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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Madden NFL Football 2009 Review


Madden NFL Football 2009 Review

Things We Like
Madden Turns 20: Does anybody remember what video game football was like before Madden? Though the Tecmo franchise offered some amusing -- if not shallow -- experiences, the landscape was littered with laborious adaptations such as 10-Yard Fight and John Elway's Quarterback Challenge. Then Coach Madden came and changed everything. We're happy to report that the 20th anniversary of this glorious franchise keeps up the tradition of raising the bar for what a football video game should be.
Bring Your Playbook: Right away you'll realize this isn't your father's Madden. John Madden puts you right in the classroom when you boot up the game, offering up his "Madden IQ" test to evaluate your gamer skill level. The test is taken in an ultra-cool 3D, holographic environment and involves a series of drills for the key facets of gameplay: passing, rushing, run defense, pass defense. After you finish, you'll be given your Madden IQ score (200-800), which you can improve upon as you progress through the game or if you retake the test.
The Age of A.I.: The stock difficulty settings football games have offered us all these years have grown tired. That's why it's so refreshing to see Madden's new "My Skills" feature. Picking up on your Madden IQ score, the CPU will construct a customized difficulty tailored specifically for your skills. Beginners and longtime gamers who have been intimidated by complex football titles will be able to challenge the most hardened of Madden veterans without fear of being embarrassed.
Still The Real Thing: For hardcore gamers, all of the complexities you have come to love (i.e. Hot Routes) are still there and more, including such new features as Formation Subs, Slide Protection, Bluff Play art, and Smart Routes (to the first-down marker) are at your disposal.
Booth Truth: Veteran announcers Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth, newcomers to the virtual booth, do an excellent job, even if you sometimes feel as though you are watching Notre Dame getting throttled on a Saturday afternoon on NBC. Collinsworth's analysis is often close to the mark, and once in a while he'll break down a play telestrator-style in a new "BackTrack" feature.
College Feel: For the first time in Madden, games with longtime foes will be designated as "Rivalry" matchups, with dialed-up intensity and rivarly-specific commentary from the announcers. So when the Raiders and Broncos play, it will get your blood pumping just a bit faster. Same goes for Cowboys-Redskins, Jets-Dolphins and all of the NFL's other classic rivalries.
Online And Alive: Online leagues support up to 32 players with flex scheduling. Good luck getting everybody to play their games in a timely manner, but it's nice to have that option nonetheless.
Kick At Your Own Risk: Just like in EA Sports' NCAA Football 09 title, you can return missed field goals in Madden. So keep a guy deep in case your opponent's 50-yard attempt comes up short.
Not-So Mighty K.C.: The Dolphins are predictably bad, but if you want a team that you can roll up yards and achievement points against, pick on the Chiefs. If Madden 09 is any indication, this is going to be a loooong season in Kansas City because this team reeks worse than a jockstrap after two-a-days.
Things We'd Change
Collector's Item?: Is it worth springing the extra $30 for the the collector's edition for the PS3 or 360? It comes with the 1993 Madden edition, which is nice until you realize that was one of the years they used the annoying "passing windows." The other free title, NFL Head Coach 09, captures the experience of being an NFL coach so well that you quickly realize that is the last job you would actually want.
Call Me Toast: In the Madden Test, the pass defense is pretty much impossible. When the ball goes up and you try to make a play, the game lags and suddenly your cornerback becomes mired in quick sand. The ball goes over your head and you end up with a "Rookie" pass defense rating.
Say What?: EA may still be working out a few glitches. After scoring a touchdown at the Georgia Dome, my receiver disappeared while heading toward the crowd to celebrate. Then there was the touchdown pass I threw that was overruled by instant replay ... but I still got to line up for the extra point and the touchdown counted.
Play It Again, Sam: The "Rewind" button that allows you to take a mulligan on the most recent play is a great idea but it shouldn't prompt you after every play. It should an option in the play calling window instead. The way it's set up now, it slows you down on your way back to calling the next play.
Achievements Lacking: On the 360 version, the achievements are random and not all that satisfying. As far as I can tell this is EA's way of not allowing us to sim our way to achievement points the way many of us have done in past years. Three-hundred yards rushing with the Jets? Seven touchdown passes with the Falcons? Just set the CPU to "Rookie" and you can pile up hundreds of points in no time.
Bottom Line
It's Madden. It's the NFL. You gotta have it. The only reason to stay away from this annual treat is if the game were wretched beyond belief, and that couldn't be further from the truth. It's a very solid football title in its own right and makes significant advancements in what has often appeared to be a stale genre.
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Audio 9
Online 9
OVERALL 9

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