The 7 lamest Madden NFL innovations

Above: We’ll give ya points for the eye candy, but this is still excruciating torture

What it was: A hideous 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 crappy camera angles.

Why it was lame: Nothing ever made us want to get through halftime faster than the first incarnation of Madden’s Extra Point halftime show. Heck, we 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 PACKERS………clashed with……the………PHILADELPHIA EAGLES………Sunday……” ) taking you through a few stats from randomly selected games, this time with no highlights.

We get that the Madden gang was trying to make us feel like we were watching TV, but when the finished product was so poor, they should’ve just shelved the thing until it was ready for prime time – which, by the way, it still isn’t a year later.

3) EA Sports Radio with Tony Bruno (Madden 05)

Above: In real life, Tony Bruno’s “Into the Night” show is great. But it’s also new every night

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 was lame: With sports talk radio dominating American airwaves, it was no surprise when Madden added a radio show. After all, following your team through the media made a lot of sense. And, to be fair, it worked pretty well at the beginning. Tony would somehow be up to speed with your team’s record, and would do interviews with coaches and players, and take phone calls from fans to answer trivia questions. He even gave props to us once when we completed a perfect season.

The problem, naturally, was that there’s pretty much no way to keep that going for long without getting repetitive or out of date.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 don’t 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 ordinary voice work is even in Madden 11.

2) Vision Cone (Madden 06)

Above: Ice cream cones are good. This is the other kind of cone. The bad kind

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 was lame: You thought this was going to be Number 1, didn’t you? 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. Comparing the size of superstar Tom Brady’s cone to that of, say, average (at best) QB Joey Harrington was an embarrassment to everyone involved (including the writer of this sentence).

1) Ring Building (Madden 08)

Above: What does your custom-made “I’m never ever going to have sex so I’ve given up trying” tag look like?

What it was:Awful as the vision cone was, it didn’t cost you a massive pile of actual real-world cash and shout to the world that you had no life. That’s the exclusive specialty of our #1 entry. EA teamed up with jeweler Josten’s, 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 was lame: 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, it took a substantial amount of time and effort to get to the point where your in-game ring was complete (we’re guessing well over 50 hours and a ton of tough-to-do accomplishments). 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? You’d be giving off massive nerd vibes, 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.

We’ve never seen a real person wearing one of them, and would be shocked if anyone ever went the whole nine yards and got one. And if you did? Heaven help you, you’re the kind of super hardcore player we wrote this article for. See you on the gridiron.

Nov 25, 2010

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