Thank God It’s Thursday News Report 04.29.04

Welcome to TGIT! Today’s Thank God It’s Thursday News Report is the last TGIT of April, so it’s not to be missed… as if I needed a reason to make this report special!

Thanks for dropping by today. I’m Bryan Berg, and this report should get you up to speed with the latest happenings in the video game world. If today’s report is a little shorter than usual, forgive me – the real world’s catching up to me.

At the end of 2003, I made a pledge that I would not write another rushed or half-assed news report, and I’m still holding myself to that. However, that’s before I realized what a chore juggling two jobs to the tune of a 50+ hour work week would be! So, I’m not saying that I’m rushing this one. But I’m not saying that I’m striving for perfection, either. You get the idea. Kinda inconsequential to bring it up, but I felt it necessary.

So what’s on tap for today? The usual news (unfortunately, there’s next to nothing) and plugs, plus a Commentary on a feature that at least one football game this year NEEDS to incorporate. You’ll see what I mean.

TOP STORY: X-Box Next Specs Revealed?
Rumor has it that a Chinese website stumbled up on a secret blueprint detailing Microsoft’s plans for the upcoming successor to the X-Box console. Microsoft denies anything and everything; however, they also requested that the blueprint not be posted anywhere.

Because of this, there’s nothing concrete out there. But stay tuned to 411 Games for the latest on this breaking story. By the time you read this, odds are good that there will be a LOT more available.

Update: ESPN NFL Football 2K5
If you watched the NFL Draft last weekend, you know how much ESPN really cares about this franchise (re: not at all). Still, Sega Sports has been hard at work on the sequel to last year’s acclaimed ESPN NFL Football. Here are some of the improvements made…

Maximum Tackle. This feature allows gamers to take total control over their game. On defense, tackling technique is exclusively in the hands of the gamer. Go for a flashy move or the simple, but effective, takedown. With the ball, backs will fight for the extra yardage this year.
“Watch-and-React” Simulator. This year, sim gamers will be able to watch a play-by-play documentation of the simulated game. The gamer can jump in at any time if he or she so desires.
More ESPN Personalities. ESPN has gotten some of its finest talent aboard this year, from Mel Kiper, Jr. to Chris Berman to Suzy Kolber, who will handle sideline reporting duties. We can only hope ESPN shells out whatever it costs to hire Joe Namath and run the “I want to kiss you” interview at halftime of EVERY game.
Enhanced Franchise Mode. This year, players can expect to take more control over their Franchise. Owners can customize a practice schedule, along with other unannounced enhancements.

While this obviously isn’t the complete list of what’s new for 2K5, it’s a good start. Maximum Tackle sounds pretty similar to what EA’s working on for Madden 2005, but time will certainly show the differences between the two. The inclusion of more familiar ESPN faces, despite the fact that a good number of them shilled Madden 2005 at the Draft, is always a good thing. And, as anybody who played NHL 2004 will attest to, scheduling team workouts is a blast.

Most video game critics gave ESPN NFL Football the nod over Madden NFL 2004 last year, so Sega has a solid engine to work with. Time will tell if they can successfully build on that momentum. But it looks like they’re going to put out another great title this year.

Quick Hits
NARC Delayed Until 2005. The controversial title, which will actually allow players to let their characters use drugs, will be on the shelf until 2005. This will give Midway, the troubled publisher of the title, time to fight the inevitable court battles surrounding NARC.
NES Series GBA Arrives June 7. We’ve finally got a date for the upcoming NES-style GBA and NES games for said GBA. June 7 is the date we’ve got for the release of the system and the first batch of titles. The system, by the way, looks SWEET.

News Reports
Matt Yeager – The SUNDAY News Report. This is the report that I said that I had read and enjoyed last week. Somehow, it never made it to the site until Sunday. Which, I think, makes this the first weekend news report since the vaunted days of the Weekend Wipe-Up so long ago.
Sorry if this feels rushed, because it was.

Cory Laflin – Gamer’s Hangover News Report. 411’s resident chess conoisseur dishes it out this week after last week’s unfortunate absence. He also talks about Microsoft jacking my idea to put a messenger into X-Box Live. Because they never would have come up with something like that on their own… nope, no sirree….
This year’s crapticity will feature online play, so you can heave car batteries and tires at people around the world.
BTW Cory – I don’t know what it’s technically called, but my first move ALWAYS involves moving a pawn.

Misha – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Video Games. Misha announces in this news report that he’d rather listen to ME than the stuffy Wall Street types! That’s very flattering. I wonder how Marvin feels about all of this…
Marvin: And lo, didst X-Brick owners the world over rejoice mightily, for they could be assured of getting the same game… re-released… every year… with different players and a few tweaks…

Matt Yeager – The Wednesday News Report. It’s not yet been made clear whether Matt will title his reports as The Casual Gamer’s Corner or The Wednesday News Report. Either way, Matt brings the content.
The lesson? Go out and hug an older system.
BTW Matt – The Olsen Twins were mentioned in the report. I’ve got to share this, which might be the funniest insult I’ve heard in a long time. The two characters are Seth, who’s developing a very… how shall we say it… flamboyant personality, and Vassilios, the ever-sarcastic Greek kid.

Seth: I’m not gay! I like the Olsen Twins!
Vassilios: Yeah, you liked them on Full House…

Do pedophile jokes EVER get old?

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. Before going on vacation, LC left us with some bitter thoughts regarding Mega Man’s future. They were, as always, quite hilarious.
Now then…if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go relax by the pool with some busty bikini-clad women, and tell them how big my joystick is.

Alex Lucard – Retrograding. Everybody’s favorite “sub-cultural icon” returns with the first installment of the Top Ten. When this countdown’s over, a lot of people are going to be kinda sad. Seeing people this enthusiastic about gaming is rare these days. Witness, for example, Lucard looking back at Shining Force…
I broke up with my girlfriend at the time because I decided the game was more fun than her obsessed. (And even in retrospect I still find that decision to be the right one).

Liquidcross – The Angry Gamer. The staple of a late TGIT column is a link to the newest Angry Gamer. This one’s no different. Hot off the presses, Liquidcross is back from vacation and has recharged the batteries with venom.
“Special Edition” this, “Director’s Cut” that…it’s all different terms for the same thing: anal rape.

Bebito Jackson – Suikoden IV (Playstation 2).

Matt Yeager – Resident Evil: Outbreak (Playstation 2). Final Score: 5.0
Chris Pankonin – ESPN Major League Baseball (X-Box). Final Score: 7.0
Chris Pankonin – NBA Ballers (Playstation 2). Final Score: 8.0
Matt Yeager – Destruction Derby Arenas (Playstation 2). Final Score: 3.5

If anybody’s familiar with (or has tried) Nitro-Tech Nighttime by MuscleTech, drop me a line and let me know what you thought of it. I’m thinking of purchasing it, as I’ve been looking for some time for a good protein shake to have just before bed. This sounds like it might be the one. I’ve had the Nitro-Tech bars, and they pretty much taste like crap, but they work. I’d be willing to give this product a try. Any input would be awesome. Thanks!

Commentary of the Week
Pick a sport, any sport. This weekend, watch a game of that sport on television. No matter what the sport, give it a try, and pay particular attention to the announcers of that game. I can assure you that you’ll hear something along the lines of the following…

Boy, I’m sure he’d like to have that one back…

This line can be used in conjunction with ANY sport. A hockey goalie who lets up a soft goal will hear that line. So will the pitcher who hangs a curve right in the middle of the plate. And the same for the white guy who misses an open three this weekend in the NBA playoffs.

Of course, there’s no place you’ll hear this line more than the National Football League. With the scrutiny placed on the average quarterback, every decision becomes a life-or-death moment. And with the very nature of football – one play at a time, followed by a rest and another play – it’s easy to determine which exact play he’d like to have back.

With this in mind, I propose to you, as well as to Electronic Arts, Sega Sports, 989 Sports, Midway, and whoever else would like to create a football game for the 2004 season…

The Mulligan.

Ask any golfer who’s ever shanked a tee shot how valuable a mulligan is. A mulligan is simply defined as an unpenalized second chance. There’ s a whole strategy behind mulligan play, which we’ll get to later. But for now, imagine the following scenario.

You’re down 28-24 and you’re in your two-minute offense. You need a touchdown to win. With twenty seconds left and no timeouts at the opposing 35-yard line, you call a draw play to throw off the defense. They don’t fall for it. They send three linebackers in, your RB gets drilled and fumbles the ball. Game over.

Wouldn’t you like to have THAT one back?

With the mulligan, that’s entirely possible. Just announce that you’re using it and try your luck with a different play. And if your opponent complains, tell him to shove it.

Earlier, I mentioned a strategic aspect to the mulligan, and it’s worth mentioning in this proposal. Casual golf rules usually state that a golfer is entitled one mulligan per nine holes. Translating that into video football rules, that would be one mulligan per 5-minute-quarters game. Which would certainly be manageable without getting in the way of competition.

The NFL created a science out of instant replay challenges, and this would be no different. Do you use your mulligan after fumbling the opening kickoff, or do you place faith in your defense, try to regain your composure, and save the mulligan for later? Do you mulligan after a failed Hail Mary attempt to end the first half? How about trying that punt again to make sure you’ve pinned the other team as far back as possible?

You’ve got to sit back and wonder how this has NOT been tried somewhere. Football is the perfect sport for the mulligan, and in the high-pressure world of video football, mistakes are made. With the mulligan, those mistakes can be rectified, just as easily as a decent play can turn into a horrible one if a player is overzealous. If a game lets you challenge a questionable call, it should let you try a mulligan as well, if only in two-player mode. Even make it customizable, where you couldn’t use it in the final two minutes of a half or to negate an opposing challenge. The possibilities are really endless here.

Unfortunately for us, nobody’s taken the time to explore this in-depth. I encourage someone out there to do so. The mulligan could provide a whole new wrinkle to video football. And if one of the 2005 games didn’t feature a mulligan and you bought it anyway, that might be one decision you’d like to have back.

Thanks for reading! See you next week!