American Football eh? It’s not real football is it? Isn’t it just a 'so-called' sport made up of a bunch of big Yankee sissies all wearing too much padding and shouting a lot of baffling numbers and made-up words at each other? In order to either confirm or smash these preconceptions (and our anti-‘jock’ prejudices) SPOnG put the latest version of Electronic Arts’s Madden on Wii to the test.
Let’s see if EA’s mega-selling franchise (in the States at least) can manage to charm and entertain a defiantly non-sporty videogamer. Don’t get me wrong, this SPOnG reviewer loves certain videogame sports titles, with the latest iterations in the Pro Evo
and Virtua Tennis
series always hovering up near the top of my current top five most played games. However, in real life I am personally more inclined towards slackness, indolence or, when I can be arsed, non-team-based sporting pursuits such as snowboarding, skateboarding and power drinking. I have also, for the record, never taken steroids.
Most intriguingly, the new Madden
game has been specifically designed to work with the Wii’s motion-sensing Wii-mote and nunchuck controllers. When EA first announced its plans to develop its impressive roster of sports titles from the ground up for the Wii (so, hopefully, no more sloppy mishaps and ports, as in the past), starting with Madden NFL 07
, the news caught this reviewer’s eye. In fact, it made me stop and think, for the first time in my life, that I might actually be interested in playing a videogame version of this baffling sport.
It struck me that if the Wii version of Madden
could fairly realistically re-create the thrilling experience of being a hulking 18-stone quarterback (QB), crashing down a brightly-painted football field while shoving my opponents out of the way and lobbing the ball to the bloke at the other end (the ‘catcher’?) and then taking a bow as a bevy of scantily-clad cheerleaders did a special little dance just for me, then this might, just might
Leaving to one side, for the time being, the incontestable FACT that releasing an American Football and not a proper
football title at the Wii launch in the UK is both a huge commercial risk and just plain daft, let’s get on with seeing if it’s actually any good or not.
Luckily, for ‘Mercan Football virgins like myself, there’s a very good ‘Learn Madden
’ tutorial built into the game, so any initial fears of having to do a load of background reading up on the rules of the game before I even picked up the nunchuk and Wii-mote, were soon forgotten about. After having asked a number of American friends and colleagues to brief me on the basics of the game I have to admit to still being pretty much none the wiser, so it was comforting to know that the game catered well for those of us not aware of what we’ve been missing all these years.
Pleasingly, it was at this early point in the game, the tutorial stage, when the game instantly came to life. Literally in my hands! Within around twenty minutes or so I had a rudimentary understanding of how to play Madden
, and had also had a lot of fun learning the basic controls. To pass the ball you flip the Wii-mote back, in a slightly camp John Inman-like manner, and then select (using the directional pad on the controller) the person who you want to pass it to. Then you simply flick the WiiMote forward to pass, the harder you flick the further the ball travels. Easy. You can then make the guy at the other end jump up to grab the ball in the air by throwing your arms in the air. Woww! Instantly fun!
When running down the field you can ‘juke’ (move to one side quickly) by flicking the nunchuck left or right. You can also ‘stiff arm’ (push an opponent) by flicking the Wii-mote in your right hand left or right. When defending you can quickly shove out both controllers in front of you in order to hit members of the offense side hurtling down the field towards you. The kicking controls are a bit weirder and much less intuitive, as they involve having to flick the Wii-mote up to execute a kick. But you kind of get used to it after a few goes, although this is the one area of the game’s controls that really does need more thought given to it for future versions of the game.
Minor gripes with kicking aside, after a little practise with these controls it all soon becomes almost second nature and leaves me itching to get stuck into a game.