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31 August, 2012

The Madden Community

  For those who are in my Madden community on PSN (or in the XBox one started by Twitter user @BDMcWilliams), a quick explanation of how it works for those who are unsure. When you go on-line and enter the community, click on the member list under MY COMMUNITY and anyone who is online has a green light next to their name. You can challenge any of those people to a community game. The settings for those games is All-Madden. You can also select PLAY NOW under Head to Head and it will search for anyone who is also searching for a game and pair you up. Lastly, feel free to go on the message board and put something like "Game anyone?" to try and hook up with someone.
   Have fun and enjoy the Tool Free games.

28 August, 2012

Madden 13 Review

 I did the podcast with Bill Simmons today (see the post below) but wasn't able to get to everything, so here are some thoughts on Madden '13.

   Props to game play designers like Larry Reichart and his crew for really upgrading the realism of the game. Last year was great, but this version really is improved. 
Also a shout out to Stephen Gibbs and Zach Farley who put together the Madden Strategy guide. There's a ton of great info in there and great tips for each team that can help you win. 
Check them out at

   As for the game, make sure to watch the opening Ray Lewis monologue when the game begins. It's like LT's speech in Any Given Sunday. "When a man looks back on his life, he should be proud of all of it..."


As I mentioned in the podcast, the fantasy draft for on-line franchise play is gone. 
If you play in an on-line league, this is a crusher. One of the best parts of that process was putting your team together, out-scouting your fellow owners and finding the real value players and watching them grow. Now you have to be a team and work with them. In other words, you go into Connected Career Mode as a coach and you still play the game the regular way, but you have to start with an actual team roster. I'm not sure how free agency works in this mode. It would be fun if there came a time when our league got together for "free agency day" and we battled it out for the best free agents. 
   There are fake Twitter accounts in this mode, so you see guys like Mark Schelreth and Adam Schefter tweeting about developments in the league, which is kind of cool. 
  In CCM retired players can come back, so there may be hope for Bill to play with Steve Grogan some day. 
  You can also choose to be a player, rather than a coach, and just take part in the plays that involve you. Kind of like Road to the Show in MLB the Show. In your CCM leagues, one guy can be a QB of the Steelers, the other guy could be the Raiders coach and the league goes on like normal.  In short, the game designer, Josh Looman, is really trying to make it the first true sports rpg.
  One part of CCM that I really like is the practice mode. As you go through each week as a coach, you have the option to run a practice. There are dozens of challenges each week that vary in their points value. IE, you are down 14 points at the start of the 4th quarter, come back and win and you get 500 points. These points are used to improve your team or can be used in scouting college kids. It's a great way to really work on your schemes and game plans and get value for your time spent.

   When you play afternoon games, shadows can be problematic. When the sun is behind a team, the shadows block out the jerseys and on kick returns and long passes it's tough to identify which team players down the field are on.  

   The infinity engine is really good. Basically it puts physics, momentum and reaction to contact into the game. The bodies move in life-like ways. Running backs progress can be impeded by their lineman. Players can make trip tackles. DB's vaporing through your receiver to pick off passes now get called for pass interference. The only down side is after the whistle players tend to fall over each other and flop around. It looks like a Rudy Fernandez highlight film. Overall, this is a huge improvement. 

KR has it's juice back. It's back to where it was a few years ago where kicks can get past the 20 more often then not and the really good returners are weapons. 

Total control passing- There are 25 new trajectories on passes and over 400 new catch animations plus total control passing allows you to throw the ball to space. This makes it  much easier to throw balls over defenders and into space. You can lead guys much better. Receivers catching along the sidelines do it better. The "moon ball" pass to the flats is gone. 
Also, receivers can't catch the pass if they're not ready, so throwing it when a guys not looking is almost always incomplete. This comes into play with RBs out of the backfield on blitz plays. You'll see a lot of passes bouncing off the back of helmets. Again, more realistic.

You can abort a play-action pass if you see pressure. Also on play-action, it doesn't take as long to develop and your RB's chip before going out on their patterns. You don't see a lot of PA passes with 4 or 5 receiving options, and that is no longer the case in the game. 

User control catching is much improved. When you take control of the receiver, he doesn't run off his routes and your chances of pulling a pass are much better.

Read + React defense system. Players can only make plays on balls they see. The magical linebacker who jumped and swatted a pass that his back was turned to is gone. Between this and the new passing trajectories, passing is a whole lot more enjoyable. 

Disguise coverages. Even in zone a DB will go in motion with a receiver and defenders adjust their coverages on the vacated side of the ball. This really puts an emphasis on reading coverages and makes the game much more of a chess match. It also lessens the chance of a LB covering Calvin Johnson (which would never happen. Hey, more realistic!)

You can also commit to runs or passes before the snap. This is really helpful against the previously unstoppable QB sneak on 3rd and inches. 

EA mic'd up the QB's and were able to get authentic cadences from Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Tim Tebow. So when you audible with these guys, you hear their voice. Pretty cool. It also sounds like they recorded actual stadium crowds for some of the noise. After touchdowns you can hear some great random screams and stuff. 

   Oh, I almost forgot. With legends mode in CCM I can be a rookie John Elway and play his career. That is awesome. 

   Every year I wonder how they can make the game better. Every year the people at EA find a way to do it. If spending the money on the new game is a tough call and you feel like you're not really missing out on anything, no one can blame you. But I will say Madden '13 represents the largest increase in year-to-year improvement the game has presented in quite some time. I just wish they had found a way to keep the fantasy draft for on-line league play. 

Madden 13 podcast with Bill Simmons

the annual pod to talk about the game, plus a little baseball and Expendables thrown in for your enjoyment.

23 August, 2012

Mets are Awful

I was going to write a post about how pitiful the Mets have been since the break. How a season that was so much fun had become such a train wreck. I was going to, and then Mike Francesa said everything there was to say.

19 August, 2012

The Expendables 2

(***this review discusses details of the film, so if you haven't seen it, and plan to, hold off on reading this ***)

   From the opening minute until the final gun (or actually knife), The Expendables 2 is a fun, thrill ride of over-the-top explosions, fisticuffs and one-liners. In short, I loved it.
    If you know me, you know I love Sly Stallone and pretty much anything he does, but I walked away from the theater (twice!) feeling like I got my moneys worth. Here are some random thoughts on the film.
    Stallone's fingerprints are all over the screenplay (which he wrote with Richard Wenk). Stallone finds a way to put a rhythm into his films which goes big action, quick funny scene, more action, poignant scene, big action, etc. It's Stallone's way of trying to personalize the people who are blowing people's heads off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I didn't buy Billy's speech about why he left the Army ("the worst part was, they killed the dog I adopted." Really, that was worse than the 6 team members who were killed?) but I enjoyed Gunner trying to get Maggie's attention on the plane, Ceasar's "Your cereal could be Earios" to Toll Road and Christmas' "I now pronounce you man and knife."
    I loved the fact that Dolph Lundgren is used as the comic foil. Some of his stuff is funny, some of it dorky, but it plays both ways because in the back of my mind I'm thinking "Look at Drago the goof ball!" You can almost see him and Stallone sitting in a room saying stuff like "And then you say 'I would really love some Chinese'" and laughing a hearty laugh before agreeing, "That's great. Put that down!"
   When I walked out of the theater the first time I remarked to my friend "I don't think there was one swear word in the movie." Turns out "shit" was said five or six times, but it really goes almost unnoticed. There's also not a sketch of nudity. The next day when I was taking my 13-year old to see the movie, I said to my wife "There's no swearing and there's no nudity," to which see responded, "What about the violence?" As I was quickly walking out the door with my son I replied "Oh, that's through the roof. Why do you think it's rated R?" I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but violence has really been upped in films in recent years. Pulp Fiction was way ahead of it's time. It wasn't that long ago anyone who got shot kind of spun around and fell down, now everyone literally gets their head blown off. But Stallone finds a way to make it cartoonish, highlighted by his entire squad gunning down a bad guy in a local village and Sly drops a "Rest in pieces!" on us. Pure gold.
   Jean Claude Van Damme is an awesome villain. It's the first JCVD film I've ever seen in the theaters and for the most part I've only noticed his films, but never really watched one. With his Terminator shades on almost the entire film, he feels like a real threat to Sly and his team. The best part is knowing that those two guys are going to face off at some point. Boy do they. It's a fantastic fight scene which features haymakers, evil one liners "Let's wrap this up!", Rocky/Apollo-like exchanges "Coming right up," "Going back down!" and even Stallone channeling his Rocky "Hit me!! You ain't so bad!!" by screaming at JCVD "Come on Vilain! Come ON Vilain!" It was one of the more gratifying fight scenes I can recall.
   Chuck Norris. I swear to God, when Chuck Norris (sight unseen) saves the day by blowing a few dozen people away who are attacking the crew, and then appears on camera, people in the theater applauded. As if seeing Chuck on the big screen with Sly wasn't cool enough, Chuck delivers a Chuck Norris joke that got the biggest laugh of the night (followed by Arnold's "I'm back!" down in the mine.) Norris's appearance and his joke perfectly illustrate what was great about this film, it never took itself too seriously. All the guys had some one-liners, with the older guys alluding to each others films. In a film where hundreds, if not thousands of people are getting slaughtered, there were dozens of laughs and fun moments. Put that on your quotable promos, Sly!
   While Liam Helmsworth and Nan Yu were good in their roles, to go along with the rest of the guys, it was Sly, Bruce, Arnold and JCVD who carried the day.  Stallone was smart to give Arnold and Bruce more face time in this one. It helped the enjoyment factor. When Sly, Bruce and Arnold are walking through the airport, firing their big guns, it was hard not to bask in the glow of their assault rifles.
   A quick list of other thoughts:
   Stallone's voice: It seems deeper and manages to drop a few more octaves when he has something important to say.
   Gunner's knife: He spend all movie sharpening it, but hardly ever uses it.
   Christmas' timing: He's always scrambling to get into position to fire the bombs from the plane. It's not like he didn't know they were going to. Get down there a little early for Pete's sake.
   Helicopter head: When Christmas is fighting Hector, you know how the fight is going to end, but it was still enjoyable to see it end that way.
   Booker's walk and shoot: I loved when Chuck Norris was walking through the airport, using a bad guy as a shield, and just picking people off. By the way, I'm guessing there were some flight delays out of that airport that day.
   Yin Yang's quickie: Jet Li wasn't in the film long, but his pots and pans attack coupled with his "you'll find another minority" retort to Gunner were fantastic.
   No UPS?: So they sent Billy's girlfriend the letter and a box of cash and left in on the doorstep? It looked like a stiff wind could blow the top off that box and there appeared to be at least 100k in there. I'm just saying.
   Adams Family humor?: When Barney yelled at Gunner to wake up and Gunner said "You rang?" it struck me as an homage to Lurch from The Adams Family.

   Having grown up with the classic action-hero films of the '80s, this film was true to that genre, while winking at it too. In short, it provided everything you would expect. Big muscles, big guns, big fights, big explosions and big stars who still know how to deliver the goods. At a time when the action hero seems to be in short supply (That's on you, Rock) Sly, Arnold, Bruce and the rest are anything but expendable.