Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
4/19/2007 11:12:00 AM
The Madden Curse
Titans quarterback Vince Young is the latest NFL star to risk falling victim to "The Madden Curse." SI.com takes a look back at the history of the Madden franchise and what has become of its cover boys from year to year.
Most anywhere you look, the NFL has become a year-round sport similar to baseball. But we say "most anywhere" because there is always that waiting-around period before Madden-oliday officially kicks off the next football season. So while the latest Madden game won't be released for several more months, you have to pass the time either continuing your dynasty domination or playing Arena Football: Road to Glory, which is a PS2 exclusive.
The verdict: You might as well stick with playing your old Madden game.
While it's difficult to compare the most popular franchise in sports gaming with one that is relatively new, they are both made by EA Sports, which would make one believe that there would be similarities in a lot of the way the games are played. That's not the case.
This new Arena game does feature all AFL and af2 rosters -– the af2 is the developmental league for the Arena Football League. However, it feels as if Vince McMahon is the lead creator in Road to Glory.
Arena Football: Road to Glory (EA Sports)
All the players look like they just walked out of the BALCO lab (if their muscles were that big, they'd be playing in the NFL). The game play is similar to NFL Blitz, the popular coin-op from the mid-1990s; late-hits are encouraged, though you may get slapped with a penalty on random occasions. When your player is celebrating in the end zone -– the touchdown dances look like they were choreographed by Chad Johnson -– the opposing team will come and take your guy out with no repercussions. When you retaliate during the game, sometimes you get away with it, other times you don't.
The big hits that are shown on commercials and in highlights of real games are there but not nearly as frequently as you'd like. That causes some more late-hitting which may or may not ding you 10 yards.
Before and after games start there is a lot of machismo, WWE-like pushing and shoving between players on both teams, giving it the feel of a scripted act. Even on cutaways of the head coaches yelling at their players, the coach (who looks the same for most every team) is hitting the player's pads, or grabbing his face mask in an attempt to inspire. It gets real old, real quick. As does playing the game.
You'd think the fun of being down by a couple touchdowns and the ability to rally back by playing on a 50-yard field would be attractive, but the game play seems somewhat boring the longer you play. Relying on the coach to pick your plays results in odd choices (i.e. running on third and 10) or it just keeps picking the same defense. You're better off spending the time to accurately pick your offensive and defensive plays.
What makes Arena Football different from the NFL -– the short field, the different defensive rules, the ability to knock players over the sides of the walls, the oddities of playing balls off the back nets -– is included. The rules are also different -- it's wise to spend the 20 minutes or so watching the how-to guide to learn that the buttons are different and that you can only blitz with one linebacker.
Arena Football: Road to Glory (EA Sports)
An added wrinkle in this year's game is that you can control both the quarterback and a wide receiver with the analog controls. While this seems like a good idea in theory, it's far too complicated for anyone to grasp. The idea is to select a wide receiver before the snap and use the left analog stick to make him run a route while using the right analog stick to control the quarterback. If you can somehow keep the quarterback in the pocket and still see the wide receiver and accurately run a route to get him open, then you shouldn't be playing this game. NASA has a job waiting for you.
When you do score don't expect to make your first few extra points. The kicking, which is briefly touched upon in the how-to-play guide in the game, is difficult and random. You must first aim, then press X, then pull back the right analog stick on your PS2 controller to start the kick meter and when it reaches your desired height, press it forward. This isn't a scale of 0-100, but more like 0-110. The problem is that if you don't press the right analog stick directly forward, the ball will go right or left depending on the slight angle you pushed it. What's the point of aiming, then?
Playing with an af2 team, you can win the ArenaCup and then export your players to the AFL for use in the top league. That's a nice addition but you don't exactly want to jump from one season to the next because after playing so many games, it just doesn't seem as much fun.
Most of the reward of playing Madden is working in the offseason to make your team better. While some of that is possible in Road to Glory (i.e. signing free agents, re-signing players, making trades) some of the more fun things like moving teams to different cities, practicing to add points to players ratings, setting prices in your stadium are not available. You can modify or change your team's uniforms, but that's about it.
Ratings System (1 to 10)
Game Play: 5
Sometimes the button to bypass the cut-away scenes (the triangle) won't work, and that can disrupt your flow during a hurry-up offense. It's far too easy to score touchdowns on long fly patterns and deep routes, but part of the fun is trying to see if you can break the 100-point plateau. And, as annoying as listening to announcers say the same things in sports games, there are no play-by-play announcers in this game, giving it an empty feeling when you're actually playing the game.
Never mind that the players look like they spent far too much time pumping iron with Jose Canseco, the graphics hardly seem smooth compared to other EA Sports titles. All the coaches' eyes, for instance, are set way too far apart on their heads and the scoreboard cut scenes seem like it's from old-school Nintendo.
It's fun to include another player and just go for a shootout, a 110-98 type of game. Season mode seems to take forever to get through, but like any gaming player, the competitiveness of winning and getting through a season may cause you to fire this game up every once in awhile, play it for a few hours and then put it on the shelf for another couple weeks.