that might sounds like a drug addiction, we’re actually talking about another habit forming activity – gaming. Here are the top sports games that you need this year in your school supply bag.
Just like how the Super Bowl is an unofficial national holiday, the release of the latest installment of Madden is just as much a reason to celebrate for the sports gaming community. This year’s edition of the premier football franchise (not to be confused with soccer by the European citizenship) happens to be the best thus far.
This increase in quality can be attributed to many new and improved features in game play. The most obvious – and most advertised – addition is gameflow. This new feature allows for the user to select a play in the press of a button instead of scrolling through hundreds of plays searching for that certain one. This is similar to the “ask Madden” button in previous editions, but this feature picks the play for you with a better and more realistic play choice. To some this can seem like blasphemy. Luckily, this feature is easily avoidable if you are all gung ho for choosing that perfect play. The AI of the play call judges the play by down, yardage, ball position and score. This allows for a close-to-perfect play to be chosen.
However there are drawbacks to the system. Just like in real life someone makes a bad decision. Well, gameflow makes some bad decisions as well. For example, gameflow has a tendency to pass, even when your running back is on a tear. The game also selects draws and screens in rapid succession losing the element of surprise and causing for ineffective offensive play. Luckily last year’s audible system is still in effect making it so you can change to the perfect play as you see fit.
Some changes that are not as noticeable as gameflow are the improved AI and physics systems. Linebackers hit their holes, lineman make crucial blocks, receivers run their routes better than ever. The computer plays more realistically and smoothly than ever before. The physics system looks realistic with some of the most crushing blocks and hits, smooth ankle-breaking jukes and spins and life-like tackle sheds.
However these systems still aren’t perfect. Defensive backs forget to come off coverage to defend the run, linemen on passing plays miss blocks allowing defenders to turn even the most resilient quarterbacks into a pile of concussed meat and bones. Quarterbacks get hit too often altering the course of thrown balls into defensive hands. Most of the time however, it doesn’t even require a hit. Quarterbacks will throw bullets into the back of linemen’s heads, five feet above a running backs reach or five yards in front (or behind) a sprinting receiver.
The kicking system has been changed back to the button-timing mode completely removing the more recent style of right thumbstick motion. In last year’s Madden 10 kickers would be lucky to make a 50 plus yard field goal. In this year’s addition kickers can make 55 plus yard field goals just as easy as a PAT. Kickoffs also travel farther making kick return near impossible to get past the 25 let alone have a return for a touchdown.
The control system has received a few additions as well. Now there is a feature called auto-sprint that allows the computer to decide based on reality when a player would sprint or not. To some users this allows for easy and more realistic running control. This makes it so you don’t outrun your blockers, juke with the flick of a stick and still break away when needed. If you aren’t in the mood for computer sprint control then you can easily turn the feature off.
One of the most overlooked additions is in the commentary. Gus Johnson brings his exhilarating and energetic presence to the madden announcement team. Johnson, possibly today’s best sports commentator, does voiceovers throughout the whole game including the newly added Super Bowl win cut scene that is individualized by team and involves a parade and even a visit to the Obama White House. Even in a game like Madden you can meet the president.
This year’s Madden lives up to the hype but it still isn’t perfect. There are many bugs that need to be updated and the game seems a bit too offensive oriented. It’s nice to score 50 points a game but it kills the drama factor and the sends bad vibes of the difficulty levels. Overall the game is the best of the series. So get your popcorn ready, put on your favorite jersey and get ready for some football on Madden 11.
You would think that after a decade of experience you would get something right. Obviously this is not the case with the latest edition of 2K sports MLB Baseball.
However this doesn’t mean that they haven’t been taking steps in the right direction. This edition contains a new pitcher vs. hitter system that really brings out the potential of the franchise’s future. There is nothing like the drama of a late inning pitching duel with a silver slugger winning batter. Now AI has a better “batters eye” that creates for more realistic situations and even helps those people with swing-timing issues.
A major leap in the right direction came with the addition of MLB today mode and living rosters. It adds a sense of realism when you are playing games that are on the schedule for that day, seeing the ticker fly by with real scores and stats and, even though it is frustrating when it happens to your team, seeing that star player go down with an injury and knowing that in-game his stats are altered and he won’t be playing.
The best addition by far is the career mode. For so long fans have been waiting to work their way up the ranks of minor league baseball and become that star player – now it’s finally a reality. Personally I played as a pitcher because I wanted the feat of being a star pitcher that strikes out 10 batters a game, wins Cy Young awards and breaks all the records. However this mode is just the first shot at it. Player creation is a little lacking in the creativity department and your opening stats are so low that working through AA to the majors turns into a full-time job. Pitching, thankfully, is simpler than the last two editions allowing unrealistic numbers of strikeouts, a minimal ERAand, even with low stamina ratings, the ability to go complete games without any major stamina effect.That last one is both good and bad.
Despite these advancements there are still major reasons that Sony’s MLB: The Show is still a top the baseball game rankings. This game has too many random bugs. Bats disappear, cut-off throws end up to the wrong person and animations lag. Also the controls are very sensitive especially in batting and base running. Reaction time is clearly the most crucial skill needed and even then balls tend to go directly to fielders. Personally, after a full season worth of playing my batting average was a miniscule .236 as compared to my MLB 2K6 batting average of .487. Home runs are not as easy to hit, in fact most games remain scoreless and go into extra innings, something that rarely happens in real play.
Base running also took a major hit. Graphic quality decreased this year to speed up frame rate. This is good for motion but it doesn’t help when the players don’t look nearly as realistic as in past editions. Base stealing has a steep learning curve to it now that it is controlled by the hold and release of the trigger instead of the simple tap of a button. However, slide control has turned out to be a beneficial addition, even though forgetting to slide is a common occurrence.
Franchise mode is something that always makes MLB games. This year’s franchise mode was a huge step back from previous. I know it is unrealistic; however most people want that super team that is unstoppable but this year it is practically impossible. Even using teams with giant budgets doesn’t help. The AI won’t allow for big name players to be traded.
Free agency changed by the addition of contract types that make you lose picks when you sign the big name free agent. But it didn’t even matter when out of the 10 years I played franchise mode only one player rated above a 90 was even available. Prospect stats are way down and the name generation is like opening a children’s story book. Seriously, who names their kid Mudcat? Prospect stats are so low yet their overalls match everyday MLB starters. Pitching prospects have the worst stats. Average starting pitchers usually have a pitching control of about 70. Even the best prospects have a high of 40. I don’t know about you but I want my pitchers to have control. Luckily the batting prospects have only slightly below contact and power ratings.
Basically, every team you make must be full of veterans because when they are gone you have a rotation of five Rick Vaughns and they always pitch just a bit outside. Simulations make for horrible seasons as well. Even the top ranked team can miss the playoffs because the simulation is so random. No batter hits more than 40 home runs in a season and the Cy Young winners usually have ERAs nearing 4 or even 5 at the lowest. Just for comparison, last year’s AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke had a 2.16 ERA. That is a two run differential. For clarification that simply means that an ERA of 4 is mediocre at best.
Everything about this game seems mediocre. However, it is still a step in the right direction. The 2K series will be the highest selling baseball simulation as long as The Show stays a PS3 exclusive. Even though the game has so many bugs it was still an enjoyable play for anyone who likes the good old national pastime. We can only raise our expectations for 2K11.