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EDITORIAL COLUMN   Rated "M" for Mature

When good sports games get old...
By Tim Martin -- Reviews Editor
Published June 7, 2003

We have all been there. After season twelve of Madden led by your drafted-QB Emmitt Favre, you can't take it anymore. After winning the Super Bowl on All-Madden for the eighth straight year, you're sick of seeing the same animations, the same CPU cheating, game after game after game.

So what do you do?

Normally I'd say "go out and buy a new sports game you cheap sack of Todd Hundley!" But now, at a time that is by far the slowest sports gaming season of the year - the dragging months between the baseball and football games and after the mad excitement of E3 - that is not a feasible choice unless you want to buy three- or four-month old baseball games. Even then, not everyone wants to spend the $50 they were going to throw at the new NCAA Football or NFL 2k4 (or is it ESPN Football??). I by no means want to be the voice of reason, but I'd like to suggest a few ways to energize your video gaming life (and it's not Game-agra...haha):

1) Stop playing single-player games against the CPU and start playing games against human opponents.

Unless you've spent a little too much time unlocking all the uniforms in NBA Street Vol. 2 or are 157 played games into MVP Baseball, you probably have some friends. Invite them over and run a game in your favorite sports games. Be careful though, as if you whoop ass too early and too often against the guy who asks, "where's the X button" or comments "Dude! This vibrating controller rocks!" they probably won't ever play again. Personally, if you have a friend who doesn't play that often, I would suggest playing a single yet multi-player game like Hot Shots Golf 3 or Tony Hawk. You can compete at the same time without having too much of a one-on-one slant.

I had pretty much left my copy of NBA Street for dead until my college buddies discovered it in the first weeks of school. Until Vol. 2 came out in May, we still ran Street.

I'm sure the anti-socialists out there are crying...what about online? Although i am sure they are having plenty of fun in Year 37 with HGMOL (Hardkore Gamerz Madden Online League), you can't replace the fun of dogging or being dogged by your friends. Lighting up FavreRulz84 is not as much fun as humiliating Bobby from down the street. As shallow as it may seem, I still hold my shootout victory in Winning Eleven 6 over one of my friends like Doug Flutie dangles defiantly over the Miami Hurricanes. You also get more of an honest game with a human opponent as opposed to online or definitely against the CPU. But my main point is, online games are impersonal, even with headsets and USB keyboards, whereas multi-player can live on for a long time.

2) Change scenery. Don't be afraid to move around: This is most likely the most-used change of them all. I played six seasons in NCAA Football with the Florida State Seminoles. I got sick of the ACC and the Gators and the Hurricanes and packed up my bags and took a job at UCLA. Although the game didn't feel all that different, the change of the uniforms and stadiums made a nice difference. That can probably be applied to any sports game.

If you're the Philadelphia 76ers, why not change to the Detroit Pistons (Larry Brown did's got to be cool)? Although changes in the NBA might not be as drastic as football, a change in team should add some temporary relief.

Is the game the same? Yes, but the eyes can play tricks. You can also change your style of play. At FSU I was a pre-dominantly running team because I was able to recruit bruising running backs. When I started playing my home games in Pasadena, I had a passing team, and a new playbook. Although the AI was about the same, my end of the bargain switched. I played another five seasons with UCLA before I put NCAA back on the shelves.

In the NBA, try slowing things down and play more of a Miami Heat brand of ball, as opposed to the run-and-gun Dallas Mavericks style. In baseball, swing for the fences instead of working the CPU pitcher into 3-2 counts every at-bat. In golf, switch to a golfer that has the opposite game of your current one.

And most drastic of all, quit playing games and instead sim them. I understand most gamers love the game, but I am guessing if you play a game so long that you have had two Peja Mutombos...I'm sure you like the GM aspect as much as the alternative. In a game like NFL 2k3, there are so many little things that can be tweaked that in these few months, maybe you should accustom yourself to. Try to win a Super Bowl with players that only have names that begin with the letter A (even if it means you have to take Akili Smith...God help you). Or try to win the NBA Championship with guys all under 6 feet 5 - by simming them.

3) Tinker with the game. Tink, tink away: I think many gamers overlook the number of options and camera angles a game has to offer. I can't tell you how many people only play in the default camera mode, and never toy with the game cheats. Games really seem different when you switch from the default camera mode to an overview or side view. Will it be harder? Will you suck? Probably, but it's a nice change up from dominating the CPU. Not only do you have to change everything you do, you have to react to the computer differently as the animations you were accustomed to noticing by a glitch or repetition. This literally makes the game brand-new.

I almost never take advantage of most of the mini-games or cheat codes because I like the game, not the fluff. But once the game becomes bland, the fluff might not seem that bad. After 15 seasons of intense gaming, playing the Mascot game could be the hook you're looking for.

4) Bling! Bling! Mom just paid me $30 to clean the bathroom and $20 to mow grandma's lawn! I can buy a new game: Why not? Some of us are rich, or have rich parents. Some of us mooch off our girlfriends or boyfriends. Some of us trade in uber amounts of games. Either way, buying another game to change things up is always great. Personally, I love buying non-sports games when I get bored. Non-sports games have plot lines and character development. The only lines sports games have are free throw and out of bounds and the only development seen is gauged by a + or a - sign. So, I have turned to many of Sony's $20 Greatest Hits (similar things are found for the Gamecube and X-Box) games like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Devil May Cry.

Especially in the slow season, taking a break from the sports genre and engulfing yourself in a good RPG might make the wait seem shorter. Sports gamers accustomed to fast twitches and loyalty to a player or team might like the quickness of a a fighting game like Virtua Fighter or Tekken Tag. In many cases, they incorporate a form of career mode and have plenty of things to unlock.

As for me, I am torn between the VR missions of the PSOne Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill 2, as I wait until the next wave of football games come around. So there you have it. In just a few months sports games will be thrown in our faces and we'll go through the same exhausting process. There's always fun to be had with your 10-month old games, you just have to find it and be open. Otherwise, grab the Soft Scrub and mop.

    Rated "M" for Mature will return periodically.

    Martin has worked at SGN since 1999 reviewing games, editing reviews, and conducting interviews; is a sports writer for the Kankakee (Ill.) Daily Journal; has covered sports and news for various newspapers; and worked at multi-platform and multi-console Armchair Empire. He has been published in both print and on the web.

    If you have any comments or concerns on the column or suggestions for future columns, you can contact Tim through our: feedback page.

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