I still can remember that first time I got Madden Football. I ripped off the plastic covering like I was the Incredible Hulk tearing a car apart. I placed the Madden ’04 disc into my PS2 and I never looked back. I would spend countless hours practicing my running, dissecting defenses to know where to throw the ball, and memorizing offensive strategies for my linebackers to counter. I loved playing in franchise mode that started with the great minicamp games and lead to a grueling regular season schedule (unless you stimulated all the regular season games until the playoffs). I won so many Super Bowls that I think I ended my franchise play in the year 2020. Not only was playing with your favorite team great, but you could also create your own super team. I remember me and my friends making ourselves into these unrealistic players that were almost seven feet tall and over 300 pounds with no body fat having 99 stats in every category. No team could touch us as we pounded on every professional player in the game. It might not have been up to the standards of gaming today, but Madden back then was simple and perfect.
While playing my favorite video game, I picked up on a quick trick that made me impossible to beat. I had always settle for a solid team that had a quarterbacks with a reliable arm. I realized that if I never had a open receiver, the defense would break through my offensive line and swarm the quarterback. It happened over and over again and was so frustrating. I didn’t know where to find an answer to my dilemma, but the solution was staring at me the whole time. The case of Madden ’04 had Michael Vick on the cover. What most people don’t know is Vick in ’04 was as close to having a made-up, 99 stats player than any other person in the game. Not only could he quickly out run everyone trying to tackle him, but he could throw bombs farther and faster than all the quarterbacks. Besides having Vick, the Falcons were loaded with other stars. Once my playbook showed the quarterback icon as red meaning the defense was focusing on that player, I could quickly switch to running with Warrick Dunn. He was almost as fast as Michael Vick and I could maneuver him in and out of the defense. He sliced through holes smoother than cutting butter and would break away if you ran him outside. Let alone having these track athletes in my backfield, I had the amazing presence of the wide receivers Michael Jenkins, Adam Jennings, and tight end Alge Crumpler. They pretty much could catch anything thrown to them, even from halfway across the field. I was unstoppable with this team and putting up scores that were only Madden-like. My friends would give up and some even throw the controller in frustration like a baby when I was leading by forty points. I loved seeing their faces as I broke their linebacker’s ankles or made their cornerbacks eat turf as they tried tackling my wide receivers. Gaming was good and Madden Football was close to my heart. I thought I was invisible, but even the mighty shall fall.
After a hiatus from playing video games, I bought an Xbox 360 for my freshman year in college. I refused to buy Madden because I knew it wouldn’t feel the same as playing with a PS2 controller. My biggest fear is I wouldn’t be as dominant as before, especially it being years after the infamous ’04 Falcons. So I decided to wait on buying a copy. But I started to get that urge to run my quarterback to the end zone as I juke out defenders and even throw a couple unbelievable passes from fifty yards away to my wide receivers. So I drove to BestBuy one night and picked up Madden ’13. I knew I’d be a bit rusty and it might take some time getting back into it, especially playing on a Xbox 360 instead of a PS2. However, I was in for a bigger surprise than I thought.
I looked at the cover of my new purchase and already had a bad feeling in my stomach. I don’t what it is but the picture didn’t give me that same excitement as the old fashion game I cherished. After unwrapping the case, I put in the disc and held my controller in anticipation of getting back into some football domination. After exiting quickly through a couple developer logos and the cheesy intro, I finally got to the start screen. I was then proceeded to a update alert that made me wait a few minutes until it was done downloading. Funny, I didn’t remember Madden ’04 having to download more content for ten minutes. Shouldn’t it already be in the disc? The download didn’t phase me really, but I was thrilled to have to quickly skim through the ads for a second time. Once again I am back at the start screen, and it feels like my Xbox 360 is spamming me. The screen is flashing with redeem online code and update rosters and ten other different options. I just want to play the game, not fill out a resume to work with Madden. I figure out how to exit out of all this junk, and I finally press the start button.
The original Madden would just load to a classic start screen where you can scroll through all the options. It would have some sliding images of relevant players in the NFL with modern pump up music to get every gamer in the mood for football. Madden ’13 brought me through this three dimensional worm hole that felt like I was riding the Fireball at the carnival. The vivid colors alone could have sent a kid into a seizure besides me now having the feeling I want to vomit. I am now brought to a screen that looks like I am watching a news room’s broadcaster or the stock exchange board. I am pretty sure there is even a ticker of stocks strolling up at the top. I am all for modernizing the game, but it is too much being thrown at once. After my eyes adjust, I realize where the play now option is and click it. I choose the Philadelphia Eagles only because I know Mike Vick in on the team and I can use him to my advantage. Picking the options for the play now aren’t that difficult and I am finally ready to start my next chapter in Madden Football.
The screen now turns to Lincoln Financial Stadium, and I must admit that the graphics are pretty impressive. Even the commentators look like their real selves. I win the coin toss and pick receive. The Giants kick the ball off and I am ready to run this back for a touchdown. However, I notice something strange about the running feature. I couldn’t pinpoint what it is exactly but it just seems off. The runner feels like he is a weeble wobble or something as his body dips side to side. I can’t really explain what bothered me about his running but it doesn’t have that classic Madden feeling to it. It didn’t matter because now Mike Vick is up and I know I am running straight for the outside. He gets the snap and immediately I break free. There are no defenders near me, I am running this no problem to the end zone. I then notice that out of nowhere the defensive linemen outruns Vick and tackles him to the ground. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I tried it again and the same exact thing happened twice. How is it possible that a bulky line men is not only going to keep up with Vick but actually outrun him. The guy ran a 4.33 for his 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, which is the lowest for any professional quarterback. I shrugged it off and decided they lowered his stats from nine years ago. I guess it’s time for me to pick a new team.
I then tried out the Washington Redskins because they have to have the fastest quarterback in the league with Robert Griffin. Unbelievably, the same exact thing happened with him. Linemen that could not even come close to his acceleration and speed were able to catch up to him and tackle him. Not only was it bothering me that every player seems to have the same speed, but the juke and spin seems all off. In Madden ’04, I was flawless with my ground and pound moves. You can’t even juke one player in this game, yet alone spin around them and watch as the defender breaks his ankles. You can barely even time the jukes for your running back it seems you are controlling an awkward kid that just learned to run, Besides all this, the way the player moves is just frustrating as he sluggishly sprints and never breaks free. What had happened to the Madden game I fell in love with. I understand they are trying to make it more realistic and modern, but I’d rather take simple substance over all these flashy add ons. Football is a realistic sport, but Madden is a game and should be kept in its original, well acclaimed form.
Maybe I am just being too harsh on Madden. He is trying to keep this gaming series going and I guess modernizing it seems like the solution. Making it more appealing and flashy can help it contend with the heavy hitters like Call of Duty and Halo. However, I have talked to my friends and they agree with what I said. They don’t like the way the players handle and the feel of the game. There is just too much crammed in there, even for one play. I don’t even see them buying the new Maddens anymore, and have now turned their attention to the Fifa franchise. It’s sad to see this happen to a game I have so many memories of. Staying up late with friends as games came down to the wire or even the infamous blow outs where your team would score a hundred points. No longer will there be domination, the breaking of ankles, or bomb passes. The game has tried to revolutionize itself by becoming more realistic. Maybe next year Madden will install a feature so you can feel the actual hit from Patrick Willis on your quarterback. I’m sure that’s the next step for Madden ’14.