Madden 25 – Saying No … Maybe Wait and See

I cannot recall the last time that I didn’t purchase the yearly Madden roster update; I’m certain it has been forever and a day! Two weeks and a day into the release of the 25th anniversary release of Madden, I feel no remorse for not shelling out a few duckets to EA Sports; not even a twinge of doubt or uncertainty about missing out on a new football game.

A few years ago (back in 2009 to be exact) I famously decided to pass on NCAA Football 10. Surprisingly it was actually a difficult decision. Not to trivialize people with serious addictions, but purchasing the annual EA Sports franchise updates is an illness. I survived, which probably allowed me to enjoy NCAA Football 12 and to a lesser extent, NCAA Football 13.

In my opinion NCAA Football 13 was only marginally more interesting than the previous year’s update, so once again I decided to sit on the sidelines. I cannot imagine that EA Sports went all out making their newest PS3 version of NCAA Football compelling when they could be working their way out of various lawsuits.

Not to digress too much, but enough is pretty much enough, which has carried over into Madden. I may look towards a PS4 Madden 25 purchase, but that is still in the air. As it stands now, I can still play last year’s Madden 13 and be perfectly content. For now … until the PS4 Madden itch kicks in …

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Madden 13

Times have changed. Many moons ago I would have written a few pre anticipating Madden release articles, and of course the obligatory “it’s shipped!” an “it’s out of delivery!” and a “Madden has arrived” articles. Then I would have put in a few games and posted some early impressions.

First of all, Madden 13 (PS3) arrived late in the day; in fact I was out at the soccer fields coaching my 10 year-old son’s team when UPS or FedEx (I didn’t bother to check which one; yet again another sign of the times) threw the package along with the Ratchet & Clank Collection on the front door.

For now I decided to pass on the Vita game. I’m sure I will enjoy it, but honestly there is only a limited amount of time I have for gaming, much less playing football games. Case in point, I’m actually putting NCAA 13 up on eBay this weekend. I figure the Vita version can wait.

I sent a few minutes with Madden Ultimate Team (MUT), which is sort of my hidden passion, which I try to avoid as much as possible so I do not inadvertently throw chunks of money at virtual football cards. Unless I am missing something, it looks like EA has decided to start your team anew. I had a couple of rookie cards carry over from MUT 12 based on preordering Madden 13. And I have 5 rewards packs. I was too tired to see if my coins carried over, and I didn’t open the packs because I know my boys would like to see what cards I received.

I jumped back to the main menu and I played one quick game; first impressions were that graphics look much better and the new physics engine was convincing.

For anyone interested, I setup a calvertgames community (search calvertgames or CG). Feel free to join. I’m not really much of an online gamer which means I will probably not push for the Platinum this year, but at least wanted to create a community for my boys and their friends.

More to come later; just in time for Labor Day weekend.

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Madden 13 – EA Skimps On Vita Release

A few weeks ago I wrote about my disappointment in EA not supporting Cross Play Madden franchise saves; I know take a number, and go to the back of the bus. The problem here is that we are in a classic chicken and egg dilemma. Without strong sales numbers, EA will not invest in the Madden Vita franchise, and without solid features, gamers may decide to take a pass on the Vita version.

While I’m still very much on the fence about purchasing Madden for the Vita, I have (as usual) taken the plunge on a PS3 Madden 13 preorder. When it comes to the Vita, articles like this one cause me pause:

But from my conversation with Baker this week, I got the sense that Electronic Arts may be unwilling at this point to extend that investment to the Vita. Tiburon is heavily focused on delivering innovation in Madden’s console versions, and “there’s just no way,” Baker told me, for the handheld game to “keep total lockstep” with them.

“Unless you’re gonna throw, like, a tremendous amount of resources at (the handheld version) and try to keep them in sync,” he said, “it’s just not a realistic possibility at this point.”

It is great that the Vita is receiving a Madden 12.5 release, which will be the best version of Madden 12, but in the end, the Vita release is still best version of last year’s game. EA’s Vita Madden maiden voyage could be so much more if only EA was willing to take a little financial risk (easy for me to say) and properly invest in the franchise.

I could understand some of the physics constraints, or maybe even some franchise mode limitations, but I have to believe that with a proper budget and willingness on the part of EA to push the Vita forward, Madden could be a potential system seller for Sony’s fledgling handheld wonder. I also understand the pressure to have a Madden on the Vita, but shouldn’t it be done the right way? Even if that means delaying the release, skipping a year, or Sony providing some sort of R&D assistance. If there has to be an August release, God forbid going the FIFA route and just titling the first Vita release with a simple Madden moniker.

I’ll probably end up with the Vita version to help get the point across to EA that a proper football title will be supported by the Vita user base, but more importantly, I want to play Madden on the go. Somehow I managed to show some restraint with FIFA; so maybe that will also happen with Madden. Probably not …

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Madden 12, Madden 13, MUT, Andrew Luck

I said I wouldn’t do it – no MUT for me after all the temptation in Madden 10, when the Ultimate Team concept was first introduced. This stuff can be like any drug addiction; cash will go down the sinkhole at a rapid pace.

Ah, but in order to earn the Platinum for Madden 12, two trophies require the competition of 10 and 20 MUT games. So now I am slogging my way through the final trophy (currently at the 10 game mark). Looking at my team, the GA TX Falcons, I have a handful of platinum pack Hall of Fame players, some special addition ones, plenty of gold and silver cards, and some rubbish bronze addition cards. All that glitters is gold, right?

In order to keep using my Hall of Fame players, which were procured with the purchase of my ultra-rare (not really) super-secret (not so much), Hall of Fame edition (that’s what it’s called), I have to purchase contract cards. Not just a few, but a lot. These things cost coins that can be earned in the game, or with real life money. A typical 600 coin contract card may extend a Hall of Fame card 1-4 games, a gold card 4 games, a silver card 6-8, and a bronze card 10+.

You can see where this is going, right? Playing against the CPU, I typically earn 800-1100 coins per game. I can either spend a lot of time trying to whore the auctions, or try to work trades, or I could spend some real life money, or I could just not play my most valuable players.

I have chosen the route of not playing my most valuable players, which means I’m slogging through the last 10 games by choice. I know MUT is addicting, and I just don’t want to be an addict.

I would have to do some searches (here, purchase records, etc.) to confirm, but I’m pretty sure that with MUT 10 I game my team an injection of $10 (maybe less, but not more), which is when I said I’m not going to get addicted, spending money on virtual cards, and passed on playing MUT 11.

Here we are, trying to go Platinum with MUT and Madden 12. So far I have resisted the temptation to inject real world cash, but I’m tempted because I want to play with those Hall of Famer players, not a bunch of bench warmers. EA – sneaky bastards!

Madden 13
I decided to preorder Madden 13, and for my efforts Amazon is treating me well. $15 credit, release day delivery, an Andrew Luck card, and more.

Pre-order Madden NFL 13 and receive a $15 promotional credit

You will also get the Andrew Luck Future Stars Draft Pick Madden Ultimate Team Card for immediate use in Madden NFL 12. [… automatically unlocks the Andrew Luck Rookie Card for Madden Ultimate Team 13 …]

Pre-orders also receive the Amazon exclusive NFL legends Joe Gibbs and Lawrence Taylor for use in Madden Ultimate Team and the all-new Connected Careers mode.

Once I hear my ding-ding to finish off the Madden 12 Platinum, I’ll put aside MUT for this year, once again winning my battle with MUT EA demons.

PS: My boys want to spend some cash to get their Madden 12 Platinum (they need the MUT 80 rated deck one). And so it begins …

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Madden 13: Vita + PS3 No Cross Play Platform Saves

What a bummer reading that EA will continue a trend it started with FIFA of not support cross play platform saves with Madden 13.

I imagine Madden NFL 13 will be a solid football game on the go, but personally, I know I’m not going to have much interest in running a PS3 franchise and a Vita franchise. Adding to the woes of PlayStation pocket gamers is that when asked if a unified experience could come to next year’s Madden entry, a developer said that they’d see how this year’s Vita version did before investing in the option.

It’s like a Greek tragedy: this year’s version will do poorly because it doesn’t have the mode that EA would add if it did well.

The reality is that I will probably order the Vita version of Madden (in addition to the PS3 version that I already have on pre-order), but this is really just a damn shame. I understand that the franchise mode in the PS3 is ultra-complicated, but you would think that the developers behind the Vita could at least attempt to pull off what Sony did with MLB 12: The Show; bunch of lazy bastards!

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Now Playing (End of May Edition)

As summer starts to bloom, I finally decided to pick up Flower as part of the recent ThatGameCompany sale ($4.89 via PS+ discount). What a wonderful experience; when games become art, they really become immersive media, moving beyond the realm of typical game-playing sessions and evolving into said experience.

I haven’t spent a ton of time with it (too many other distractions as you can see from this post), but I would say that it is a stronger outing than their initial flOw, but not as emotionally captivating as their recent Journey outing. Wow; I’m becoming a softie in my old age.

Final Fantasy XIII (some XIII-2)
I swore to myself (seriously) and told my boys that I wouldn’t start XIII-2 until I finished the mainline FF XIII story. Two years after its initial release, I finally got around to doing the needful.

I’m not sure if I will actually Platinum FF XIII; I probably don’t have the time or strength of character to grind, grind, grind. With that said, I am still plugging along and having a good time with it. At some point I will have to put it down and fully focus of XIII-2; until then, I hope to pick up another “you have put too much time into this game” trophy or two.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale
Speaking of RPGs, Daggerdale was just released on the PSN. It is the rare purchase for me to actually pick something up day one at full price; in this case $14.99.

I’m a sucker for fun hack-and-slash experiences, and this one carries the full backing of the Dungeons & Dragons 4E rules system.

I’m only a couple of hours in, so I can’t really comment on the game play mechanics, but playing with the human warrior is pretty much what I expected. Pick up a quest, smash barrels for treasure, fight some bad guys (goblins and skeletons so far), rinse and repeat. I’m at level 2, and have only died once by stupidly falling off a high ledge while fighting a skeleton. I forced Mr. Bones off the ledge and thought I would follow; to my death.

Madden 12
I have been playing this one a little here and there in order to satisfy my football gaming jones, but mostly to finish it out and pick up the Platinum. I only need the 2 Ultimate Team (10 and 20) games played and I will score a new shiny. The truth is that I swore I would stay away from Ultimate Team so that I wouldn’t be tempted to throw real money at virtual cards. For the most part that has worked, but I did have one weak moment; money was sitting in my wallet, so I did flip some for a Gold pack. Yes, I’m weak.

For the most part Madden is a super easy Platinum. Over the holiday weekend I finished off a couple of the trophies with help from my two oldest boys – yes, we “gamed” (err cheated) the system by turning down the CPU AI to be weak as a kitten, but we had a good time playing, which is what life (and gaming) is all about. Speaking of quality family gaming …

LittleBigPlanent 2
I haven’t played this one is a while, but it’s a great game to play with my boys (all three – 13, 9.11, and 5). LBP provides infinite possibilities, is fun creative outlet, hilarious at times (watching each other die or do otherwise stupid tricks), etc.

Speaking of LBP, I’m still anxiously looking forward to the Vita version.

Waiting Game …
As I wait on my “Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland Limited Edition: Grand Finale Set” NIS America store, to arrive today or tomorrow, I keep looking at my backlog of RPGs and shake my head. I’ll never get to them all, but it is a nice problem to have. At the same time, I start looking forward to the next round of Gust instant classics (i.e. Atelier Ayesha). I’m hopeless …

Same for Gravity Rush (Vita – June 12); it has received extremely positive reviews, but not sure that it will be a system seller or marketed as such. I’ll be happy with a quality game that provides some new Vita experiences.

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FIFA 12 Vita – No PS3 Save Transfer Capability

WTF is wrong with EA? I’m sure there is a very valid and reasonable explanation for EA not offering Vita-PS3-Vita game save transfer capabilities. EA is not rushing FIFA 12 to market quickly, delivering a sub-par handheld FIFA outing in order to capitalize on early Vita release opportunities.

EA must really care about their core target audience, and are showing a willingness to do anything to get the Vita version of FIFA 12 in the hands of demanding FIFA fans – because EA cares.

It would be a terrible precedent if all the first generation Vita sports franchises (looking at MLB: The Show, FIFA, and Madden) do not offer the ability to switch from console to portable gaming via game save transfers just to make an early release date. Thankfully MLB: The Show gets it and allows gamers to do just that:

Then there’s the hotly anticipated PS Vita version, which will mirror virtually every game feature, mode, and mechanic from the PS3 version and displays graphics that sparkle on the system’s 5’’ OLED screen. You’ll also be able to share your PS3 save files to the cloud, then pull them down on PS Vita and pick up your progress seamlessly.

Of course the San Diego (SCE) team behind the MLB: The Show franchise continues to push the boundaries on sports franchises. Following the same link from above, we learn:

… ultimately thought it made the most sense to recreate the entire PS3 experience on PS Vita. The Vita’s powerful enough to do that. So every single feature this year, from MLB 09, 10, 11, and 12 are all in the PS Vita version.

… research shows that handheld players play for 15 to 30 minutes, tops. We give you the ability to fast-play through a game by cutting out a lot of the presentation, the camera cuts, to shorten the length of games.

Unlike EA, Sony is going balls out with its franchise. I understand that time to market is important, but color me very disappointed with EA’s approach to FIFA 12 for the Vita.

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Longest Easy Trophy Ever

I find it pretty amazing that it took EA so damn long to patch Madden so that we could finally earn the ‘This one is easy’ trophy.

Fixed issue where previous MUT fans could not earn the “This one is easy” achievement/trophy for creating their MUT team in Madden NFL 12.

Not sure what else to say other than about f’ing time this was corrected. The jaded gamer in me thinks that EA held back the patch for this one in order to wait until the season was at least half over, to less the impact of ‘completed’ games being thrown on the second hand market. I cannot think of any other excuse to wait so damn long to offer a fix.

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Madden 12 – Not So ‘Easy’ Trophy Bug

When I put Madden 12 in for the first time, and entered Ultimate Team Mode (MUT), I was presented with a message about my super, awesome, ultimate, top-shelf, Hall of Fame edition surprise pack of all 99 rated past Madden cover athletes. Good stuff all around because all this was mine, just for ponying up extra duckets for the Hall of Fame edition of Madden 12.

For my troubles, and by troubles I really mean doing absolutely jack shit, I got an immediate Trophy ding earning ‘This One is Hard’ because my MUT team was over the 80+ rating threshold.

Gold Trophy goodness, but I feel a little dirty. Not to worry because the good folks at EA felt compelled to automatically import my MUT from yesteryear – my Madden 10 GA TX Falcons. Ah how I forgot all about you, but not for long.

It seems that EA has included a nice little bug that prevents prior MUT owners from earning the Bronze ‘This One is Easy’ Trophy for creating a MUT team.

So let’s get this out in the open. I played Madden 10 MUT, but I did not play MUT in Madden 11 because I did not want to be tempted to spend money on ‘virtual’ football cards. I love the concept of MUT, but that is an entirely different article, so before I start digressing, let’s move back to the situation at hand.

After entering MUT for the first time, and getting the before mentioned Trophy ding I noticed that I didn’t get a second Trophy ding for creating a MUT. So I exited out of MUT back to the main menu, and entered MUT again.

This time I was prompted with some info about how grateful EA was that I was returning to MUT. For my loyalty I was awarded some coins, maybe even a card or two, and I was given three free cards for playing the Madden 12 demo. More importantly, I was told that my previous MUT team was being imported, and because EA is so great, they were going to include some BS about when my MUT was established. Thanks, but WTF is my ‘This One is Easy’ Trophy?

I do not see a way to create a new team, delete my old team, start over, or any other nonsense. I’m not about to dick around deleting profiles, trying to establish a new EA ID or create an alternate PSN account just to work out EA’s fucking laziness and lack of accountability when it comes to quality control and customer service.

And why should I at this point just because EA felt compelled to import my previous MUT team without warning me that I was going to be up shit creek when it comes to getting a Platinum Trophy.

Everything I have read indicates that this is a problem with the PS3 and 360 – so it is not as if EA has some random issue that only a few users will encounter. Instead of awarding loyal EA customers, and prior MUT players, EA has decided to bend us over and ram a rod up our collective rears. Of course the good folks at the EA help desk will not acknowledge the issue.

I could go on, but why bother? Just another reason that EA needs some real NFL competition – can’t wait for their exclusive license to expire.

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The Return of Happy Madden Day?

In the not too distant past, Madden Day was a big deal, but these days, not so much. Seriously, I have not overheard one tidbit about Madden in the office. Maybe I am just out of the loop. Maybe I don’t hang out in the right online spaces. Maybe it is just a sign that I am becoming (or dare I say have become) an old fart and everyone that use to play Madden has moved on to ‘real life’ matters – family being the primarily extracurricular time sinkhole (err … if you are a gaming mom or dad, you know what I mean).

So the Madden 12 Hall of Fame Edition is set to show up on my door today thanks to release day shipping from Amazon. For my extra money ($89 vs. $59 for the ‘standard’ edition) I am not sure that I am actually getting extra value unless I spend a lot of time with Madden Ultimate Team (MUT). Or maybe I will get that super rare, limited edition 18k gold Faulk card. Probably not, but I do get a $20 Amazon promotional credit, so it is almost as if I paid $10 for the super-premium extra special platinum’ish MUT pack, a (not 18k gold) exclusive Faulk card, and whatever else Amazon threw in for my pre-order dollars.

Soccer practice tonight and tomorrow night, so that is that family time thing I was referencing above. Thankfully this is a long weekend (Happy early Labor Day) so I should get in a little Madden 12 love later this week.

If you are a believer, Happy Madden Day!

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Now Playing – The Random Trophy Stuff Edition

I continue on my no longer so torrid tour of Mel B, but with the kids’ soccer I am only hitting one or two workouts a week.

While Mel B may not be the best Move implementation (there are a handful of exercises that will not register correctly with the camera + Move), Sports Champions seems to be really solid. After putting this one aside for a long time, I returned to it in order to get more Move satisfaction. Pretty decent game, enjoyable by the whole family; Trophies are a complete grind.

I finished up Sam and Max (episodes 4 and 5) this week. Mostly because they were sitting on my HDD waiting to be played, partially because I may let my PS+ subscription expire in a few months, sort of because the series is less stress and semi-entertaining. And I would be lying to you if I did not say the Trophies were an easy bonus. Sam and Max episodes 1 – 5 were free earlier this year for PS+ subscribers.

Pixiljunk Shooter – First one; highly addicting, fun shooter + puzzle combo. In this case I have to say that the Trophies add to the overall ‘experience’ – I could just blow through the game, but how would that be fun? I had to get some help for the ‘Coin Collector Trophy’ – for me it was much more luck than skill.

Not to digress too much, but I think Trophies are kind of like those collection JRPG games. You either are into them or you are not. When Trophies were first introduced, I could care less; however now I am card carrying Trophy whore. To me they add a little extra excitement, as in the case of Pixiljunk Shooter; these are actually fun to try to unlock. For other games, some of the Trophies are just meat grinders. These types I can pass on, and typically do.

Just got the Platinum Trophy for Madden 2011 this morning. Yes, I’m still playing the current (old) one. I have become a certified Trophy whore. I decided to ‘finish’ up the game before the new version is release on Tuesday. Technically Madden 2012 is already out for those that spent the extra cash on the EA Season Ticket crap; obviously I did not.

Speaking of those Trophies, the ‘Pick Up 6’ Trophy, which requires you to win a ‘Fight for the Fumble’ in the end zone was a major PITA. It was not going to happen for me during the course of normal games, and while I attempted some ‘cheats’ to make it easier, I just could not close off this final Trophy until I stumbled across this video. Using this technique it only took me two attempts to close off my third Platinum Trophy.

Looking Forward …
Georgia takes on Boise St. September 3 in the Georgia Dome, so I really need to jump back into NCAA Football 2012. It has been years since I was successful at getting some decent value for my money out of two football titles. With three kids plus work, I bet I am screwed.

I have several games on pre-order including the before mentioned Madden 12, F1 2011, FIFA 12, and the ICO Collection. September is awfully full.

I am also considering looking at WKC II, although I have no earthly idea why because I never got very far into WKC:I. I guess I got distracted doing the needful.

We will wrap up with Kung Fu Rider. I think this one will suck, although I hope to get a few hours of family fun out of it for my efforts.

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Did I just do that?

Did I really just preorder Madden 12 Hall of Fame Edition with free guaranteed release day arrival? Yep; amazon must love me.

I tried to convince myself that I would skip Madden this year. I swore that I could not play NCAA Football and Madden titles in the same year; time has moved on … too old for dual football games, not enough hours in the day, and all that jazz.

I guess I was just fooling myself …

The nice thing about the pre-order special is that $20 credit, which makes this Hall of Fame Edition a $10 MSRP premium over the standard version. Please amazon offered up the following bonus:

… receive the Amazon exclusive All Rookies Team and All Sophomores Team.

[… coupled with the Hall of Fame bonuses …]

Madden Ultimate Team – Receive the most prestigious Platinum Pack yet, featuring a combination of 13 NFL Hall of Famers and former Madden NFL cover athletes. All cards feature ratings from each player’s most productive season in the NFL.

I loved the concept of Ultimate Team in Madden 10, but did not touch it in Madden 11 because I was worried about wasting too much money on virtual packs of cards, and I did not think there was any possible way for me to keep up with all the school age and college kids. To be fair, I did not really check out Madden 11 Ultimate Team to see if it had any substantial improvements over Madden 11.

It looks like I will be checking out Ultimate Team in Madden 12; if nothing else, my day one packs should be on par with all the kids that invest money straight away on special packs and cards, and have time to burn flipping decks.

EA Sports Season Ticket
Of course the next question you may be asking, is this dumb bloke going to do the needful and pony up $24.99 for EA Sports Season Ticket service?

Right now the answer is no. There was once a time and a place, where I would have done so, but I think that moment has passed me by.

Then again, before the days of amazon, I would shell out an extra $9.99 (or whatever) for release day arrival, and as mentioned above, I did pay premium for the Hall of Fame version of Madden 12. So I have shown signs of hopelessness before.

I don’t normally pay for extra sports DLC, so it would take a lot of spending to make up for that $25, even at a 20% discount rate. In fact, I did not pay for any DLC in Madden 10 (other than maybe $5-7 on Ultimate Team Packs) or Madden 11.

I think the introduction of EA Sports Season Ticket also implies to me that Sony’s PS+ service will be offering fewer EA Sports DLC discounts. How many monthly services can one subscribe to and receive a modest ROI?

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NCAA Football – Week 1 Impressions

After a week of time with the game, the one thing I have realized is what I have already described; under the covers the game may have moved forward with subtle AI improvements, but to the casual eye NCAA Football 12 is light years behind other franchises such as FIFA (overall experience; career development), MLB: The Show (presentation; gameplay), and even EA’s own Madden (presentation).

Let’s face it, looks are everything; from a casual gaming standpoint the graphics just don’t hold up. I am not sure how best to describe the graphics engine, it just looks dated. I think so much more could be done on the field, with the animations, and with the overall “experience” – stadiums, crowds, sidelines, etc. The developers looked like they put a lot of time into all the pregame activities – in my opinion that time could have been better spent adding more individual player animations.

I understand that the 360 version looks better than the flat and stale PS3 version; apparently that has been the case for years. Look at MLB: The Show and it is obvious more can be done in this regard on the PS3.

The presentation sucks; plain and simple. Everything about it – commentary, sideline reporting, replays, atmosphere, and so on are lackluster at best. If EA spent the time to overhaul the presentation, I think the game would really hold gamers (casual and simulation fans) attention for the long haul.

Of course graphics are not everything (contrary to what I just wrote); gameplay actually matters if a game is going to hold up and have any lasting power. The only thing I wonder right now is if NCAA Football 12 will hold up past the release of Madden 12. Too soon to tell, but over the years I have a tendency to concentrate on one game over the other; with Madden winning out over the last 3-4 releases, which coincides with the purchase of my Falcons season tickets.

I have not touched online gaming yet; doubt I will as none of my friends have bothered to pick up NCAA Football 12, and I hate playing random games with strangers. Same for online Dynasty; soon enough on that one in order to unlock one of the Trophies. I have also not had time to jump into a Road for Glory session, which is probably just the old Race for the Heisman or Campus Legend mode renamed and tagged as a new feature.

I have spent several hours with the Dynasty mode. I started my career as an offensive coordinator at Mississippi St. In our first year we went 11-1, winning 10 in a row after losing in the closing seconds to Auburn in Week 2. Next up is the SEC Championship game against 11-1 (9-0) Texas A&M. What? Yes, I realigned into a SEC Super Conference (Texas & Memphis to the West; Clemson and Texas A&M to the East) since I am a Trophy whore, and a Trophy or two was on offer just for doing the needful.

Did I mention that we beat Alabama, however a 1 loss Alabama team still managed to end up 4th, while the SEC West best Mississippi St. Bulldogs could only manage 5th?

Obviously the polls (after years and years and years) are still broken, which is really unacceptable at this point. If nothing else players should have an option to override anything that is just ridiculous. In real life everyone knows a strong team can (usually, with some luck) overcome a Week 2 loss. Alabama should not have been able to hold position over Mississippi St. after taking it on the chin in Week 11.

I am enjoying Dynasty mode from a coaching perspective; i.e. just calling offensive plays. It is kind of interesting watching play action, draws, and screens because they are very much indicative of my in-game play experience. Play actions look to be really hit or miss; hopefully a patch will offer some improvements. Draws work great, when called at the right time; i.e. if the defense expects a pass or is presenting a heavy outside rushing attack. Screen plays seem completely broken; when I am controlling the QB, I could understand wrecking the play by releasing the ball too early or too late, but watching the AI controlled simulation unfold shows me just how busted screens are in this game.

I am not sure about the Super Sim feature; certainly progresses the games really quickly, but time of possession seems way out of balance, and the actual statistics deserve a second look. Then again, how different is that compared to games where I control the action on the field? Like years passed, most CPU possessions are really short, ending in a bomb that I cannot stop, or a long TD rush because I cannot close down gaps, or worse yet, ending in some sort of miracle completion, as a pass bounces off the back of my CB, and somehow into the arms of the AI receiver surrounded by three DBs. Yep, that animation is still (unfortunately) in the game.

Unlike past years, as I play with the sliders, I am seeing a few decent 10+ play AI controlled drives, but these are the exceptions. The sliders for some penalty settings just do not work (offensive or defensive pass interference), while some work too well (off sides, holding). Patch please.

EA has also given Dynasty fans the ability to pay real duckets to improve recruiting. $24.99 for the full pack? No thanks.

I love the option offense; works like a charm, especially with a team like Mississippi St. I like the control over the RBs, although I swear (usually in a loud outburst) that the AI cheats and comes out of nowhere to close down a once wide open gap.

I have read that there is a custom playbook glitz, although I have not come across it. Not that UGA would ever do it in real life (not SEC’ish, not enough quality HBs, offense not run by a scrambling QB), but I added the Wishbone to the Dawgs playbook, mainly to run the triple option. It didn’t hurt that the game offers Trophies for a custom playbook and for have a FB score a TD out of a triple option. Besides, I just like to run option plays.

This article seems mostly negative, and to a certain degree that is the case, but NCAA Football 12 also offers up a certain fun factor. Maybe it is because I have been on the sidelines for a while, or maybe college football just holds a certain appeal. If the developers can patch in some gameplay improvements I can see me playing this one deep into the fall, but otherwise I expect that the wind will eventually blow in Madden’s direction.

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Madden 12: Hall of Fame – $30 Premium

What makes the ‘limited’ edition of Madden 12 (AKA ‘Hall of Fame Edition’) so gosh darn special, with a going rate of $89.99 vs. $59.99 over the standard edition? EA is only going to produce 125K copies (presumable per platform – 360 and PS3), so it is ‘limited’ and therefore collectable. PlayStation LifeStyle has the scoop …

Premium bronze, foil embossed cover featuring Marshall Faulk

Full version of Madden NFL 12 video game [Seriously. Is the feature list so short, and so embarrassing, that EA has to actually call out that the ‘limited’ edition will feature the actual game? And a full version of the game to boot! Joy …]

Autographed Panini Card – “Madden NFL and Panini, the world leader in published collectables, have teamed up to create the ultimate Madden NFL trading card featuring 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Marshall Faulk. Each copy of the Hall of Fame Edition will include one of four exclusive Marshall Faulk trading cards, each hand-signed by Faulk. One solid, 18k gold autographed card will be randomly inserted into one Xbox 360® and one PlayStation®3 copy of the Hall of Fame Edition. The lucky recipients of these two cards will have one of the most valuable cards in Panini history.”

Exclusive Madden Ultimate Team Platinum Pack – “The perfect combination of Madden NFL, fantasy football, and trading cards comes to life in Madden NFL Ultimate Team. The Hall of Fame Edition provides a Madden Ultimate Team experience like never before with the most prestigious Platinum Pack yet, featuring a combination of 13 NFL Hall of Famers and former Madden NFL cover athletes, including: Marshall Faulk, Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson, Eddie George, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Ray Lewis, Shaun Alexander, Vince Young, Larry Fitzgerald, Troy Polamalu and Drew Brees. All cards feature ratings from each player’s most productive season in the NFL and are fully renewable with contract extensions, which is sure to make them some of the most sought after cards in Ultimate Team history.”

I wonder how well this thing well sells; Madden Ultimate Team fans may pick this up, but is it worth a $30 premium? I do not see what is so special about this version to warrant a purchase. More goodies please …

Watch me purchase it; just because I can. Pot, kettle, black.

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Christmas Gaming Treats

As a kid I always looked forward to getting new videogames in December (birthday and Christmas). I always held out hope that I was going to get a few new games, and they just had to be better than decent because I knew that my gaming library was not going to increase during the upcoming year.

These days I just buy what I want, usually via pre-order, or I watch a game, waiting for the inevitable price drop before finally indulging myself. Either way, my gaming comes to me when I want, and if I happen to get a dud, I can flip it on eBay. No worries, no fuss.

This year, thanks to Santa (and of course my family), I have enough games to keep me occupied until December 2011, or until I decide to pick up the next great, have to play it now spectacular, super special gaming extravaganza. Something along those lines; call me a sucker for pre-release build up hype.

The Gaming Treasure Trove:

  • Batman Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Greatest Hits. I have always wanted to give this game a go, but for whatever reason, I never did.
  • FIFA 11 (Under $30 during Amazon Thanksgiving sales). I wrote a few weeks ago that I have been playing the shit out of FIFA 10. I love the FIFA 10 experience; the virtual pro is a very immersive experience. I am going to stay with FIFA 10 for the rest of 2010 to see how many Trophies I can pick up before flipping FIFA 10 on eBay, and then I will start my FIFA 11 journey. I can only hope that FIFA 11 is as fun and entertaining as FIFA 10 has been over the last six weeks.
  • God of War 3 (Under $35 during Amazon Thanksgiving sales). Because one cannot have enough God of War.
  • God of War Collection Greatest Hits ($10 during Amazon Thanksgiving sales). Are you kidding me? $10 for high-def updates of two highly rated PS2 game? Complete with a gaggle of Trophies for my gaming pleasure. I never played the PS2 versions, but thanks to the PSP God of War games, I am a converted fan.
  • Gran Turismo 5 Prima Essential Track Guide*
  • Rapala Pro Bass Fishing 2010. Some different. Something for the Move.

* OK, so this little spiral bound book is not game, but I figured I would include it in the overall haul. It is getting a lot of flack in the Amazon review listings, however it is exactly what it states – a track guide. If you are looking for a traditional cheat (er, strategy guide) book, then the Prima guide is not your cup of tea.

Maybe all these new games will have an added bonus; getting my PlayStation Rewards status to nudge a little for the first time since the week after Thanksgiving!

Looking Forward To …
With all these new gaming Christmas experiences, plus the current backlog of goodies, is there anything left on my radar?

  • Little Big Planet 2. Of course I never played the first one, but everyone says LBP is a must have experience, which is fun for the whole family.
  • MLB 11: The Show. See FIFA 10 + FIFA 11; I have until March to get my money’s worth from MLB 10.
  • Need for Speed Hot Pursuit. I want to try the newest NFS title, but I am going to wait for a lower price. Plus I still have GT5 to keep me occupied, and F1 2010 is not getting any love.
  • Madden and NCAA Football. Yeah, I know, let’s don’t go there yet.

There are probably other gems lurking out there, but right now I actually do not have anything on pre-order or a “watch list.” OK, just kidding. I have the HD update of the ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection on pre-order. But other than that one …

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