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Reflecto's Bulletproof Video Game Reviews...

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(Just copying video game reviews from my school's paper that I did to here. Regarding the title, the name is fairly simple: I attacked my school's editor following being mistreated. Due to my talent, the new editors then proceeded to bring me back into the fold once he graduated. In short, I AM BULLETPROOF. You want my stuff gone? Bring KRYPTONITE, MOFO!)

Bulletproof Video Game Reviews: NFL Special Edition!

Well, it's fall again. The leaves will start falling off the trees, only to be seen as something amazing from out-of-towners. School begins anew, only to lead to most of you probably already getting sick of it. Throughout all of this, there's one thing everyone can enjoy: the new NFL season. Luckily, I remain just as bulletproof as ever, and I'm here to review possibly this season's toughest matchup: Electronic Arts's Madden 2005 vs. Sega's ESPN 2K5. The Madden series has been one of video games's most long-standing great series in video games, but in this season's batch of games, the ESPN series's sophomore effort has actually formed the closest attempt by the Sega brand to put a wrench in the Madden dynasty since the days when NFL '95 and Prime Time NFL football on Genesis. Despite these, the question remains: Which game is more l33t for this year?


The ESPN series was actually able to hit this year with even more surprising moves to attack Madden than just its gameplay: The ESPN NFL series gave a huge break to gamers everywhere by making the suggested retail price of the series only $19.99 (as opposed to Madden 2005's price of $49.99. ) This move has proved very successful in its beginning, and Sega has already gone through with similar price breaks to its NHL and NBA games for this year. Despite the price break, this led to a huge question mark: Namely, do you get what you pay for? The answer for this one seems to be a resounding: Yes, and more! The gameplay for ESPN 2k5 has dramatically improved from the mediocre Sega NFL games of the last few years. This isn't to say it's perfect, however- in fact, when I started playing it, I immediately noticed a problem with ESPN's gameplay in the fact that it was too easy. When playing the game, my rushing game always tended to get at least 10 yards, and every pass was for a touchdown. It might have been due to my choice of team (the Patriots), but it seemed too easy from the beginning. In addition, the game has some problems with its extras, most notably in the extra Crib mode for the game (a move that may be one of the most pointless modes in any sports game to date.) Despite these poor things, Sega added a number of innovative features to keep the game going, most notably the VIP mode- a mode that allows you to save the playing style of all of your friends/online opponents/Jamie Kennedy, Carmen Electra, Steve-O, Funkmaster Flex, and David Arquette [in another borderline idiotic move for the game.] Due to these things, ESPN NFL 2K5 has managed to become the rare discount video game that's actually worth every penny.

Madden 2005

If you are like me and felt that ESPN was too easy, that's the major bonus for Madden 2005: The gameplay of this series has remained constantly excellent throughout the years. Unfortunately, that's most of what could be said for this series, as Madden basically retains the same style of gameplay with only changes so minor that only huge fans of the series will notice it. In this year's game, the major change in gameplay (and a thing ESPN doesn't have) occurs in the forms of morale playing a big part in the game, thus making it unable to just trade for an All-NFL team before the game starts and run roughshod on everyone. A happy player will play to their peak, and an unhappy player will play worse than usual. While this leads to some more challenge for the game (and situations that some other gamers noticed where noted primadonna players like Dallas WR Keyshawn Johnson can literally get thrown the ball on every play and still e-mail you demanding the ball even more), it is mostly one of those additions that only huge fans of Madden can get excited about. The other changes in the game that are noticeable to the everyday player are not as useful as this, most notably seen in the new Tony Bruno show- a remarkable simulation of your average idiotic sports talk radio station. I personally am not a big fan of this addition- the soundtrack has traditionally been a credit to Madden games, and this takes a lot of space away from that. Basically, this game is for the most part the same game that's been so good for the last 10-15 years, a blue-chip game in the form of video gaming.

This leads to the question, which one is the more valid buy? Surprisingly, this is actually a tie this year. The gameplay for Madden is better, but the ESPN 2K5's decent gameplay and much lower price puts it into the game. Madden still is the game I would suggest for Playstation2 owners, but X-Box owners should take note of one x-factor in ESPN's game that makes it the game for that console: While the Crib mode is a poor idea, the ESPN 2k5 is worthy of it due to the fact that the jukebox in the Crib, when used, can allow the player to use up to 350 songs that are burned to the X-Box hard drive [the highest amount of usable burned songs in any X-Box game, and easily dwarfing Madden 2005's limit of 21 songs including the game's actual soundtrack.] This anomaly, when added to ESPN 2k5's comparable gameplay and lower price, pushes it over Madden 2005 on the X-Box to make it the football game to buy on that platform. The safe bet, however, is that no matter which of these you choose, you're definitely getting a game that can only be described as l33t.


Madden 2005: (both): ****

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( A blast from the past via last year...just to see how much l33t3r the new crop of baseball games are. Going back through memory lane...)

Well, it's springtime again- when a young man's fancy turns to...baseball. (What, you'd think I'd write a video game review about love? This isn't a place for me to extoll my love of Japanese dating sims...just yet, anyway...) With this comes a new crop of baseball video games. Luck (and a theft problem in my room) has left me with the ability to try out the newest baseball games currently out: MVP Baseball 2004, All-Star Baseball 2005, ESPN Baseball, and MLB 2005.

MVP Baseball (PS2 version)

Pros of this game: The additions to this make it a very cool game to play. Having not played a EA baseball game since Triple Play, I was surprised that the game was more realistic than I remembered. This was a blessing and a curse: Everyone likes the thrill of massive home run hitting, and none had it like the arcade-style "BALCO ain't got nothing on this" older EA games. The cool little extras to this game were nice, as the potential to play as any Triple A or Double-A team is cool, allowing this writer to see if it was possible for my homestate Pawtucket Red Sox (a decent Triple A team, but Triple A nonetheless) to whoop ass on the "worst team in recent memory" Detroit Tigers. (Present findings: It went to extra innings while totally simmed.) The jukebox in this game had some pluses, as unlike most EA Sports games of this generation, it went against their entire way of making jukebox songs (Another blessing/curse: No bland Def Jam rap [a good thing], but also less "current" alternative hits [only one song on its soundtrack had made it to radio at this area- less than usual, when 2-3 songs have gotten regular play.])

Cons: The Dynasty Mode has a few problems, most notably in timing. In previous EA baseball games, you could lower the schedule or time of the games. In this one, you're playing a 162-game, 9-inning schedule and liking it, mister! This is similar to other games, but when they've got a 102-year Dynasty mode available and three teams to control per year, some corner cutting would be useful. In addition, I'm not feeling the pitching mode: While most other games have a fairly useful one-touch pitching style, MVP uses a style of pitching stolen less more from EA's golf games and less from most baseball games. Since golf games tend to be the most frustrating of games, that's not a good move. The only other problem is its seemingly-lackadaisical updates: I can buy some of the more recent "big signings" and major trades not being in a game (they have said they base to 1/15/2004.) However, some of their moves are just really poor scheduling. MVP may have good things in some areas, but it's a bad sign when All-Star Baseball has A-Rod on the Yankees and I-Rod on the Tigers while [in the most blatant example] the Pawtucket Red Sox' roster includes shortstop prospect Freddy Sanchez...someone who hasn't played on the Pawsox since July, when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Scott Sauerbeck...WHO IS ONE OF HIS TEAMMATES ON THAT ROSTER. (It's minor, but when that's one of the moves you immediately tried out, that becomes fairly glaring...) An additional pain that it has is, despite all of its attempts for realism, the EA gamemakers added one bug that was found in the game on all consoles (and being fixed for the PC version) that suspends disbelief, which needs to be mentioned. This bug makes it so that left-handed hitters cannot hit home runs in the game. This would already be fairly unrealistic, but when you consider how many good left-handed power hitters there are, it adds a definite unrealistic tint to it (when Barry Bonds, one of baseball's premiere home run hitters, can only hit around 5 home runs in a season, there's a definite problem.)

Ratings: ***.5 - The l33tn355 is there. This game really wants to be l33t, but it still has some bugs to be worked out.

All-Star Baseball 2005 (X-Box)

Pros: Not many of the biggest problems it has have left this volume. Possibly the best thing it still has: The Expansion Mode. Since it came into play, I have been infatuated with All-Star Baseball's biggest plus: The opportunity to create your own expansion team and take it to the top in this one. It's been basically the same system for a few years, but surprisingly, none of its competitors has aped this mode yet. That alone helps give this version a bit more cred than it deserves, pushing it ahead of games like MLB 2005 and putting it in its own league.

Cons: Despite this, this game series is vanilla ice cream: 2005 is basically the same game as 2004, which was the same as 2003. Acclaim hasn't put many big changes to its system. This is an example of same shit, different year.

Rating: **.5- I didn't really like it the first time it came out, when it was called All-Star Baseball 2004 and I played it on PS2. There's no major changes that aren't directly the result of the X-Box's capabilities, so this was a poorer result.

MLB 2005 (PS2 only)

Pros: This game is basically the game to play if you're a newbie to baseball games. To put it simply, this game is INSANELY easy to play. MLB 2005 has managed to take the arcade-style baseball game and make it their own with this game. Surprisingly, however, the ease of the game does not mean that you can hit insane amounts of home runs, instead choosing to focus its ease on hitting triples (hits that would only be doubles in the other games, and indeed, in real life become triples when this game is played.) In addition to that ease, MLB 2005 also has the added ability (not seen in other reviews) of choosing the number of innings per game- a good thing for people who want to do well, but also have their games go quick. MLB 2005 also has a large amount of really innovative extras- most notably through the fact that 989 Sports has added the Career mode [previously used in their NBA Shootout series] for this game, and more historically important due to the fact that MLB 2005 is the first regular video game to be released that also supports the Eye-Toy, the Playstation2's console game-webcam hybrid (the game uses it by allowing the player to use their own face for their created player in career mode.)

Cons: If you're not a newbie to baseball games, this game is way too easy. The pros that the game has also serve as cons in many cases: The game's ease of play makes it too easy, and like NBA Shootout, the Career Mode, while serving as a cool idea, comes at the weakness of taking the place of a realistic multi-season mode. The Career mode also loses something by the fact that, like in Shootout, it doesn't realistically allow your player to pick and choose teams more frequently, basically forcing your player to pick a team and be bonded to them. The fact that MLB 2005 is pretty lax on rewards for playing as other games are wont to do (MVP has legends, All-Star Baseball has random cheats- MLB 2005 not only doesn't have anything like that, the game doesn't even have the currently de rigeur throwback uniforms for choices...).

Rating: **- for a proper baseball equivalent, this game is the equivalent to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays- the potential is there, but potential doesn't change the fact that they're still going to end up pwn3d this season.

ESPN Baseball (X-Box)

Pros: This game has a few really nice features to it. For one, the GM mode is probably second-best in all of the games' Dynasties, with the same amount of depth as ESPN's other sports games that have bowed this year (and in some cases, like the opportunity to hire coaching staffs, more than other games.) For another, the game has some innovative stuff, most notably the ESPN First-Person mode that puts your view of the game in the eyes of your player.

Cons: ESPN Baseball is the game that rose from the ashes of World Series Baseball, and it shows in this one. For one, the graphics are not up to X-Box par. For another, it doesn't utilize X-Box capabilities like the other games- it should be interesting to note that of all the baseball games this year available on X-Box, this is the only one that does not allow you to import your burned soundtracks to the game- a poor thing, considering it's also the only one with NO licensed music in the game to begin with. The gameplay doesn't fare much better: While the First-Person mode is a fun diversion from the norm to begin with, you soon notice that First-Person's making it feel like you're playing, combined with extra things that aren't available in First-Person mode (you know, puny things like "not being able to control where the ball goes" and "Not being able to keep your eye on where you're swinging"...) make it so ESPN Baseball is the first game out there which goes past the sports game Level of Challenge by making the First-Person mode actually more challenging than going outside and actually playing baseball for yourself.

Rating: *- The First-Person Mode's managing to rise above the actual sport's challenge means that those who play it will have something in common with the game: Namely, you'll both be 0WN3D by your competition.

s are...)

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