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Calvin Johnson reaches tries for a one-handed grab in Madden 08.


Time to gear up for Madden 08

By Tucker Stephenson

Staff Writer


August has just arrived, and you know what that means for millions of sports fans, right? No, it’s not training camp, but you’re getting warm.

Let me give you a hint – think about the biggest video game release of the year. That’s right folks, it’s Madden time! With the release of the newest installment, Madden 08, coming on Aug. 14, males ranging from the ages of 8 to 48 are gearing up to start their own personal quest for Super Bowl glory. Who cares if they’re Cleveland Browns fans in the real world? In the Madden world there is hope for even the lousiest of teams. Imagine – Brady Quinn can become Tom Brady with the click of a button. Julius Jones can transform into Walter Payton if you handle the control stick just right. Pacman Jones can actually play in a game! The possibilities are endless in the fantastic fantasy-world that is Madden 08.

How did it become this way? How did Madden take over the world?

It all started back in the early ‘90s with a company called EA sports, the video game giant that created Madden. They had a simple idea to manufacture a football video game using the likeness of an eccentric former Raiders coach turned broadcaster. The fans loved the game play, and the quirky comments included in the game from John Madden himself only added to the game’s lore.

I mean, who over the age of 22 doesn’t remember playing old school Madden on Super Nintendo. It was great. You and your friends would watch a player get injured, then laugh hysterically when the computer generated ambulance came out and the player magically teleported into the vehicle, which then drove away.

You can’t put a price on those memories, but apparently the going rate for new ones these days is $59.99. To those who want to complain that this is too much, I say this: video games have pretty much been the same price since the days of the original Nintendo and Sega Genesis. They’ve hovered around 50 bucks ever since I was a young kid doing chores around the house to earn enough to buy The Legend of Zelda (that was a lot of mopping).

Over the years, EA Sports and their Madden franchise has vanquished many opponents on the road to video game supremacy. Some of the many that have fallen by the wayside: Joe Montana Sports Talk Football, Troy Aikman Football, Super Play Action Football, and the NFL Gameday series. Of these, only Gameday was able to make a splash, but none of them rivaled the success of NFL Blitz, which was able to co-exist with Madden for a while because the style of play was much different. While Madden wanted to be a realistic game, Blitz provided an over-the-top game which presented a different experience to football fans (late hits, more touchdowns, and less strategy).

The most recent competitor to EA Sports arose in the form of 2K Sports, which released their first NFL-licensed game in the year 2000. In fact, they actually outsold Madden in 2001 with their NFL 2K1 release (wikipedia). However, the game changed completely when EA Sports acquired the exclusive rights to NFL licensing in December of 2004 (gamespot.com). That means that they have the exclusive rights to use NFL players, stadiums, and logos until 2009, leaving 2K Sports and all other manufacturers out in the cold so to speak.

2K is trying to fire back, however, with their release of All-Pro Football 2K8, which is already in stores. This game features former NFL greats such as John Elway, Barry Sanders, and Jerry Rice, as well as some of the most infamous names from the league like Brian Bosworth and O.J. Simpson. Only time will tell if this game will make any type of splash in the market, but most people don’t think that it will detract much from Madden’s sales.

Next Generation Madden
Madden has officially moved into the next generation thanks to the release of a new trio of video game consoles. The Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo Wii all offer better graphics and a brand new experience for those familiar with the Madden games.

With the new Xbox and Playstation consoles, Madden has moved into the realm of high definition (if you have the dough to shell out for an HD television). With the Wii, which is an interactive system where the controllers are based on movement, Madden is going where no football game has gone before.

There’s also the added bonus of online play with all of the new consoles. This is good if you’re tired of beating the computer 70-3 in every game and want to play against a real person. Subscriptions to play on the Internet may be expensive, but most people that I’ve talked to say that they love it. As someone who has a 360 and an HD TV, I highly recommend the Madden experience in high definition.

For those who think that Madden is “just a stupid video game,” there are several pieces of evidence that contradict this type of thinking, and here they are.

1. Madden has grossed more money than any other video game series in North American history (wikipedia). This means that each year, like clockwork, the game’s release date is anticipated by people around the country. It’s like the Christmas of video games.

2. People can actually make a living playing Madden. For example, earlier this year, a 16 year old from Hawaii won $100,000 by winning the Madden Challenge, an annual tournament that crowns the year’s best player (easports.com). I’d say winning 100 grand is just a little bit better than working for $6 an hour at Burger King, wouldn’t you?

3. The Madden Curse. This is the most terrifying urban legend to haunt pro athletes since the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. As the story goes, “Whoever is so unlucky to have their picture on the cover of Madden will suffer unspeakable horrors in the near future.” Okay, I made that up, but more fans are starting to believe that the Madden curse has ruined some players’ careers. Take a look at the list:

2000 – A rare alternate cover of the game features Packers running back Dorsey Levins. Right now, you’re asking, “Who is Dorsey Levins?” That’s exactly my point, the guy didn’t do a whole lot after that. Thus begins the Madden curse.

2001 – Eddie George. After his encounter with the cover of Madden, he begins to have injury problems, gets released from Tennessee and eventually retires after his 2004 stint with the Dallas Cowboys.

2002 – Daunte Culpepper. His future looked as bright as anyone’s at the time, but after a serious knee injury and a trade to Miami, he was just cut by the Dolphins a few weeks ago. Sorry Dante.

2003 – Marshall Faulk. He probably got off with the least amount of bad luck from the curse, but was never the same after gracing the cover, retiring with the Rams in 2006.

2004 – Michael Vick. Only a year ago, you couldn’t have said that the curse had really affected Vick, but my, how things have changed. He is currently under investigation for allegedly running an illegal dog-fighting ring out of his home. It seems the Madden curse wasn’t just all bark and no bite, huh Mike?

2005 – Ray Lewis. The possible exception. He was investigated for a murder charge, but that was in 2000, before he was put on the cover. He’s still got time to do something crazy though.

2006 – Donovan McNabb. Chronic injury problems have forced McNabb to miss some games since he appeared on the Madden cover two years ago. Last year he was having a great season until he tore his ACL against the Titans. Then to add insult to injury, back-up quarterback Jeff Garcia led McNabb’s Eagles to the NFC championship game. Also, don’t forget about Donovan’s exhausting feud with Terrell Owens.

2007 – Shaun Alexander. Coming off of an MVP season, Alexander broke a bone in his foot in only the third week of the season. He came back later in the year, but did not eclipse the 1,000 yard mark.

This brings us to the cover boy for 2008 – Mr. Incredible, Vince Young.

Because he is a great young talent, I sincerely hope that he can break the Madden curse, but with the lack of talent around him in Tennessee, he may be doomed. Vince hates to lose, and he might try to do to much at times and leave himself open to take some big hits. Maybe the Titans should put him in one of those suits that protect you from bear attacks just to be on the safe side.

Curse or no curse, Madden 08 will make it’s glorious debut in a mere 13 days. There will be long lines of Maddenites waiting to grab a copy, and ton of work and chores will remain unfinished as a result of it. As for me, I’m just happy knowing that no matter what happens to the real Dallas Cowboys this season, I know that they’ll be playing in my very own living room Super Bowl. It’s a guarantee, thanks to my old buddy, the reset button.


 
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