Anyone up for starting a classical Christian football school? The best pro football video game on the market, Madden NFL 2005 (EA Sports, $29.99), requires not only quick reactions but serious thinking about strategy and creativity in developing playbooks and building teams.
Gamers can be coaches who choose among hundreds of plays and athletes to execute them. They can also be general managers drafting their own teams and specifying salaries and contract lengths. They can even be concessions managers who decide which menu items and souvenirs to sell and how to price them.
Gamers can schedule practices and see how stressing particular aspects of the game improves player performance. They can put quarterbacks and runners through mini-games that showcase individual performances. They can even customize players and fans.
During a game, players can choose to go for a harder hit on defense that might cause fumbles or interceptions, but can also lead to missed tackles. Less-experienced gamers can have the program choose plays for them.
But what really makes Madden stand out are its graphics, which are amazingly realistic and so good that NFL broadcasters use them to forecast what viewers are likely to see. The graphics are better than those of Madden's lower-priced competitors, ESPN NFL 2K5 and NFL Blitz Pro, both $19.99.
The audio is also excellent, with play-by-play and analysis by John Madden and Al Michaels based on a vast array of taped expressions from the two ABC commentators that are cleverly applied to particular plays. Journalism plays a part in a "storyline central" feature that includes national and local newspaper clippings and e-mails from agents that can affect team and individual morale.