- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Madden 2005: Collector’s Edition by Electronic Arts, for PlayStation 2, $59.99.

Electronic Arts celebrates 15 years of legendary football coach and commentator John Madden’s lending his name and insight to the development of the most consistently innovative football video game on the market.

A special version of the sports simulation, prepared only for Sony’s powerful entertainment console, allows owners to relive the key technological advances of the simulation game as well as the National Football League’s history. The DVD format is packed with extras.

For $10 more than the regular version of the game, owners first can watch featurettes on the evolution of the Madden franchise. These video tidbits range from Mr. Madden demanding that Electronic Arts put the required 11 members of a football team on the pixilated field (in the first release for the Apple 2) to introduction of an innovative motion-capture system for re-creating player movements (in Madden 1997) to the addition of polygonal players and a franchise mode (for Madden 1999).

A fascinating commentary track over game footage also provides wonderful insight. The producers evaluate and testers play an actual, full game of Madden 2005. It has five-minute quarters and humorously explains the minutiae involved in creating a video game as well as the attention required to play and succeed at it.

Developers even throw in three complete playable games from the past to display the advances of console technology. Players can choose among a 16-bit re-creation from the Sega Genesis days and two versions for the first 32-bit PlayStation classics, all of which use current team rosters.

A trivia game rounds out the fun, boasting more than 1,000 questions in which quickness in answering the multiple-choice questions about the NFL and Madden game leads to higher point totals.

However, the icing on the collector’s edition cake for the sports lover has to be playing more than 20 Madden Moments as players re-create classic drives from the past 15 years of football history — and the ability to select from classic teams garbed in their original uniforms.

I also need to mention just a few features of this year’s core video game (available for Xbox, Gamecube and PlayStation 2 for $49.99) that beautifully demonstrate the melding of athletic contest into a multimedia entertainment presentation.

Players can perform such ridiculous tasks as creating home-team fans, complete with Buddha bellies, painted faces and hot dogs to wave at opposing teams. Additionally, they can immerse themselves in the imposing franchise mode, in which they not only build a team from the ground up, but must analyze local and national news on its superstars, listen to radio broadcasts about their team and take care not to bruise a star’s ego.

This collector’s edition wonderfully manages to educate owners on the evolution of the video game while giving them an abundance of exceptional, hands-on entertainment.

Rounders from Buena Vista Home Entertainment (for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $19.99.)

Movie lovers stumbling upon this Miramax Collector’s series DVD celebrating the 1998 film about poker also get an education on the high-stakes card game through an informative set of extras.

Actors Matt Damon, Edward Norton and John Malkovich starred in the film, which explored the addictive nature of today’s very popular game, but the stars of this DVD are veteran card gamblers such as Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker and Chris Ferguson. They provide information that includes tips on winning the game and an optional commentary track on the authenticity of the movie.

A set-top game of Heads Up Texas Hold ‘Em rounds out the fun as viewers learn how to play the game through multiple-choice questions. They accumulate $10,000 to take on a simulated card challenge with the help of their controller.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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