One of the biggest complaints the EA Sports design team heard about "Madden NFL 10" was the lack of energy and emotion from the announce team. When you're playing a video game, do you want to listen to stale play-by-play where the announcer simply deadpans: "He's at the 20. He's at the 10. Touchdown." Or would you rather hear a passionate call where Chris Johnson breaks into the open field and you hear the announcer shout out: "He's got getting away from the cops speed!"
Enter Gus Johnson.
The crew at EA Sports wanted to do a major overhaul to the audio presentation in the game, and in doing so, signed the hippest, most electric play-by-play man in the booth. And by signing Gus Johnson to voice "Madden NFL 11" and beyond (along with Cris Collinsworth for color commentary), they are adding Johnson's signature style, catchphrases, and energy to every down of the game.
"You have to remember, when the 'Madden' series first started, we only had 500 lines of commentary," explains the game's audio designer, Ronnie Morales. "Today we have over 90,000 lines, so we wanted somebody who can deliver those iconic calls, those calls that give you chills, and Gus Johnson is the only guy out there right now who can deliver that type of experience."
In addition, Morales and the audio team added open field progression to the calls, so you can actually hear Johnson get more excited when the receiver breaks free into the open field. There are various levels of progression for each play, and as the ball carrier jukes free, spins to the open field, avoids a tackle, then breaks down the sideline, that's when Johnson (and the game) sounds best. "It finally sounds like you're watching a game on TV," adds Morales.
Add in a bigger sounding, more responsive crowd complete with player specific chants like "Hooosh!" in Seattle, not to mention the inclusion of those songs you hear every Sunday in the stadium, like "Crazy Train," "Welcome to the Jungle," and "Rock and Roll Part Two," and for the first time since John Madden first yelled "Boom!" there is finally some life found in the speakers of this franchise.
Click on the video to check out an extended gameplay clip from "Madden NFL 11" as I stepped in the booth with Johnson to provide some color commentary on a series between the 49ers and Seahawks. This obviously won't make the final game, but it should give you a good taste of what to expect from Johnson and the energy he brings to the broadcast when "Madden NFL 11" ships in August.
And man, does it give me a newfound respect for announcers. This was totally unscripted (just like real life) as we just watched the action and every once in a while Gus would look at me and I knew it was my turn to try and say something insightful or funny or that just wouldn't make me sound like a complete idiot. Talk about pressure (especially the idiot part).
Coolest thing was, I said a line about Spider-Man when Michael Crabtree caught a pass, and after the session was over, Gus said he liked the line so much, he might use it this season.
Pretty special moment for my first time calling the action. Who knew my obsession with comics would ever come in handy during a game of "Madden."