Op-Ed

Op-Ed
In Which I Pretend To Know Something About Sports

Shannon "Vandemar" Drake | 13 May 2006 23:49
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I got to play the Wii, too, and didn't suffer a Black Pearl-type curse for an unholy bargain with the Nintendo Mafia, which my colleagues did. The zombie thing is disconcerting, but these are the sacrifices we make for journalism. You think "Nintendo Mafia" is catchy exaggeration on my part, but it really isn't. We were in a number of meetings where publishers/developers were especially eager to show off the cool stuff they were doing with the Wii and wanted to sneak one in, but...(here, I'm leaning forward and whispering, looking around for anyone listening) Nintendo would find out. This actually happened, to the point that when two Nintendo representatives strolled into the Majesco meeting I ranted about earlier, the other writer and I both heard the Godfather theme play (though maybe it was more like this) .

However, EA is big enough that the Nintendo Mafia can't flex on them, so when the rep doing the Madden Wii demo asked if I wanted to play, I was knocking people over like George Costanza in a fire. I mean, yea, Nintendo is going to make cool stuff with their platform, but this is a third party publisher and one of the biggest franchises ever. It'll set the tone.

I'm going to run through how you play the game with the controller, because it was incredibly smooth and so much fun. To pick a play, you point the remote at the play you want and press A. Once the team is out on the field and you're ready to make the snap, you bring the "remote" up quickly, like you're actually taking the snap. The nunchuku thumbstick controls how the player runs, just like a regular thumbstick. To pass, you'll want to press the button under your left fingertip to get a wide-angle view of the field. You can select a receiver by pressing the appropriate D-Pad direction and then you snap the controller forward like you're throwing a pass. Do it fast enough, and the QB zings a bullet. Do it softer and he lobs it up into the air. It's fast, it's intuitive, and now you, the guy or girl playing the game, can feel like a quarterback because you can learn how to do incredibly fast reads to see who is open and just flick them the pass, rather than trying to remember which of 8,000 buttons throws the ball. They also built in fake snaps, so That Friend who's always sneaking peeks at your controller can be hustled when you sneakily push one of the buttons on the nunchuku attachment and do the snap motion. Oops, offsides! Now quit peeking over, jerk.

Where the new controller really shined, at least for me, was in the kicking game. You do the typical Madden thing of pointing the arrow to determine roughly where you want the ball to go, then press A. However, kicking power is determined entirely by how fast you bring the controller up, and the tilt sensors put English on the ball, so the way you hold your wrist determines the angle the kick actually takes. The punting game is now a game of skill, rather than a "point the arrow down the field, press A when the power is up, and then plot your defense while the runback plays out" monotony.

What was really impressive wasn't that I could figure it out and get playing in a few seconds. I've played Madden since the Genesis and like to think I know what I'm doing. The guy in front of me, though, never had. Moreover, he knew nothing about American football. He picked up how to play in about 30 seconds. That's some intuitive controller design, especially when the latest iterations of Madden on the "Oh god too many thumbsticks" platforms require hours of training to throw a pass.

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