Since the summer, an influx of sports titles containing a story line mode has changed the way sports are experienced on a console. Being a video game fanatic and a flag-waving sports fan has led me to play a group of games of this new breed, and I will be the referee on three of these franchise hits: NCAA Football 2006, Madden NFL 06 and Blitz the League.
As fun and innovative as these games are, they simply cannot bridge the gap between two separate genres within the gaming industry: sports and role-playing.
Let?s begin with sports game publishing giant Electronic Arts (EA), which, over the past year, has purchased exclusivity rights with NCAA College Baseball, the Professional Golfers? Association (PGA), the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), Arena League Football (AFL), and the National Football League (NFL). They are the publishers of both NCAA Football 2006 and Madden NFL 06.
Both games, though solid all around, completely missed the mark in regards to the story line mode of the game.
NCAA Football 2006 adds one new feature: a little mailbox next to your door that displays letters which do not follow the story in the slightest, such as post-Heisman ?Welcome to college? letters, and gives you different ways to access the several menus in the regular season mode.
It also allows your player to go through one mini-drill which determines what schools will want to give you a full scholarship to attend their university; however, if you don?t want to attend one of those three schools, you can choose to play for any college in the country with no penalties to your player, just as if they gave you the scholarship offer.
Madden NFL 06 also offers an inferior story line mode for the football fanatic.
One new and exciting aspect of the game is the ability to pick and choose who your player?s parents were, including some of their past athletic feats, hobbies, IQs and occupations.
That?s about where the excitement ends and the tedium begins.
During each week of both the preseason and the regular season, your team will hold approximately six different practice sessions for your player to complete, some of which are just regular practice sessions, while others focus on a specific play for your team to successfully run.
These practices have the ability to make your player perform better or worse during the upcoming week?s game.
With 17 weeks in an NFL season (yes, there are practices on your bye-week) and four in the preseason, this adds up to an tremendous 126 total practices in which you must attempt at least 10 plays in order for the practice to be counted; therefore, Madden makes you practice for a minimum of 1,260 plays in just one season. Talk about repetitive.
Due to the exclusivity rights that EA purchased for this year?s sports games, Midway made the decision to turn its highly successful Blitz franchise in a different direction.
Normally, I would allow for some errors since the game designers created an entire league from nothing but their minds; however, the errors in this game were far too many to overlook.
First off, the programmers overused many of the camera effects, such as having the raindrops on the camera lens during a storm; this leads to a very interesting scene in which it is raining inside the mayor?s limousine.
The end of the season is anti-climatic and makes you feel as if you had just wasted the 15 hours of game play required to defeat this story mode.
The game also begins with many videos that show the direction of the story early, but by the time I was halfway through the game, I saw a video maybe once every three or four games, causing the story to stagnate just when it should have been picking up speed.
Although these three games come up short in their story line modes, it doesn?t mean that great story lines in sports games are impossible.
One day, a great game will be created that takes you through the trials and tribulations of being a sports rookie or superstar.
And I, for one, hope that day arrives sooner, rather than later.