ScattershotsShawn Drotar

Posted on March 27th, 2008 in Gaming, Playstation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC Gaming, Playstation 3, News, Opinion by Shawn Drotar

Musings for a Thursday afternoon:

  • 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Madden football series, and EA’s got a package deal on its way to celebrate. Including both Madden NFL 09 and NFL Head Coach 09, the Madden NFL 09 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition will also include bonus video content. While Madden has improved since its weak debut on the Xbox 360, the next-gen version still hasn’t quite reached the same level of quality of its older-gen brethren and needs to step up its game again. NFL Head Coach, released on last-gen platforms, was a clever idea, but a yawner of a game. I still like the idea - and the fact that plays created in Head Coach will be able to be exported to Madden - but I do question whether releasing it at the same time as Madden will relegate Head Coach to nothing more than an add-on play designer. The game itself will need to be light-years better than the original version to make an impact. Then again, at $90 for the Anniversary Collector’s Edition, that means that Head Coach is essentially selling for $30 with some extra video content tossed in. At that point, it might make sense to give it a try, assuming the initial reports are good. Madden’s also going to sport some new announcers; a great idea considering the titular broadcaster’s best days are long, long past and the “hometown AM radio guy” used in recent versions actually detracts greatly from the game. While our friend Pastapadre tosses out the names of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, methinks Electronic Arts’ partners at ESPN would frown upon using a Fox broadcasting team when their own “Monday Night Football” crew is available - and thank goodness for that, because adding Joe Buck would make me clamor for a return of the annoying AM fellow; I’m not sure Buck’s sanctimony (not to mention his boundless enthusiasm) could even fit in a Collector’s Edition box…
  • Speaking of EA, Kotaku’s been all over their case regarding the news that the upcoming Battlefield: Bad Company will use microtransactions to sell new in-game weapons - and justifiably so. This nickel-and-diming of consumers needs to stop before it gets out of hand. Adding quality content that doesn’t distort the core experience of a game, a la Rock Band (also an EA product, so you know they can do this right when they want to) is good. Adding content that changes the gameplay itself, creating a have-and-have-not in-game schism? Bad. Very bad. And, as always, Penny Arcade knows where this is going
  • GameSetWatch’s Leigh Alexander penned a column this week about “fanboyism” that basically called out game reviewers for their inherent biases and looked at how they affect reviews. While it’s not exactly new ground, it does contain this lovely nugget: “I would like you to briefly indulge me by participating in an exercise. Remove all of the mascots and familiar faces from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and replace them with original constructs. Notice, if you will, the somewhat clumsy user interface, the high percentage of total content that must be unlocked to be enjoyed, the complete lack of usability of the Wii controls, and the lack of significant graphical or gameplay progression over the previous generation. It’s true that even then, you’d have a good game. But would you have a 10 game?” It’s a great point. I played SSBB last weekend, and was left wondering what I was missing. The play is run-of-the-mill; fun enough but not captivating, and on the whole, the game seemed to be clearly pedestrian. The only thing I could fathom was that I didn’t have this odd attachment to these characters; placed in a disjointed setting for no reason other than “fan service”. To many, Super Smash Bros. Brawl must have seemed like attending a high-school reunion; looking through younger eyes, it’s a momentary thrill that hearkens backs to pleasant times. But without that lens, it just looks small, somewhat peculiar and distinctly underwhelming.

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