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It's a mad Madden world

Friday, August 31, 2012

I have an addiction, and my wife is perfectly fine with it. I indulge after she goes to sleep, and try to keep it down. I wouldn't want to wake her or my baby daughter and let them see me in the middle of it.

I have had this addiction for more than a decade. Coping with it has seen its share of highs (2005) and lows (I don't even talk about 2009). But I've stuck it out, and I'm not quitting anytime soon.

If you haven't figured it out yet, my addiction is the best-selling Madden football franchise. And in many ways, the game is sort of like that girlfriend or boyfriend who has serious flaws, but you just can't break up because you're convinced that person will change.

Despite its popularity, commercial hype and positive press, Madden NFL is a flawed franchise. In many minds, the game has only gotten worse over the years. Gamer complaints range from overall game play to the uniform and equipment inaccuracies.

So why stick with Madden? Well, for one thing, if you're an NFL fan, it's the only option out there. And from a bang-for-the-buck standpoint, Madden has an advantage for the average fan. You can spend $150 on tickets to a game and a few brats and beers, or $60 on hours and hours of football game play.

Not that Madden always provides a satisfying experience.

Last year's version had so many bugs that I returned it the same day I bought it (after cursing game maker EA Sports a few times). But the new version, which debuted this week, promises exciting enhancements. It features the Infinity Engine, which is designed to make player collisions and interactions more realistic. It also has Connected Careers, whereby gamers can run any team or become any player and compete in an online league with as many as 31 of their friends. It also has the ability to use Kinect for a few features.

But in adding the potentially game-changing Connected Careers, the software designers had to subtract, at least temporarily, the fantasy draft -- one of the most fun parts of Madden -- and player editing. And so far, reviews have not been kind.

Yet the game's allure remains as powerful as ever. There's hope this will be the best Madden yet, or at least a significant step in that direction. But if not, I guess I'll finally kick this Madden-ing habit.

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James Samons
Street Spirit
James Samons writes about (and studies) the arts and entertainment culture of Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Every week he writes on the arts for the Southeast Missourian's SE Live entertainment section.