Welcome to another fast-paced installment of Three & Out, where sports video game opinions are like the buffet line at Star Jones' wedding: nothing is off-limits, there's sure to be lots of growling, and someone will most likely leave injured. This time out, the regular cast of GameSpot editors--Brian, Rich, Justin, Bob, and Alex--takes on holiday wishes, the glut of baseball titles this year, and the tolling death bell for PC sports gaming. A new feature, the Option Play, makes an appearance here in the second episode of Three & Out, and finally, in an effort to cleanse our souls and completely deflate our egos, we list our most humiliating real-life sports moments. Needless to say, these stories are a must-read.
First Down: Make a Wish
Brian: Santa Claus or some other inclusive, nondenominational mid-winter deity appears at your doorstep one late-December evening and grants you one sports gaming wish. What would it be?
Bob: Two words--Tecmo Bowl. Give it to me on the GBA or the PSP, and don't change a thing about the gameplay. Four plays is all you need, damn it! I'd love for it to have all NFL teams and rosters, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen.
Rich: I've heard this idea in our forums a couple of times, and I think it would be a great idea if done right: Bring back Mutant League Football and Mutant League Hockey! C'mon EA, those babies would run on the GBA, wouldn't they? I bet there's somebody down at Redwood Shores who could throw those games onto a cartridge in a day. Three days, tops.
Justin: A new version of Sensible World of Soccer that closely resembles the Amiga version, but which also incorporates online play--preferably via Xbox Live. That, and I'd like KCET to include Bolton Wanderers in its next Winning Eleven title.
Alex: For the love of God, let the AKI Corporation develop another mainstream wrestling game. I love the Ultimate M.U.S.C.L.E. and Def Jam games and all, but they haven't had the opportunity to develop a simulation wrestling game since WWF No Mercy for the N64, and that's a damned travesty. No Mercy and Virtual Pro Wrestling 2 are two of the best wrestling games ever made, and I would absolutely love to see what they could pull off with this generation's hardware.
Second Down: Option Play
|Better sports control innovation: maximum passing or isomotion?||Maximum Passing||Maximum Passing||Isomotion||Say what? I choose FIFA's first-touch control.||Maximum Passing. I'm not sold on isomotion yet, and never have been.|
|Better create-a-player: WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw or Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005?||Tiger||Tiger Woods||Tiger Woo||I like masks, 'nuff said.||As much as it pains me to say it, Tiger Woods. SmackDown!'s CAW mode has just gotten stale over the years.|
|Sports game begging to be made (five words or less):||Gary Bettman's Negotiate-o-tron||Playground Pigskin for the DS--draw up your own plays!||Inches presents: Slamball!||Sensible World of Soccer Online||Ron Artest's Combat Basketball|
|Hunting games or fishing games?||I gotta think some of those deer had it coming. Hunting.||Would rather clean my bathroom.||Fishing games||Neither, unless it's in World of Warcraft.||Can I pick ritual suicide instead? Seppuku really sounds like a better option.|
|BCS: Best system we've got or one letter removed from BS?||I'm an Auburn fan, what do you think?||Play it on the field, like almost D-1AA National Champs UNH!||British Cardiac Society? Good thing.||What the hell does a computer know about football? Huh?|
Third Down: RIP PC Sports Gaming
Brian: Besides a plethora of team management titles and the occasional wacko racing simulator, PC sports gaming seems about as dead as Vin Diesel's acting career. What, if anything, can revive this once-proud platform of sports gaming and return it to glory?
Rich: The truly great PC games seem to rely on a rabid fan following and a successful inclusion of those fans. Be it a tight feeling of community or the availability of SDKs and mod tools, PC gamers can really lose themselves in a game or change it to where they can. I want to see what kind of mods the sports nerds of the world can come up with--I bet they could bring me back. Either that or figure out a way that I can play a computer game from my couch. Without a keyboard or a mouse.
Bob: Nothing. It's dead and buried, let it rest in peace. Sports games are meant to be played with controllers, which are not standard equipment with PCs. Yes, the graphics can be many times better and sharper looking on your PC than they ever will be on a console, but the trade-offs you make in ease of use and control are just not worth it. Besides, sports games are all about plopping on the couch with your buddy and firing up a game on your big- screen TV. There's something not right about crowding next to a monitor at your desk to play two-player Madden. In fact, the very idea is downright un-American, and I'm shocked and ashamed you even brought this up!
Justin: Since I already mentioned the Sensible World of Soccer Online thing, how about an online version of Speedball II? Either that or an FPS-style sports game based on the Rollerball movie.
Alex: Dead, and buried with a decorative memorial wreath draped on the tombstone, my friends. PC sports gaming has been relegated entirely to management simulations, and that's how it should stay. Who the hell in their right mind really wants to play a sports game on a PC, anyway? They're always lazy ports of the better console versions, to boot. Anybody willing to put up that kind of shoddy treatment year after year is just masochistic as far as I'm concerned.
Brian: OK, now it's time to let go of some sports baggage that we've all been carrying around for years. I want each of you to describe your most humiliating real-life sports moment. Just to prove I'm a not a jerk, I'll go first.
For my 16th birthday, my parents took me on a ski trip to Vermont. While hitting the slopes with my dad one afternoon during the trip, I saw a group of lovely ladies around my age at the bottom of a gently declining hill. Figuring the best way to hit them up for conversation would be to spray them with snow, I built up a little speed and headed directly for them, intending to stop just short and give them a good dusting. For whatever reason, I managed to build up too much speed and, instead of suavely braking just in front of the ladies and introducing myself, I managed to topple over the side of a ridge about 30 yards beyond them, and ended up splayed in a safety net with my skis, poles, and limbs all inexorably caught in the bright orange webbing. Worst of all, my Dad and cousin were right there to view the entire embarrassing display and still have never let me live it down, even 15 years later. Among all my humiliating sports moments, this was the worst.
Rich: My sophomore year in high school, my hockey team had 12 seniors who carried us all the way to the state semifinals for the first time in school history. My senior year, I was one of only four seniors on a team who surprised a lot of people by repeating the feat. My junior year, though, we had no seniors. Let's just say things didn't turn out so hot.
Justin: Nothing really springs to mind, although I did once arrange for my sixth form basketball team to play a match wearing skirts and Iron Maiden T-shirts. Great days...
Bob: Oh man. This is a story that is really embarrassing, but I love to tell anyway. In the fall of 2001 I reenrolled at Cal to finish my degree. Of course, I took full advantage of being a student and picked up season basketball tickets. In early December, St. Louis visited Berkeley to play a nonconference game with the Bears. Larry Hughes, an SLU alum and guard for the Golden State Warriors at the time, was in the stands to watch the game. I got picked to do the halftime contest, which meant I had 35 or 45 seconds to make a layup, a free throw, a three pointer, and a half-court shot in order to win a free ski trip.
Well, when the time came for me to get out onto the court at the half, the nerves kicked in. Big time. There were 10,000 people in the stands for this game, and it dawned on me all at once that each one of them was watching me, all by myself on the court. I never played any kind of high school ball, so I had no experience whatsoever playing in front of 100 people, let alone 10,000. This resulted in a curious sequence of physiological effects. First, my hands became cold. So cold that by the time I stepped onto the court with the ball to get ready to start, they were completely numb, and I literally could not feel my fingers. Next, I started to go deaf...sort of like that shell shock deafness from Saving Private Ryan. Worst of all, I started to get this crazy tunnel vision. Losing my depth perception really was not going to help me shoot the ball. It was almost as if my body was trying to shut out or hide me from the fact that 10,000 people were watching my every move, and I had better not screw up.
Well, I vaguely heard the announcer yell "GO," so I put in the layup and ran back to the free throw line. I put up the shot and...back iron. No problem. I got the ball back and threw up another shot. Back iron again. With every miss, my hands got number, my ears went deafer, and my vision went even more out of whack. I couldn't believe I was doing this poorly, especially because I'm known by the regulars at the school gym as an accurate shooter out to 20 feet. I was embarrassed as hell, but it would get worse. I tried to measure the third shot, and whenever you try to measure up a shot in basketball instead of just letting it fly, BAD things happen. The ball fell short of the front rim--AIR BALL. To this day, I have no idea if the crowd jeered, groaned, or laughed because I went completely deaf the instant the ball whiffed the net. My cheeks were flushed as a fire engine, and I desperately ran after the ball to save any kind of face. Somehow I had time enough to finally sink a free throw, but the buzzer expired as I retreated to the three point line before I could shoot it.
I stood at the top of the three point circle, chagrined, and Oski the bear (Cal's mascot) came out to escort me from the court and away from the scene of my most humiliating sports experience. Yes, I had indeed air-balled a free throw in front of 10,000 people. But now that it was over, my senses had begun to return, and I still had the ball in my hand, so I figured, why not? I squared my shoulders to the basket, and let fly a 20-foot jumper from the top of the key. One last shot before I crawled back into the crowd to try to make myself disappear. The ball creased the net cord cleanly--a swish. I heard a subdued, but collective "oooh" from the crowd, who were probably shocked at seeing me effortlessly hit from the three point range after it seemed I couldn't net a free throw to save my life. It was a small measure of redemption, but I still chuckle at myself about that air ball.
Alex: When I was playing little league baseball, I always played catcher. Our league used a pitching machine because we were like fricking 11 years old and none of us could throw worth a damn. Anyhow, on my first game as a catcher, I was sitting behind the plate, minding my own business, when a slightly tipped ball missed my glove and caught me on the wrist. Of course, it hurt, but for some reason, I just started shrieking like a Japanese school girl. I mean, I was WAILING. I have no idea why, either. Maybe it was just the shock or something, but I was losing my mind over what basically amounted to a moderate bruise. All the kids and parents were just looking at me like, "What the hell is this kid's problem?"
Anyhow, about three minutes later, I was totally back to normal and utterly mortified at myself for reacting that way. In the games to follow, I took a number of fastballs to multiple areas of my body, and specifically avoided showing any pain just so that wouldn't happen again. Maybe that's why I hate baseball so much now.