After boycotting Electronic Arts' Madden franchise for what seems like half a decade, yesterday I made the decision to give the series one last chance to win back both my support and hard earned dollars. The verdict? It failed, and failed fucking hard.
For anyone unfamiliar with the series, here's a quick history lesson; a paragraph forged through the fusing of Wikipedia facts and a few thoughts of my own.
In 2004, EA signed an exclusive license with the NFL and the NFLPA to give them the exclusive rights to use the NFL's teams, stadiums, and players in a video game. This exclusive license has put an end to competition from other official NFL video games. This also gives EA less incentive to maintain quality and a greater opportunity to increase prices, as who wants to play a sporting simulation without accurate rosters and teams?
They have the monopoly of the market simply because they splashed money in the NFL's face, putting an abrupt halt to the rise of alternative NFL football franchises such as NFL 2K, and the Blitz series.
The last Madden title I owned was Madden 2007. Featuring Seattle RB Shaun Alexander on the cover, it was the first title in the series released for video gaming's seventh generation (PS3, 360 etc). Compared to previous installments on the PS2, and taking into account the advanced console technology EA had at their fingertips, the game, in my opinion, was horrifying, and thus began my boycotting of the series.
However, the other day, I decided to pick up Madden 2011 and give EA Sports one last chance to prove that they were worthy of owning exclusivity to the NFL and it's rosters. This was more of a spontaneous thing that a planned one, as I was feeling a bit peppy after eating one of the best ham sandwiches I've ever had the pleasure of consuming.
After being impressed by a touching opening video and some pretty snazzy looking menus, I decided to play a quick exhibition match to check out the gameplay. It looked and felt exactly the same as it did in 2007 - the animations were the same, the character models looked blocky at times, when controlling an RB or defender I didn't feel in control and the players still ran like upside down ducks.
Maybe if EA put a little bit more effort into making some actual gameplay improvements instead of worrying about the menu interface and cover art, they could deliver an NFL simulation worthy of exclusivity. Until then, they should climb out of their dollar bill filled kiddy pool and realize that by destroying the competition, they're doing both NFL and gaming fans in general a great injustice.
PS2 versions such as '05 and '06 gave the player a sense of control. Running back controls for example were slick and empowering. Spins, fends, jukes - when you beat a defender with one of the moves just mentioned, you really felt like it was because you had made it possible. Now, if you beat a defender, you get the impression it's the result of nothing more than luck.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is, Electronic Arts have annihilated the competition in the NFL video game market - not through the development of the best NFL video game, but by throwing copius amounts of money at the sport's governing body. Imagine if they did the same thing to the NBA, and laid waste to it's challengers such as 2K Sports, who produce by far the better basketballing experience?
I hate Electronic Arts, and you should too.