An ongoing problem in the Madden NFL series is the terrible A.I. EA Sports has done a fantastic job of building a game that looks and sounds like real football, but it doesn’t play like real football at all. Sometimes this is amusing, and sometimes it really takes the fun out of the game. Here are a few of the ways in which I’ve seen the game freak out or go wrong:
Crowd cheering is based on how far you run, not on how well you are doing
This one is amusing. Get the ball and take off in the wrong direction. Once you get going, the crowd notices you are running very far very fast and begins to cheer, despite the fact that you are going the wrong way. I love when your fans stand up and cheer you for doing something very, very stupid.
A.I. is senseless when rating trades.
This isn’t too bad. I’ts just an obvious exploit that I can’t believe has survived through the various iterations of the game. Can’t someone take a few hours and fix this?
What you do is trade a lower-rated team for their superior draft pick. For example, if you are rated #1, you can go to the worst team in the league, and they will trade you their first-round pick for your first-round pick. Their first-round pick should be one of the best, and you likely have the worst first-round pick. This is not a complex or obscure issue, and it’s been around for years.
Another trick: Find a player with great stats who is nearing retirement. Then sign them to a ridiculous contract that overpays them, and assumes they are going to be at the top of their game for years. Then trade this player for a solid draft pick with comparable pay.
The A.I. seems to rate this player based on how much you pay him, not based on how many useful years he has left. The upshot is that you get a young stud and they get a broken old man. Eventually they cut him and take a cap hit. That’s bad enough, but you can keep doing this and drive a team to ruin.
A.I. is the same for all teams.
Once you get ahead of the A.I., it makes the same oddball choices no matter who you are playing. Look for them to punt sideways, out-of-bounds on 4th down, because they fear giving up big yardage on the punt return. I’m talking about goofy 10-yard sideways punts. Really strange. I might understand if a few teams reacted this way, but they all do. It really drives home the point that the only thing that varies from team to team is the players: the coaching strategy is almost uniform.
The A.I. is also fond of off-side kicks, which happen way too often (and with far too much success) in this game.
I can’t remember the last time the A.I. surprised me with an unexpected decision.
The running game is lackluster.
Madden 2006 is built around showy long bombs, and the running game just doesn’t feel right. You either run for a loss or a touchdown. You can’t build an offsensive drive around 3 and 4 yard runs. After playing the game for a while, I can sort of see how it is meant to go: You throw a lot, go long, and every five plays or so you throw a running play in there to keep the A.I. guessing. For some teams this makes sense, but for smashmouth teams like Pittsburgh or Jacksonville this doesn’t look right at all.
None of these issues ruin the game. The thing that bothers me is that they have been obvious issues for years, and they continue to release new versions of the game with the same flaws. Disappointing.
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