Blowing the whistle
Madden NFL 13 is garnering critical acclaim for its numerous new features, including a totally overhauled physics engine and its Connected Careers mode. GamesRadar's review especially cites these changes and how they improve the game.
But you don't have to look far into Madden's past to see just how much Madden 13 has improved beyond its predecessors. Each year brings along new features and new content--much of it great, and worthy of becoming long-term gameplay attributes--but some misfired badly. Here's a list of Madden features that--hopefully--won't be coming back...
Fight for the Fumble (Madden 10)
What it was: Maddens 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 should stay benched: 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 wed be willing to bet weve never successfully pulled off a change of possession that wasnt pre-destined.
Rewinds (Madden 09)
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 should stay benched: The problem, of course, is that this fundamentally destroys any semblance of reality--which is the most important aspect of Madden. This isnt Prince of Persia, its a realistic-as-possible football simulation. Whats 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.
Lead Blocker Controls (Madden 07)
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 should stay benched: 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. But blocking?
Lets just say controlling a blocker isnt 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 worth ignoring after a few feeble attempts.
The Extra Point Show (Madden 10)
What it was: An attempt at a halftime show, featuring a barely-awake Alex Flanagan tossing out a few generic one-liners over and over (Both teams ran almost the same number of plays), followed by a full minute of silence while a few random highlights are shown from the worst camera angles.
Why it should stay benched: Nothing could ever made you want to get through halftime faster than the first incarnation of Maddens Extra Point halftime show. You could almost developed carpal tunnel syndrome from hammering Start so much to get through this torture as quickly as possible.
Amazingly, the weekly franchise incarnation of The Extra Point was even worse, with a hack-job of voiceovers (The..GREEN BAY PACKERSclashed withthePHILADELPHIA EAGLESSunday ) taking you through a few stats from randomly selected games, this time with no highlights. It makes sense that the Madden gang was trying to recreate the TV experience, but when the finished product was so poor, they shouldve just shelved the thing until it was ready for prime time.
Madden IQ (Madden 09)
What It Was: In addressing complaints that Madden was too inaccessible for non-hardcore fans, the Tiburon team introduced Madden IQ in Madden 09. Based on a series of minigames centered around offense and defense, Madden would determine your skill level and tweak accordingly.
Why it should stay benched: Hardcore players couldn't figure out why they'd be docked IQ points after games. For casual audiences, the mode never effectively addressed the fundamentals of football, or the timing of a good play. Instead, it evolved into a mess of over-presentation and ridiculous holograms that seldom exercised the sort of moves you encounter playing against human opponents. It was redubbed My Skill in Madden 11, but its quiet removal was one of the smartest moves EA had done in some time.
EA Sports Radio with Tony Bruno (Madden 05)
What it was: A weekly sports talk show embedded in the Franchise mode that tried to tie its content with what was happening in your season.
Why it should stay benched: In theory, a simulated radio show is great. Tony would somehow be up to speed with your teams record, and would do interviews with coaches and players, and take phone calls from fans to answer trivia questions. The problem, naturally, was that theres pretty much no way to keep that going for long without getting repetitive or out of date. Despite recording more than 30 hours of lines, Bruno--whose nightly radio show in the real world is one of the funniest around--got to be pretty boring after the first season (and dont even try to listen in your third or fourth year of a dynasty).
This was one of those ideas that was ahead of its time--and still is, considering how voice work is still a work-in-progress in Madden games.
Ring Building (Madden 08)
What it was: EA teamed up with jeweler Jostens, of high school class ring fame, to enable hardcore Madden players to build up a virtual championship ring inside the game, then actually design and purchase a real-life replica of it.
Why it should stay benched: Real NFL players and coaches pour their heart and soul into their craft, with the ultimate symbol of success being a Super Bowl ring on their finger. Having Madden players congratulate themselves on their in-game accomplishments with similar-looking jewelry? Yikes.
This was ridiculous on a few levels. First off, the criteria to complete a ring took at least 50 hours. Secondly, the cheapest real rings you could get once you unlocked the in-game code were $150, and the nicer ones could run over $500. But thirdly--and most important--just who in their right minds would want to walk around with one of these things? Youd be telling the world you wasted big money and lots of time to walk around with a giant chunk of cubic zirconium for a fake football career.
Old Spice Swagger Rating (Madden 11)
What it was: In Madden NFL 11, EA implemented an AI-driven player tendency to showboat on big plays, and especially when running into the inzone for a touchdown. Sure, you could just manually control your player, but with a high Swagger rating, the game would do all the heavy lifting for you.
Why it should stay benched: EA has never shied away from in-game advertising, but the Old Spice Swagger rating was a bridge too far. Nevermind that it was only available for 15 teams on the roster. To this day, it's hard to understand why you couldn't simply do a manual celebration on the way in. Should we collectively rejoice that this egregious bit of advertising is gone from Madden 13? Does Old Spice spokesman Isaiah Mustafa wear a towel and ride a horse?
Vision Cone (Madden 06)
What it was: A movable visual cue that displayed how much of the field the quarterback could see. The cone needed to be positioned in the direction of the intended receiver (using the right analog stick) in order to throw a decent pass.
Why it should stay benched: In theory, the cone was a well-meaning but awful idea; in practice, it was a nightmare. Making the cone controllable via the thumbstick added another layer of complexity to an already intricate game, and it also showed the defense exactly where you were throwing the ball.
Better quarterbacks had wider cones (corresponding to broader fields of vision), but even they could not throw to someone outside the cone. If you tried, disaster awaited. It virtually ruined the game for players whose favorite teams had less-than-stellar QBs at the helm. Unless your man was a top-8 level quarterback, chances are you were going to throw a lot of bad passes and interceptions.
Are there any Madden features of yesteryear that make your Hall of Infamy? If you've got some good ones, or you want to take up the arduous task of defending the Vision Cone, let us know in the comments!