Every August, a new Madden NFL hits store shelves. And every August, people moan and wail about how similar this year’s Madden is to its previous incarnations (hey, we’re guilty of it too). But we shouldn’t, really. The truth is that the gang at EA has tried lots of innovations over the 20-plus years they’ve been making the game. We love them for it, and plenty of the added features have been great. But we’ve also seen our share of failed experiments – especially in the PS3/360 generation. This is a countdown of those “innovations” we wish would’ve stayed on the bench.
Above: Only slightly preferable to actually having 15 sweaty guys who weigh 275 each lay on top of you
What it was: Madden’s attempt to replicate the mayhem that always ensues when a live ball has hit the ground – meaning whichever team recovers it gets to be on offense. It grows tiring – literally – right from the start.
Prompted by a meter at the bottom of the screen, players had to furiously mash different buttons as players crush each other in a pile of humanity. Supposedly, the faster you mash, the better your chance at recovering the fumble.
Why it was lame: Not only is it annoying to furiously pound a variety of buttons like a madman for 30 seconds, it also felt pointless. We could be wrong, but we’d be willing to bet we’ve never successfully pulled off a change of possession that wasn’t pre-destined.
Fight for the Fumble still lives on in Madden 11 (where we turned it off immediately in the options screen), but we’re hoping it fails to make the team next season and leaves us alone.
Above: “Pardon me – this is your game. I can’t help noticing you got a first down there and everything is going great. Would you like to back up and try again?”
What it was: A “do-over” button, meant to make newcomers (or long-since-left-behinders) feel a little less intimidated by the overwhelming hugeness of the game. Throw a crushing interception on offense? Give up a long bomb touchdown pass on defense? No sweat – just press “oops” and it never happened. You just line back up and try the play again.
Why it was lame: The problem, of course, is that this fundamentally destroys any semblance of reality – which is the most important aspect of Madden. Whether you use one, two, or infinite rewinds, even the whiff of an opportunity to make your mistake disappear changes the nature of the game, and not in a way that we like. This isn’t Prince of Persia, it’s a realistic-as-possible football simulation.
What’s more, the annoying “Rewind” counter at the bottom of the screen showed up after every play. Would anyone want to re-do a 5 yard run in the first quarter? A second down incompletion early in the second half? A little situational awareness would have gone a long way ratcheting down the “OMG I HATE THIS” factor.
It’s no surprise the Rewind feature has quickly disappeared from the default options. It’s still there if you look for it, but has mercifully been tucked far away from prying eyes. It can stay there.
Above: Running with the ball = awesome. Running in front of the guy with the ball and getting pancaked by defenders so he gets the glory = Hell on Earth
What it was: You temporarily took charge of an offensive lineman or fullback for a few moments, choosing different types of blocks (straight ahead, cut block, etc.) to plow into defenders and clear a path for your ballcarrier.
Why it was lame: The reason Madden has been so successful for so long is obvious – people love to re-create their real-life heroes on screen, throwing long bombs and ripping off huge touchdown runs. Making that perfect spin or tossing a tight spiral to a receiver in tight coverage is always satisfying.
Let’s just say controlling a blocker isn’t nearly as entertaining as, well, anything else in the game, even on the rare occasion that you do lay out an unsuspecting linebacker. Toss in the fact that switching from the quarterback to the blocker to the running back is a rapid-button-pressing nightmare, and this decent idea turns into a mind-numbing feature we ignored after a few feeble attempts.