Now that the NFL Combine has started there will be a few weeks of excitement before the actual NFL Draft and the announcement of who will be on the cover of Madden 25. Until that time comes, we are going to take a look at what this game looks like from the standpoint of ‘what is already known’.
The first aspect of Madden that most fans are interested in is whether Connected Careers Mode will be updated and fixed. CCM was a step in a somewhat new direction for Madden and while it provided many gamers with a new wave of interest in playing multiple seasons it also presented new problems and brought into focus (yet, again) some of the biggest short-comings of Madden.
Trades Are Still Broken – In case you haven’t noticed, you can trade away your draft picks and easily get between seven and ten future first round draft picks. Player for player trades are a bit more difficult to pull off but that isn’t enough to save the atrocious draft pick trade logic that still plagues this game.
O-Line/D-Line Interaction – Every time I play Madden it feels more like I am playing Tecmo Super Bowl and the linemen are going through the suction motions. This is certainly one aspect of gameplay that 2K mastered back in NFL2K5 and All Pro Football 2K8.
Commentary – Phil Simms is a jack-ass. Okay, this isn’t something limited to Madden (as he exhibits this in every broadcast in ‘real life’) but his commentary is often out of place and even hypocritical. When a Quarterback gets sacked from the blind side (Enter your Sandra Bullock joke here) he will say one of two phrases “Boy do they hurt” and then he will say a few plays later “They don’t hurt at all”. Which is it Phil?… or rather – Madden Devs?
Injuries – One of the most annoying aspects of Madden is that it doesn’t have realistic injuries. While the NFL is trying to make it seem like football is safe, we know otherwise. EA needs to make a decision as to whether they are going to make a representation of real football or some sort of football farce.
Keep your eyes and ears open as Madden 25 starts the annual hype machine. You are destined to get excited and eventually let down by the beginning of September. If you want a sports game that will make you feel like Madden is lacking – go get MLB 13 the show next week.
Before jumping into this explanation, please understand when referring to baseball video games we are referencing the MLB The Show series. In no way is 2K Baseball close to being as good as The Show. That is a different point for a different day.
Today we are focusing on comparing MLB The Show to any other sports gaming platform out there. The top competitor is actually soccer/futbol but in the United States you will be hard-pressed to find anyone that knows how transfers and team management works in soccer (present party included). If it seems that I am coming from a somewhat biased perspective it is because I am. The best selling games in 2012 have been the more popular titles of course, but are they really the best? No.
The Show has been one of the most consistently high-quality and true simulation sports games over the lifetime of this console generation. SCEA (the developer of The Show) has been one of the most highly rated sports gaming developers because of the quality of The Show. Between the actual gameplay and the depth of modes like Franchise Mode as well as the new Post-Season Mode there is little more to be desired. However, that is where The Show really shows why it is the best sports game out there with so many details like ball trajectory and other physics based implementations that you will start asking where it is in other games like Madden.
While The Show is by far the best baseball game when competing with the awful 2K Baseball, its only competition in terms of quality comes from EA Sports’ NHL and FIFA games. The one thing you will notice is that baseball, hockey and soccer are all ‘niche titles’ with relevance to a select number of people in the United States. Baseball has been dying a slow death in terms of popularity among sports fans. That may be a big reason why The Show flies under the radar when compared to games like Madden and NBA 2K (which are typically the higher selling sports titles in the U.S. every year).
The trend of baseball gaming has been on a down-slope as far as game sales go. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the fact that if you enjoy baseball and want to play a great video game version of the sport. Go out and buy a PS3 if you don’t have one (as this game is only available on the PS3 console) and get The Show. It is that good.
Why Is Baseball Dying?
I am of the opinion that baseball was both saved and destroyed by steroids. The 1993-94 strike made many fans turn their backs on baseball. It wasn’t until the home run explosion between 1996 and 2001 that people started to care about baseball again. Say what you want about the ‘purity of the game’ but steroids brought fans back and brought more money to owners as attendance went through the roof. Then, as if someone called the cops to bust up a great party – the Mitchell Report destroyed the game from the inside out.
The legacy of steroids in baseball goes back to the 1980s where there was a tremendous boom in the overall use and production of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). This is also the same time period that saw the beginning of Free Agency (players were able to look for new teams as their contracts expired). While this was something that happened a few times before, it became quite normal as the 1980s and 1990s came and went. This should make you consider the motivation that players had to use PEDs – it was about the ability to command more money in their contracts. If a player like Barry Bonds could increase his output as a batter from an average of 25 HRs during his time with Pittsburgh to 39 HRs during his stay in San Francisco, why wouldn’t he use what he could to demand more money? The same goes for players like Alex Rodriguez who could be on his way to a Lance Armstrong collapse in the coming weeks.
People suspected that players like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were on some sort of PEDs as they started having numbers pile up that no one had seen in the history of the game. Why is it that some fans were so appalled when the report came out. Many people started making these players they all but worshiped at one point into pariahs to save face in some sort of non-existent social witch hunt.
I am not suggesting that steroids should be legalized or that they don’t artificially inflate statistics. I will demand that society takes a look in the mirror and honestly asks what they want from entertainment. Society doesn’t want purity in sports. Society wants to appear concerned about safety and legitimacy while demanding more power, speed and violence. We are living in the greatest example of hypocrisy in entertainment and the only thing we can do is edit our video game rosters and change every player’s ability rating to 99 – call it digital steroids.
For the longest time, MLB: The Show has felt like the one sports game you could count on to ‘get it right’. They focused on all the tweaks, gameplay improvements and other nuances that can really only be noticed in baseball. Then came the news that MLB 13 is going to have fans vote on the cover athlete. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it will be one of three players – Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera. The only other wild card I might throw into the mix is Stephen Strasburg simply because he is the only pitcher people seem to care about. (I am still laughing about the ‘plan’ to hold him out of the playoffs.)
Regardless, we are entering into an area in sports gaming that EA Sports has made rather notorious with their Madden cover votes. Should I react with such distaste about something so ‘minor’? I am sure you are thinking something along those lines – such as my favorite line… ‘You mad, bruh?’. Yes, I am.
I expect more out of The Show. The closest they came to being like EA was shutting down old servers for rosters setting up poor online services altogether. Now they are going in the direction of fan input for cover athletes? This is the slippery slope my friends… I don’t think I want to see what will be next if they keep going this direction.
When I was younger I was a baseball fanatic. Ken Griffey Jr. posters adorned my bedroom walls and every summer consisted of a run down the driveway to see the sports page and look for the latest home run count. I am either extremely lucky or unlucky to have grown up during the height of the steroid era of baseball. Thankfully, my favorite player was never implicated in any of the investigations. Unfortunately, the second half of his career was marred by injuries and he never set the all-time record for home runs.
The moral of this story is that since his retirement I have had little reason to pay attention to baseball. I chose not to purchase MLB 12: The Show because there were enough changes going on next season that I figured I would save my $60 for that. Now that we are one day from the World Series and two teams I don’t follow are playing for the title; it’s time to start looking at next year.
Extra Wild-Card Game For Playoffs – This year we saw an addition to baseball that was a long time coming. The addition of an extra playoff series (even if it was only one game) that allowed for another reason to hope for the unlikely to happen with a second wild-card slot. 162 games in a season can often prove to be a marathon that most people stop paying attention to in the months of June and July. This year we saw the likes of the Indians and the Pirates have hopes of the playoffs dashed in the middle/late-middle of the season. The fact that they still had some hope was largely due to the extra playoff spot. In MLB 13 we should hold this as a sign that playing a full season of 162 games might not be a complete waste if you can squeak into the playoffs with an underdog team. Look out for my Tribe next season as we will be making a push with a new manager and hopefully a few new players.
Houston Moves To American League – One reason it was easy to pass up on MLB 12 was due to the fact that the move of Houston to the American League was announced. It takes away from a Franchise Mode when you know that after the first season you will not be able to realistically move a team to another league. This is minor from most perspectives, but it does take away from the immersion if you are in a sports game for the long-term. Even if it is one of the worst teams in all of professional sports.
Harper, Cespedes and Trout – These three players are bringing me back to baseball. It has been a long time since baseball has had a face to bring people to the sports page every day. BryceHarper is arrogant, sure… but he is one hell of a ball player and his talent is finally more than just some sort of YouTube homerun derby video. YoenisCespedes almost saved my fantasy baseball team this year and let’s face it – he plays on Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s. I love the opportunity to watch teams like Oakland play moneyball and develop talent however they can. Mike Troutalmost gave me faith that a rookie could win the MVP award and deserve it just because he is a solid player all-around… rather than some sort of brutish homerun king that can’t play defense. Next year could be the year that Trout really jumps to the fore-front as a true MVP contender.
Spring Time – Face it, baseball starts during the springtime. It is one of the few signs that the weather is about to get better after a long winter. I am already dreading the arduous drive to work every day during January and February. Opening day in baseball is unlike that of any other sport. When we see MLB 13 on the shelves it should give us hope that the snow is about to melt and we can get back to enjoying the weather outside… not to mention some of America’s past time.
Faith In Sports Gaming Renewed – Every August we are blessed/cursed with EA Football games. America’s favorite sport is largely football. However, when it comes to sports games – MLB: The Show and NBA 2K are the best ones out there. After the NFL season has come to an end we are often left with that pit in our stomach that there is no more football to watch. However, when we get that first smell of baseball it is hard to let it go. The smell of the leather with a baseball glove over your face, the sound of a hanging curve getting smashed into the bleachers and the feel of freshly mowed grass under your cleats should be enough to make you forget about football… at least until the draft.