Shane Quast

Madden NFL 2004

August 14, 2003

Madden Football is one of the most anxiously awaited games every
year. Gamers everywhere spend hours drooling over the display boxes
in their local video game stores for weeks on end prior to Madden’s
release. Sadly enough the Madden series has been on a slow and steady
decline over the past few seasons. Madden 2002 was hardly any improvement
over 2001, and 2003 was extremely disappointing. The hype surround
Madden 2004 has been huge however, and the fact that it’s following
so closely behind the shot heard round the video game world from
NCAA Football 2004 have this reviewer’s video game sense tingling.

New This Year

This year’s edition of Madden boasts, among other things, the new
“Playmaker” offense and defense. To be honest, the Playmaker
controls only complicate things. I have a hard enough time trying
to find a hole in the defense, let alone guide my blocker to pick
up a defender. Good idea, bad implementation.

One of the best features of Madden has always been the “Franchise
Mode.” In addition to the “Franchise Mode,” this
year has a new “Owner Mode.” The “Owner Mode”
gives you the ability to set ticket prices, set concession prices,
spend money on advertising, build or renovate stadiums, among many
other options. I found this mode to be too in depth. I like running
a franchise, but I have trouble caring about how much big foam fingers
cost at my stadium.

The best thing that EA added this year was the tackling animations.
Defenders will lunge to shove ball carriers out of bounds, drag
a runner down from behind, and even gang up to bring down a running
back. In addition to the new defensive animations the new running
animations are extremely smooth. Stiff arms actually look like stiff
arms and your back will even fight to get extra yardage after a
collision with a defender.

Like a Snail

The most noticeable difference I found this year was that the game
absolutely crawled. It’s an agonizing task just trying to play a
game from start to finish. Your offense crawls to the line, your
defense crawls into their formation and then you have to make two
or three adjustments on every play.

Madden and Michaels only magnify how boring playing the actual
game is. Their commentary is slow and dead; it drowns out the crowd,
which sounds like they couldn’t care at all about what’s happening
in the game. Amazingly enough the home crowds cheers for the visiting
team when they score. Sitting and watching paint dry is about as
exciting as playing a game of Madden 2004.

Running Into A Wall

There are two things I have found extremely difficult in Madden
thus far. One is running the ball. Gaining a hundred yards with
your running back seems like an impossible quest, gaining twenty

yards seems like a more realistic goal. You should be proud of yourself
if your back manages to average two yards a carry for the season.

The second thing that I am incapable of doing is defending against
the pass. The worst pass offense in the league can throw it downfield
all over my secondary. Fortunately I can do the same thing to the
computer’s defense. Basically what you end up with is a final score
of sixty something to fifty something with each team running about
400 plus passing yards. It’s a bit ridiculous.

Another Year, Another Disappointment

I couldn’t be more pissed off that I shelled out fifty of my hard
earned dollars for this piece of crap. It’s not that Madden is a
bad game; it’s just that I am sick of playing the same damn game
every year. It’s almost coming to the point where EA needs to do
the same thing with Madden that they did with the Triple Play series,
scrap it and start over. The worst part is I know their not, and
I know that next year I’m going to forget how much I hated 2004
and get all pumped up about 2005 and be disappointed all over again.
In a perfect world I’d like EA to refund the money I spent on this
game, and refund the gas money it’s going to take me to drive my
ass over to EB Games and trade it in for something that I will actually
enjoy. Do yourself a favor and keep Madden 2003 if you have it,
don’t waste your money.

Soda is the hizouse! I know how much everyone needs their monthly
dosage of Soda in the WIR so I won’t deny you any longer. I wanted
to give everyone a heads up as to what’s going on with the SB lately
and in the near future. If you’re a regular reader of the site than
you probably have already heard about the Austin
Gaming Expo
we’re scheduled to attend. I have to admit that
I’ve had mixed feelings about us having a booth there, but as the
event gets closer I am getting more excited. Cone came up with some
pretty good ideas for our booth and some things we could give away.
If you’re going to be in the area come by and give us a shout. It’s
only five bucks and we’re always excited to meet a fan. We were
also hoping the have our t-shirts ready for the show. In a way we
do, but it’s not exactly what we were hoping for. We released our
first T-shirt designs this week in the forums, for those of you
who didn’t catch it here
is the link
. I already explained to everyone in the forums that
they are iron-on’s, not screen-printing. I have my shirt already
and it looks pretty nice, The Wraith informed me that his washed
really well too. Everyone is more than welcome to check them out
and we hope that you guys are willing to sport our logo and support
our site. Of course all this recent marketing we’ve been doing is
all leading up to one big event; the unveiling of Snackbar V.2.
We’re trying to keep everything about it as much of a secret as
possible so I’m just going to tell you that it’s going to be sweet.

Last week at EB I picked up a copy of NFL 2K3 for the Xbox.
The main reason I bought such an old game is that it was really
freaking cheap, and I’m a sucker for a sports game. I figured that
I’m more than likely going to be the one to right the reviews when
the 2004 football games come out and I haven’t had any experience
with Sega Sports football since 2K1 on the Dreamcast. I played if
for a while, I defiantly got my ten bucks worth out of it. The reason
I mention it is that Sega Sports made an announcement this week
that their sports line will no longer carry the 2Kx title. Since
they already use the “ESPN style presentation” in their
games Sega decided it would be a good idea to try and capture a
larger audience by using the ESPN namesake in their game titles.
For example; this years Sega Sports football game will be titled
ESPN NFL Football 2004. I would tend to agree with Sega Sports
that this is a good move since they are desperately trying to keep
up with EA Sports. Since EA has already told us that they aren’t
going to offer sports games on Live I say anything that increase
Sega Sports’ budget for future games is a good thing.

Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter hit the Xbox and PS2 this week.
I know that many people have been anxiously awaiting this game,
Pretzel included, but I have to go on the record as saying that

I’m not terribly excited. While I don’t dislike First Person Shooters,
it just seems like they are cranked out these days. Every week someone
is all pumped up about another FPS, last week it was Soldier
of Fortune 2
. I’m sure that Mace Griffin is going to be a pretty
good game, and I’m not going to jump to any conclusions before I
even play it, but isn’t it time for some creativity? I guess as
long as people keep buying them, companies will keep making them
and we’ll keep reviewing them. It’s a vicious cycle.

In all honestly I’ve pretty much covered every bit of news from
the previous week that I consider important. It seems that I keep
getting stuck with uneventful weeks. I wanted to take a second to
talk about something personal. When Cone, Pic and myself came up
with the idea for Snackbar we never dreamed it would become what
it has in such a short amount of time. The response we’ve gotten
has been overwhelming positive and inspiring. Over the past six
months we’ve welcomed many people into the SB family, and we hope
that our readers have enjoyed seeing our characters develop and
find our style and place in the internet community. The fact that
we’re about to take this thing to the next level is both exciting
and unnerving, we can only hope to receive a fraction of the success
we’ve had so far. Above everyone else I wanted to give The Wraith
a gigantic thanks from the SB crew. He’s the manager at the EB Games
we all shop at and the more involved he’s gotten in the site the
better it’s been. I just wanted to let all our readers know that
he’s one of the major factors that helped us keep ticking and all
the EB guys can take a lot of credit for the success we’ve had in
our first 6 months.

Until next month, Soda Out!

In July’s issue of GMR Magazine, [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] was described as “If Tony Hawk Could Swim.” Obviously the aforementioned description was in reference to this games similarities to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. Given the big name recognition of the Tony Hawk series I feel that it’s unfair to hype a relatively unknown game like this. A similar thing happened when Brute Force was hyped as the “Halo-Killer,” and obviously doesn’t even belong in the same rating scale as Halo. So will [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] suffer this reviewer’s wrath in the same fashion as Brute Force? Hell no, this game fucking kicks ass!

[heading]Who the hell is Shaun Murray?[/heading]

I’m a big fan of video games based on obscure sports. SSX Tricky is high on my list of all time favorites and I couldn’t name one professional snowboarder. Even going back to my Genesis days I thought EA’s Rugby was a classic. I can’t say that I am big fan of wakeboarding, in fact I don’t think I know the first thing about it, but I know that whenever I see clips of it on TV it doesn’t really look all that exciting.

That’s the beauty of video game world; they can take something not that exciting and make it an over-the-top, in your face action fest. [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] is the perfect example of this. The level design is creative, effective, and beautiful. You can grind on everything from moving 18-wheelers to power lines. Every level has enough unique aspects to keep you interested and wanting to desperately see what the next level has to offer.
[i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i]
I give the developer’s a gigantic thumbs up for the graphics on this game. I can only imagine the difficulty of designing an entire game based on the water. From what I’ve seen in the past water is usually one of the worst looking things visually in every game. I find the way the water and wake reacts to the boats movements as close to perfect as possible. Kudos Activision.

[heading]Required Accessories[/heading]

Before you being playing [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] I would recommend picking up some blood pressure medication, a stress doll and possibly a “break proof” controller. Yes, this is one of those games that will have you smashing your controller to the ground frequently, only to have you come back begging and pleading for more seconds later. To unlock different levels and increase character points you must achieve certain goals in the Groove Mode (free ride mode) or complete predefined challenges. Some of these challenges are seemingly impossible and it will take you a good hundred tries to complete them. The amazing part is that it never gets boring. Running through the same challenge for the hundredth time is just as much fun as it was the first time. On the “challenge scale” [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] is as close to finding the perfect balance between too easy and too hard that I have ever encountered.
[i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i]
[heading]And That Rope You’ve Been Hearing So Much About[/heading]

If you’ve heard anything previously to this review about [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] I’m sure that you’ve heard something about the rope. I won’t lie to you; the physics of this thing are unbelievable. You’ll almost feel like you’re really strapped to the back of a boat. You can glide into a turn and build up speed to make a huge launch off of a quarter pipe, and if you don’t think the rope is restricting your airtime, just let it go. You can use the ability to let go of the rope to set up huge catapult launches, bust a few flips, show off some nice grabs and than catch the rope on your way down.

[heading]Xbox Top 10[/heading]

I would consider this one of the best ten titles to own for Xbox right now. I know that’s a pretty lofty claim, but I can make it with full confidence that this game will not dissapoint. If you’re a fan of Tony Hawk you are sure to love this game, and even if you’re not (like myself) [i]Wakeboarding Unleashed[/i] rocks the house.

CounterStrike (CS) is widely known as one of the
best multiplayer FPS games ever. Unfortunately it is also well known
for being a breeding ground for cheaters, spawn campers, team killers,
and other such fuckheads. Whether or not you’re a fan of CS you
have to admit that it reigned supreme over all FPS’ for a very long
time. Not to mention that it’s damn fun. If any of you have been
a fan of the site for a while you probably have heard me mention
that I almost lost a job due to a CS addiction. It’s a little hard
to explain exactly why every single person at my office played CS
non-stop all night every night, but there were six of us that didn’t
come into work until 5 pm and didn’t leave till 5 am. As if working
that schedule wasn’t boring enough, there was never anything to
do at this particular job. On top of all that no one who was in
charge ever came into the office. So what is the best way for six
computer geeks to entertain themselves who have nothing to do for
twelve hours at a time every day? CS, of course.

Everyone who has ever participated in a LAN party probably has
some pretty funny stories. What was different about this is that
every single night for more than three months the six of us were
eating, breathing, and sleeping CS. Being around each other for
the massive quantity of time that we were we were bound to get on
each other’s nerves. I could probably sit for hours and tell stories
that would make you laugh your ass off, but I will save those all
for another time, possibly another article. There is one particular
incident that will make me laugh until the day I die.

CS was such a way of life for us that after awhile we only referred
to each other by our player handles. Once you reach that stage in
your life you know that you’ve hit a new low. Before SB came about
I used to play under the handle “Dick Armey.” No, ARMEY
isn’t spelled wrong, he’s a senator, watch fucking CNN every once
in awhile. I shared an office with “Kyzer Soze” and “Weasel”
next door; the other three were down the hall.

For some reason Weasel wasn’t very good and he always played in
his office with the door closed. I think he was just annoyed with
the rest of us screaming at each other down the hall all the time.
One time a security guard was checking our office at 3 am and I
was screaming to Fenster down the hall at the top of my lungs, “Plant
the bomb! Plant the mother fucking bomb!”

We all laughed but I don’t think the security guard thought it
was very funny.

One night we were playing as the Counter Terrorists on the Canyon
Siege level. On this particular level all the Counter Terrorists
start out having to run across a canyon on a narrow bridge. If you’re
a CS veteran than you know that the start of every round is like
a rat race to get position before the other team does. Everyone
is off like a bolt of lightning trying to get to their spots.

For some reason Weasel kept spawning closet to the bridge so he
was always the first person to g
o across it. Normally Weasel sucking
didn’t bother anyone, but the bridge over the canyon is only wide
enough for one person to get across at a time. In addition to not
being all that great, Weasel insisted upon running with his gun
instead of his knife. Every CS player knows that you don’t run near
as fast with your gun out. So picture this; the only player of the
team who doesn’t run with his knife out hits the bridge first and
gets the other nine members of his team stuck behind him. The other
team was getting to their points way before we were and we were
getting massacred. Getting beat at any game is never acceptable
to me.

After four rounds of staring at the back of Weasel’s head and getting
really pissed off I yelled to Weasel “If you don’t quit running
with your gun I’m going to shoot you myself.”

I was pretty sure he heard me because I yelled pretty loud. The
next round started and I bought an AWP, just in case. I switched
to my knife and turned to run across the bridge, only to be greeted
by the back of Weasel’s head once again. I would like to make a
disclaimer that I don’t usually condone team killing, but there
are some situations where people are just asking for it. I stopped,
zoomed in and put a nice pretty bullet through the back of Weasel’s
head. Everyone on my team cheered and I could hear Weasel scream
“What the Fuck?” through his office door.

I felt good about myself, perhaps I had taught him a valuable lesson.
Except the next round started and I ran into him again! Apparently
he didn’t learn the first time, so I started to line up another
headshot. By the time I got my scope zoomed in on him I saw his
head explode before I even pulled the trigger. I turned around and
heard Kyzer cracking up. Talk about a “second shooter”

We heard Weasel spike his mouse and slam his door open. A second
later he came bursting into our office and lunges at Kyzer. The
lunge turned into a punch landed squarely on the back of Kyzer’s
head. Several swings and vulgarities were exchanged before the conflict
came to a conclusion. I would have tried to break them up but I
found the whole situation way too humorous. I’ll admit that it was
the only time I have ever seen a fist fight during an online game
involving two players on the same team. I would say that’s a rarity
during any game.

The moral of the story my friends, is don’t let your LAN party
turn to violence. If you suck at a game, make sure and get the hell
out of your team’s way. It makes things easier for everyone involved.

The Week In Review is a feature that we’ve wanted to bring back
for the past few months. We finally think that we have hammered
out a system that will let us do the WIR every single week in a
timely manner. Personally the WIR is one my favorite things to write
because I get to let the readers know my thoughts on the news from
the gaming industry. It also gives the readers a chance to know
me a little better and what kind of things I like and don’t like.
Sometimes it’s hard to communicate your feelings about a particular
subject if you’re just cranking out reviews all the time. Everyone
enjoy and welcome back to the Week In Review.

Wouldn’t it be my luck that the week we had scheduled to bring
this back is the week after E3? It’s not as though nothing happened,
but anything that was big is old news by now. Mainly the news I
get stuck with after E3 is all the bad news. I can’t imagine that
anyone would stand up at E3 and make an announcement that they have
delayed release of a game for nearly a year. I have a feeling that
wouldn’t go over too well. Everything at E3 is all upbeat and positive.
A few things did happen that actually grabbed my attention though.

Governor Gary Locke, Washington state governor, signed a new bill
into law placing restrictions of the sale of video games depicting
violence against law enforcement agents. I’ve made my feelings about
violence in video games clear in a
previous installment
of the WIR, but this is a total load of
shit. Isn’t it illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age
of 18? Drive around a high school sometime and see how well that
law is working. Isn’t it also illegal to sell alcohol to anyone
under the age of the 21? Lord knows none of us ever drank until
we were 21 right? Once again I’d like to reiterate that some things
should be left up to parents. It really bothers me that tax dollars
and government time is being spent on things because parents in
this world are just too damned stupid to figure out that games like
GTA3 aren’t for children.

More bad news for those anxiously awaiting Star Wars Galaxies.
The PS2 and Xbox versions of this game have been put on hold to
put all efforts towards launching the PC version. I wouldn’t hold
my breath on this game getting launched anytime soon. I hate to
beat a dead horse, but is this game ever going to come out? I’ve
seen screen shots, how far away could it possibly be? Speaking of
delays, no Starcraft Ghost in 2003. All I have to say is
this game better be fucking good. It seems like a decade ago that
I saw the in game footage video. I have no idea what could possibly
be taking so long. I am of the thought that I would rather have
them take their time and do it right, it’s just frustrating as hell
to the consumers.

Shout out time! EB Games Huebner Oaks. Not enough good things
I can say about those guys, seriously. If you live in San Antonio
go there, you might get a chan
ce to meet your favorite SB character.
Whoever those two guys were that were talking about my Stake
article in NWN. Pickle has been bitching about that for like
the last week. Anything that makes Pickle that flustered is good
in my book. All the new SB members. Dots and Pretz
have officially been baptized into the SB crew. Basically there
are two ways to get into the crew; 1. Have known us since like middle
school, 2. Marry one of us. So if you’re a hot single chick interested
in being a part of the SB crew Pic and myself are still single;
Wink, wink. Last but not least, our readers. I hate to sound like
a kiss ass but I’ve been hearing nothing but good things from you
guys. It’s great to have your support and you guys make this place
kick ass, not us.

-Soda out