Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 04.22.04

Happy Earth Day! Today’s Thursday, so you know what that means… TGIT! Thanks for stopping by today to read the Thank God It’s Thursday News Report, 411 Games’ best Thursday news report!

This week, we move on from predictions and go onto new horizons. Like devoting more time to game news, for example! Hopefully, this will be a more well-rounded report, rather than the focus being on the Commentary and little energy spent on other areas. In fact, this week’s Commentary has nothing to do with gaming at all. Enjoy it – you might find that some of the subject matter applies to you.

Before that, though, we go to news!

TOP STORY: EA Sports’ 2004 Lineup
Although E3 is still a few weeks away, IGN managed to uncover some nuggets of insight regarding the EA Sports titles that will be released later this year. Here are some of those tidbits for three of these titles.

NCAA Football 2005
Home Field Advantage. NCAA 2005 will take home field into account, making it a huge part of the game. EA has ranked the toughest places to play, and if you’re taking on a top-ranked team in a top-ranked home stadium, you’ll have a tough time. Receivers won’t be able to hear audibles, and a crowd meter will reflect the intensity of the home crowd. Vibrating controllers and shaking screens will help amplify the Home Field Advantage.
Composure Meter. Relating to home field advantage in a sense, players now have Composure Meters. There are three levels of the meter: composed, medium, and shaken. Freshmen will rank higher on the scale, while seniors and team captains will be composed. The level of composure affects gameplay, as a shaken quarterback will throw errant passes and have an overall lack of execution. These rankings will be shown mostly in high-pressure situations, and will be adjusted based on in-season performance.
No Playmaker. EA has removed the Playmaker feature from NCAA 2005. This may be an effort to distinguish the game from Madden 2005.

Madden NFL 2005
The Hit Stick. Similar to NHL 2004’s right thumbstick hitting system, Madden 2005 will feature The Hit Stick. This will allow players to have more control over their hits, which will be harder than ever, resulting in more fumbles. How effective the hit is depends on a number of factors, one of which is the strength of the opposing player.
Defensive Hot Routes. Now, players can call for individual defenders to blitz, drop back, or whatever the situation calls for. In addition, individual players can be utilized in audibles, meaning that you can send certain players in while holding others back for pass coverage.
Improved Defensive Pursuit. Ever go for a dive tackle, totally miss, and watch your opponent scamper down the sideline for a 20-yard gain? Madden 2005 will feature a system built in to help you find the proper tackling angles. This system can be turned on or off. In addition, defenders will take better angles, so as to prevent a super-fast player faking out the entire opposing team.

NHL 2005
Improved Gameplay. The next EA hockey title will have an emphasis on open ice play. Players will spread out on the ice to improve passing, rather than moving down the ice in a Flying V-esque pattern. Defenders will use the boards more to move the puck, as well as using more traps rather than over-the-top body checks. Gamers will also find it easier to skate backwards this year. Lastly, AI-controlled players will attempt to avoid going offsides at all costs.
Open Ice Control. This new feature allows players to pass the puck, then keep control of the player who just passed the puck. This player can now crash the net, take out a defender, get open for a return pass, or anything else. Double-teams will also be an option on defense.
Enhanced Dynasty Mode. EA has added to the excellent Dynasty Mode by giving gamers more feedback on their decisions. E-mails and talks with players will become an integral part of the Dynasty, as opposed to a simple number rating for morale. More improvements are on the way; however, EA hasn’t announced any others yet.

Out of these three titles, NCAA Football 2005 certainly sounds like it’s going to be the most improved title. EA seems to be taking great strides to make NCAA Football and Madden two separate entities, and the changes made this year reflect that effort. Madden sounds like a more hard-hitting game, while NCAA Football is more about head games. NHL 2005 sounds like it’s going to be a good one as well, improving on a title that was already well on the way.

It seems as if EA is beginning to feel the heat from Sega Sports and has begun to update its titles in a big way. These three games are more than roster updates at this point, and should have sports buffs salivating until these games are released. NCAA 2005 should be out in July, with Madden following in August and NHL in October. We’ll find out more about these games at E3, so stay tuned to 411 Games for more info on these titles.

Quick Hits
Confirmed: Viewtiful Joe Coming To PS2. Erase all doubt about this one. Capcom announced that it will be bringing Viewtiful Joe to Playstation 2 this fall. Furthermore, Viewtiful Joe 2 will NOT be a GameCube exclusive. There goes another Nintendo bargaining chip, and yet another reason to hop along the Sony-juggernaut bandwagon. There’s something diisappointing about this news, to be honest. Seems like Nintendo can’t get a break with these exclusives, no matter what.

Karaoke Revolution 2 On The Way. Konami has decided to create a sequel to the successful Karaoke Revolution. This one will feature 35 new tracks, ranging from Garth Brooks (“Friends In Low Places”) to The Police (“Every Breath You Take”). The game should be available this summer, exclusive to Playstation 2.

SNK Titles To Appear On PS2. SNK announced two double-packs to hit Playstation 2 over the course of the next year. King of Fighters 2002/2003 will come out this winter, while Metal Slug 4 and 5 will be released next spring. This should help these games reach a larger audience, which is most certainly deserved for these classic titles.

Bust-A-Move On X-Box Live. At long last, a Bust-A-Move title is headed to Microsoft’s X-Box. Ultra Bust-A-Move will be fully compatibile with X-Box Live while changing nothing from the ultra-addictive gameplay. Some of the best online games tend to be the simplest ones, and this one is looking like it could be a great online game. When Ultra Bust-A-Move hits this fall on X-Box, look for Berg411 online playing it 24-7.

E-Reader Code Cracked. An anonymous developer has cracked the Nintendo E-Reader code and has provided a development tool online for homebrew developers. The host site is located here, along with instructions on how to use the code. I suppose this had to happen sometime; however, Nintendo can’t be too happy about this.

News Reports
Lee Baxley – End-Week End-Boss News Report. Lee returns! That didn’t take long! Lee is covering for Alex Williams as he undergoes final exam preparation. We should get a few more news reports out of Lee, and we’ll get a rejuvenated AAAlex in a little bit, so it’s a win-win situation.
In fact, when I play a game, I think only about THAT game, yet subconsciously, I’m thinking about other games that are similar.

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. The insanity continues in this week’s report, as Marvin is upgraded to MarvScream. MarvScream sounds like a cross between the stereotypical evil villain and the daily “radical” choice in the NationStates game. I love it!
At a con in the Sates, the hall closes at 6, and that’s yer lot for the day. Now where’s the fun in that?? At your average UK con, 6pm is when the dirnking starts in earnest.

Matt Yeager wrote a Casual Gamers Corner this week, which I read on his LiveJournal. It’s MIA here. But it should turn up at some point. I hope so anyway – it was quite good.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. Dude, Persona sounds like an AWESOME game! Like a merging of intelligence and gaming, two areas that don’t necessarily overlap. I’d buy this one. And Pokemon appears in the countdown, but lower than some might expect it.
So what about Pokemon makes it so great? Besides 151 adorable monsters that say “make plush version of me that children will want to collect,” it’s a game I have yet to truly find a fault with.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding Mailbag. A Mailbag dealing with the most recent countdown selections. And, as usual, it’s a good one.
I miss games being challenging, but beatable.

Bebito Jackson – WWE Day of Reckoning (GameCube).

Widro – Shrek 2 (Playstation 2).

Bebito Jackson – Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (X-Box, Playstation 2, PC).

Bebito Jackson – Pitfall: The Lost Expedition (X-Box). Final Score: 6.5

Commentary of the Week
My best friend John just ended a fairly long-term relationship with his girlfriend. The two of them got along really well, and it was a pleasure to spend time with the two of them. I felt that they were a great couple and was sad to find out that they didn’t make it.

Why is this important? Simply, this: Unlike most scenarios, John made sure we had quality time together, both with his girlfriend and just the two of us. See, many males tend to lose sight of what’s important when they meet a girl. They succumb to what is commonly known as The Bitch Phase.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I am Exhibit A in what can happen when The Bitch Phase strikes. Friendhips ruined. Family relations strained. Paycheck gone the day it arrives. About three months into my relationship with my girlfriend, things started to get serious. I’d never been involved in a relationship of this magnitude, so I went with it.

As big of a Mets fan as I am, I watched ONE full game of the 2000 Subway Series. Why? Because it interfered with girlfriend time. Game 5 fell on the night of our four-month anniversary. I chose her. And it didn’t even bother me at the time.

That’s just it. So often, we don’t realize that we’re doing until it’s pointed out to us. Missing the World Series that my team was playing in (which was, incidentally, the only time my team has ever been in the championships of anything since I’ve been old enough to realize what was happening) was just one example of this. I didn’t notice that things between my friends and I were headed down the road of no return. I didn’t notice that I hadn’t been home for a family dinner in weeks. These things that I once took for granted were severely damaged.

I started to recover from The Bitch Phase about a year into our relationship, and a full recovery was complete by two years in. I don’t necessarily regret the things I did during The Bitch Phase, for the most part, mostly because these were necessary things for me to grow as a person and for our relationship to develop as it has. But I won’t look back and say that it was all roses. At the time, it was. Now, not so much.

So why am I saying all of this? Because I think that it’s something people need to know about. If you haven’t already, you WILL be sucked into The Bitch Phase. Might be for a few weeks, maybe for a few years. But it will happen to YOU, I guarantee you that. Nobody’s prepared you for it, and everybody will hate you when it happens.

As a public service to you and those who care about you, I ask you to watch what you do during those early months of “courtship”. It’s okay to take your girlfriend to see the newest chick flick during the early part of a relationship. That’s expected. But if you’re taking her on Poker Night, that’s a problem. Once she sees that you’re willing to choose her over Poker, your life will never be the same. Your guy friends will question your devotion to them. And the benefit to your relationshp will be negligible. You see, once you’ve chosen her over Poker, you’ll do it again and again. Then, your friends will confront you about it so that you realize what you’re doing. This will cause you to resent her and the ungodly amount of time you’re spending with her (i.e. NOT spending with the guys), and then it’s time for The Blowout.

What’s The Blowout? Basically, it’s when you tell your girlfriend that you’ve had enough of The Bitch Phase and you want some semblance of your life back. As you can probably guess, she will NOT take this well. That’s why repeated Blowouts are needed. How many Blowouts are required depends on how your friends and your girlfriend get along. Each case is different. But the one constant is this – in every serious relationship, the guy will forget all about his friends, until an epiphany occurs and he wants a life besides his girlfriend.

Then, something really interesting happens. Some guy friends will understand and forget it. Others will give you crap for a while. That’s expected. But then there are others with whom you’ll notice that things have changed. Suddenly, shooting pool isn’t as fun as it used to be. This is where you figure out who your friends are and, by extension, who YOU are. Maybe shooting pool was something you did for fun, but Poker Night is what you’re all about. Your Poker buddies accept you as a friend, and these are the guys you want to spend Friday nights with.

And then, you KNOW you’ve got people in your corner. If you’ve played it right, your girlfriend is one of them. Those fortunate enough to endure a relatively painless Bitch Phase come out of it with a better understanding of their relationship, their friendships, and themselves. A bad Bitch Phase warps a guy’s personality to an unrecognizable point. A good Bitch Phase helps everybody involved in the end.

I’m assuming that the audience for this column is mostly male. Some of you haven’t gone through this yet. If you haven’t, you might not be ready for it when it happens. Hopefully, you’re a little more educated now. It’s always a good idea to do a little self-inventory to see if you can live with what you’re doing. If you’re a metalhead and you find that the love song station is a radio preset, it’s time to think about what’s happening here. As long as you maintain the upper hand, or at least share the playing field with your other, you’re in good shape. And remember who your friends are! If things go wrong, you need to know who’s going to back you up. These are the people who go through the Bitch Phase with you, and they’ll be there when it’s over. Don’t lose sight of these people. They’re your friends till the end. And maybe, just maybe, she will be too.

Quickie 2nd Round NHL Playoff Predictions
Eastern Conference
(1)Tampa Bay vs. (7)Montreal – Tampa Bay in 6
(3)Philadelphia vs. (4)Toronto – Toronto in 7

Western Conference
(1)Detroit vs. (6)Calgary – Detroit in 6
(2)San Jose vs. (4)Colorado – Colorado in 6

Done and done! That does it for this week’s TGIT. Thanks very much for reading. Don’t forget about Lee tomorrow, and definitely don’t forget to come back next week for more TGIT!