Gamer’s Hangover 08.16.04

Madden vs. ESPN â┚¬” A Comparison

Okay, so now Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve had a chance to play both ESPN NFL 2K5 and Madden 2005 and, since itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s MY dead horse and I can beat it as much as I want, I thought Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d give a blow-by-blow (pardon the joke) comparison of the two sports franchises as my service to you â┚¬Â¦ and to avoid having to report stuff like Nintendo DS rants or PS3 price rumors or â┚¬Å”Anonymous Bland MMORPG Goes Gold!â┚¬Â That sort of stuff wears thin after a while. And, just to be vigorous, Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll use the Games official ratings categories to base my comparisons.

Modes

Madden has really stepped up itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Franchise mode in the last couple of years. I thought last yearâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Owner Mode was a good start, but not quite up to the hype. The improvements for this yearâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s iteration, while largely unspoken, I think have really brought it up to where itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s worthy of the hype. News reports, talk shows, player emotional models. Hey, maybe itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s stuff thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s been done in some form before, but itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s all never been done at once before, and never quite this well.

But ESPN has The CribTM right? Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s cool. And they still have the sheer awesomeness that is First Person FootballTM. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m not kidding when I say that Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m looking forward to the day that we can have 11-on-11 games online, with everybody playing a different position, including offensive linemen, in First Person FootballTM. Not to steal from Bill Simmons, but this NEEDS to happen.

The problem is that â┚¬Â¦ Madden is really taking care of the core audience. ESPN is breaking new ground but while theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re exploring the frontier of what can be done, Madden is really improving the core aspects of the game in terms of franchise modes and in-game controls. They may all have the same modes, but there is an advantage to be had in gameplay, and Madden has it.

Advantage: Madden

Graphics

And weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re back to the fundamental difference between the EA games and the ESPN games: Graphical philosophies. EA blurs things around the edges so that they look phenomenal at a distance, but not so good up-close. ESPN sharpens things so that they look a little less phenomenal (but still really good) at a distance but they look fabulous up close.

If this were all, ESPN would walk away with it, but the devil is in the details. EA uses more video capture for the tertiary parts of the game, giving it a far more polished look than ESPN. Also, while the players look good, and the in-game crowd is superior to Madden, the ESPN figures not directly involved in the game look a bit â┚¬Â¦ blocky. There. I said it. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m mostly thinking of their virtual Chris Berman, who looks a couple of Mooreâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Law iterations old, if you get my geek-reference.

All in all, and I really hate to say this, Madden is the better looking game.

Advantage: Madden

Sound

Letâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s face it: Both sets of commentary are atrocious. Madden can only get a slight edge here because the voices are more recognizable.

As for in-game sounds, Madden seems to have more lifelike crowd noise, but they get dinged for the annoying and seemingly random artillery shots after a home touchdown. Are they trying to shoot down UAVs or something? However, as for on-field noise, ESPN is way ahead for nothing other than the player trash talk. Especially in First Person Football mode, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s just one more thing that immerses you into the game.

Advantage: ESPN

Control

At first I, being a naturally biased individual, wanted to ding Madden for the â┚¬Å”unnecessarily complexâ┚¬Â pre-snap controls of the latest version, but thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s tantamount to admitting that I donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t understand the new controls yet.

Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m a huge fan of more control, even as stability wanes, and Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll admit to not being at the skill level to know when to bring my safety up to double team the receiver instead of laying back in zone coverage. Even as Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m struggling to get my mind and fingers around the new controls (calling a bump-and-run coverage as opposed to accidentally making my linebacker draw an offsides penalty) I have to admit that I like the idea of that level of defensive control, especially since the advent of hot routes and the offensive PlaymakerTM function.

And I also have to admit to liking the Playmaker option, for no other reason than to change which way I want to run before the play starts and without tipping off the defense with an audible. As for actual in-play controls, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a wash. Everything is so similar nowadays that itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s almost a given that theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll play the same.

Advantage: Madden

Replayability

Okay, Madden has the kick-ass Franchise mode. ESPN has The CribTM and Celebrity Challenges and the ESPN Classic scenarios and First Person FootballTM and a pretty good franchise mode itself.

Above and beyond the normal core fansâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ playing habits, I just think ESPN gives a little more reason to keep coming back, if just to earn enough to buy that last game-ball for the Boom Boom Room in your Crib.

Advantage: ESPN

Appeal Factor

The converse of what I said in the Modes section is this: I think ESPN tries to do more to appeal to a broader audience. You have normal gameplay to sate the mean. You have a good franchise mode to satisfy the sim geeks. You have The CribTM and the associated challenges to bring in non-hardcore players. And finally, you have First Person FootballTM (did I mention that Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m big on this?) to stick a hook in the lip of the ultra-hardcore fans and reel us in.

Advantage: ESPN

Addictiveness

Question: Which game are you going to stay up later playing?
Answer: Yes.

Advantage: Push

Balance

I originally thought this to be a push, since both games seem to be pretty balanced in terms of the ability to run versus pass and both have similar actual difficulty versus difficulty setting. However, I was reminded of two very important things. First, ESPN allows you to customize the difficulty of the game. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m not talking about just setting the difficulty level, you can adjust the assistance you get in almost every aspect of the game, from run offense to pass defense to likelihood of penalties. Most of us will probably never use it, but most of us will probably never use the uber-control of the defensive assignments in Madden either, but that doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t matter. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s there. Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s all that matters.

Second: ESPN has the VIP file. No longer do you have to play the oppressive CPU. You can play your buddy, even if he isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t there. You can play people you donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t even know, as long as you have their VIP file. I can only imagine that the folks at ESPN are going to release more of these nuggets of joy as the year progresses, so that we can know what itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s like to play other celebrities, or NFL players, or NFL coaches, et cetera.

In short: ESPN gives you more options.

Advantage: ESPN

Originality

Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m running into a problem here. I canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t really rate this section without getting into points Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve already made. Madden has the immersive franchise mode and the improved control on both sides of the ball, before and after the snap. ESPN has First Person FootballTM, The CribTM, the Celebrity Challenges, and the ESPN Classic games. Which set really took the most imagination?

Three letters: V. I. P.

Advantage: ESPN

So there you have it. Winning 5-3-1 is ESPN NFL 2K5 over Madden 2005. Madden is the slicker looking game, and it does have the best franchise mode out there, but across the board, I just think ESPN is the better game. It has more to offer casual fans and it has more to offer hardcore NFL fans. If it has a weakness, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s that it doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t cater as much to the mainstream football video-game fans (which is set of fans completely independent of hardcore NFL fans) as much as Madden, although charging less than half the price as Madden goes a long way towards forgiving the foibles.

Now if Madden came out with 22-man online first person play â┚¬Â¦.

Sometimes A Fantasyâ┚¬Â¦.

So, before the Great Online Schism of 2004, I signed up for a fantasy football game hosted by folks at the website I wrote for back then. Everything that happened happened, and I completely forgot about the league â┚¬Â¦ until last week, which was fortunate, because our LIVE online draft was scheduled for yesterday. Now, I was a little apprehensive about the league, given the events of the last month, but knowing that the VAST majority of writers on either side of the IP/411 fence hold absolutely no animosity towards the other writers, I went ahead and logged in for the draft â┚¬Â¦ and discovered that I had gotten the #1 pick.

At that point, any ideas of sitting out of this league disappeared faster than a USA Basketball lead.

So, what does the wise fantasy football player, faced with the first overall pick in the league draft, and a rabid Chiefs fan to boot, do with that first pick? Now, the wise fantasy football player knows that team allegiance has NO place in fantasy football. It keeps you from making wise draft and roster moves, it sets you up to be taken in trades, and if your favorite team lands in the tank that season, you have to suffer through double the anguish as your fantasy team heads south in the standings as well.

HOWEVERâ┚¬Â¦

The wise fantasy football player must also realize that the Kansas City Chiefs were top offense in the league last year, allegiance or not. And this is a team that is returning 10 of 11 starters, the only change being at Right Tackle when John Tait limped (literally. Heâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s having groin issues) to Chicago for more money.

So I ask again, what does the wise fantasy football player do with the first overall pick in his leagueâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s draft?

Select Priest Holmes, of course. The guy only set an NFL record for touchdowns in a single season last year.

So the way the draft was set up, the person who got the first pick in the 1st round (me), was the person who got the last pick of the 2nd round, and then the 1st pick in the 3rd round. So I effectively got two back-to-back picks with 26 picks (14-team league) in between. This, combined with being #1 overall in the draft, allowed me to â┚¬Â¦ guide things a bit more than usual. After Holmes, Tomlinson went next, and the run on running backs was on. In fact, I donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t think any quarterbacks had even been taken when the picks came back around to me.

Scanning the available running backs, all of the marquee ones had been taken. Same for my favorite receivers (read: Marvin Harrison), but almost all of the quarterbacks were still available. I wasnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t about to use a 2nd round pick on a 2nd tier running back, and receivers are notoriously streaky in terms of fantasy production, so the decision to take a quarterback was pretty easy to make. Both the Chiefsâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ Trent Green and the Patsâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady were still on the board. I sat briefly wondering which one to take. A good QB and a good receiver and Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢d have a nice core to my offense â┚¬Â¦ but none of the receivers were really turning me on. Should I draft a defense? With a third-round pick? Naah. Too early. Running backs are toast. Too early for a tight end not named Tony Gonzalez (he had been selected TWO picks before mine) so what do I do? Which QB to I take?

Answer: both.

I really like this pick for three reasons: 1. It gives me more security at QB than Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve ever had, since I have two starters, let alone two of the premier passers in the league. 2. If I need to, I can dangle one as a big piece of trade bait. 3. I had no way of knowing this would happen, but it started a run on QBs that left the receivers in pretty good shape when my 4th and 5th round picks came around.

So, I wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t bore you with the blow-by-blow of the rest of the draft. Geist will be doing that for you in Sports on Friday, anyway. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll just sum up that I ended up boning on a pick and getting autodrafted Garrison Hearst when I had decided two seconds too late that I wanted Travis Minor (who I picked up later). I came away with New Englandâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s defense (being the second team to draft one). My big gamble of the draft was taking Kansas Cityâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Kris Wilson as my first Tight End (The news out of camp is that heâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll make an instant impact with the K.C. offense), even though I picked up Tennesseeâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Erron Kinney as insurance. I got Dante Hall late in the draft, hopefully giving me a few return touchdowns and some good receiving yardage since heâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll probably end up the #3 reciever. And finally, I made one truly sentimental pick that Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m not ashamed of: I selected Kansas State University alumnus Martin Gramatica, currently of Tampa Bay, as my starting kicker.

I caught a little ribbing from my fellow players, mostly for the number of Chiefs I picked up, but I must restate that the #1 offense in the league is a good place to get your players. And I seem to remember not just Tony G., but Johnnie â┚¬Å”Griddlemittsâ┚¬Â Morton and Eddie â┚¬Å”Parkay-Pawsâ┚¬Â Kennison getting selected by other teams. At least when I drafted Chiefs, I drafted the good ones.

Pimp-licious

Now that weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve all been around for a week, I have some things to link to:

Misha travels the U.S., and finds us all a bunch of wankers, which is technically true.

All hail the return of Baxley!

As much as I hammer on EA Sports, Berg hammers Sony even more.

A-Will recycles a cheap, cheap pop from the past for his inaugural IP column. Of course, his hits went through the roof, so who am I to judge?

Lucard doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t need my help, but I still think you should read him.

A.J. starts his reign off agreeing with me and Berg, almost point by point, on the economics of console gaming.

Okay, first Misha, now Parfitt. Whoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s checking green cards around here?

Eric S. survived the move to IP, and one can only hope he survived having to watch Eugene in a PPV. I think we should start taking bets as to when Dinsmore gets freed from that gimmick. Of course, if heâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a fan of George â┚¬Å”The Animalâ┚¬Â Steele, that could be a while.

And back on that other website â┚¬Â¦

Nute prepares for his exodus from the dirty-bomb magnet of D.C. to the more serene climes of Overland Park, Kansas. Just remember to buy your beer on Saturday nights â┚¬Â¦ oh, wait â┚¬Â¦ youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re in Johnson County â┚¬Â¦ never mind. Rock on.

Murphy was my assistant GM for my online draft, which was apparently WAY more entertaining than this.

Next week, I try to get this in before noon.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory