Madden 09 rewind feature deserves consideration

Posted May 21st, 2008 at 8:12 pm

The most prevalent feedback regarding sports games (and specifically Madden) these days may be that they have become too complicated and difficult to the point where they are intimidating for many. For veterans of these games that may be tough to understand, but even after playing Madden for 20 years I can say that applies to me to a certain extent. I’ve stated before how I’ve never bothered with the majority of pre-snap defensive options for example. So making the game more accessible is a goal for EA Sports which they hope to achieve without dumbing the game down for everyone else. The new “Backtrack” and “Rewind” features would fall into the accessibility category.

Overall the reaction to “Rewind” has varied wildly. There are some that despise even the idea that there is such a feature, there are those who think it was a good addition but don’t plan to use it all that much, and there are others excited by the possibilities it brings and that it will make the game more enjoyable for them. Ultimately it depends on the individual and the mindset they bring into playing Madden.

On the surface the “Backtrack” and “Rewind” features sound questionable. Why should people have a chance to re-do a mistake they made when overcoming them is part of what the game is all about? How is that representative of the NFL when that is completely unrealistic?

That perspective on the features is understandable but short-sighted. These features will either offer the opportunity to learn and improve to those who wish to use them, or they can be completely bypassed and it will be as though they never existed. With online play there are no “rewinds” allowed in ranked games and they are optional for unranked. It seems to be a win-win situation for everyone.

Do I plan on using the “Rewind” in regular games? No I don’t, but that doesn’t negate a use for the feature. I’ve never had the patience to spend time in practice mode. I just want to play games. So what this offers is a chance to play those games while learning not only through experience but also by seeing what I missed and having the chance to identify trends and correct them.

When the Gamestop blog used an extremely poor scenario to demonstrate how the feature could be used the initial reactions were somewhat affected by that. But really the feature has potential in several ways. It can help new players feel comfortable by affording them mistakes which they can then correct on the spot, it can help by creating a “handicap” in head-to-head matchups that really need them, and it can even give experienced players the chance to see what they did wrong and improve their skills.

As a head-to-head feature the “Rewind” wouldn’t really apply for the majority of games. Most people will want to play straight up with the outcome determined naturally through the course of playing. However there are times where it could be advantageous. In many cases two potential opponents will not match up well against each other. If your friend is a Madden expert, and you aren’t, what incentive is there to play them when there is no doubt you’ll just get creamed? Now with the option of taking a few “rewinds” the games could be competitive. There is also the thought that having “rewinds” active could add to the trash talk element amongst friends, though I think there is less value in that than using the feature as a “handicap”.

As universally praised as the Online Dynasty feature for NCAA Football 09 is, there will be a large group of consumers who never utilize it and aren’t interested by it. That doesn’t mean the feature shouldn’t have been included though. The same applies to “Rewind”. Just because there are many people who may not ever use it or believe that resources should have been spent elsewhere doesn’t mean that others won’t find value in it. Ultimately there will never be a circumstance where every single feature appeals to every single consumer, and certainly every feature shouldn’t be targeted at a specific faction of gamers. Any thought otherwise shows the disconnect between the hardcore gamer and everyone else.

When it comes to the community event next week I don’t expect the “Rewind” feature to get much play. It just isn’t something that will really apply to the group or factor into my impressions at least. I have been neutral on the feature since its announcement, but seeing it used in the IGN video changed my feeling on it somewhat as it looks like it has been implemented really well. I especially like the “Backtrack” analysis while situationally “Rewind” has potential for every individual out there if they so choose to use it. As always having options is the best way to go and that is what they have provided with these features.