Madden NFL 09 Review
John Madden first grabbed his helmet and padded up his shoulders for our computer screens in 1988 with the release of John Madden Football. Due to graphical limitations in 1988, he was restricted to only 6 players per team on the field at one time. Now celebrating its 20th Anniversary, the Madden series has come on leaps and bounds since then, with graphics, gameplay and brand new features added every year. Madden NFL 09 is no different.
The fundamentals of Madden have stayed the same. There are plenty of game modes for you to play, including the return of Superstar and Franchise Mode. In Superstar mode you create one player in which you play only in that players position (which you choose). You then have to complete training tasks to improve your players stats. These training methods become extremely boring and if you’re like me, you’ll be making best use of the simulation option. During games the camera remains static on your player, so in certain positions you can be waiting for a period of time before the ball reaches you. You’re also not the head coach of the team meaning there will be times when you are off the field of play and the game will just simulate itself until you’re back on.
The return of Franchise Mode allows you to control every last aspect of running an NFL team. There are some slight changes though, including the new rivalry system where games against your most hated rivals receive a bump up in difficulty. The front office is also available where you can dig deep into your pockets to get players that keep your team competitive. With the simulation feature included in franchise mode, you can choose what matches you desire to play.
With the expected features out the way let’s crack on to talk about the new features that you all want to hear about.
One of the most obvious new features to Madden NFL 09 is the ‘Madden Test’. John Madden makes a return, literally, as you are faced with the big fella himself when you boot up the game. He confronts you to man up and ‘take the test’. The test takes you through a series of drills from passing to tackling and in doing so, allows the computer to see how good, or bad in my case, you are at the actual game. Once completed the test you are allocated your Madden IQ. In theory the idea of the IQ is to provide you with a better game experience by moulding the AI’s difficulty to you, but in reality it doesn’t seem to effect too much of the play. Still a nice feature to have though!
The next new feature and probably the most controversial new feature added to the game, is the ‘rewind’ feature. I’m still unsure on this new added feature so let me paint you a picture. You have 5 yards till goal, on your fourth down and losing by 4 points in the final of America’s biggest NFL tournament, the Super Bowl. What do you do? Well if you go for glory (why wouldn’t you) and fail to score any match winning points, just rewind play. Cheating anyone? This feature has its pros and cons. It’s a weird feature to have in a sports game because could you imagine if we had that in FIFA, where if you failed to score when you were through on goal you could just rewind play and have another chance. The positive aspect of this new feature is that it is aimed at the casual NFL gamer, like myself. If I ruin a play, I can rewind that same play and have another chance at it. There has been plenty of times where I’m thankful that EA have included this new feature. This feature is limited however to the number of times you can use it, depending on the game style you are playing the game on.
There are several set game styles that you can adopt when playing the game. These range from beginner, where you receive 5 rewinds and the plays are automatically called, to hardcore, where you have no rewinds and you have every possible play that you could ever imagine. Hail Mary anyone?
The Xbox LIVE experience. This year features the addition of online leagues, an addition that many fans have been craving for years. Well now they are here – but not quite how you wanted them. The league system seems to be a little flawed. When joining a league it isn’t divided into Divisions like the real NFL. There’s just one giant league from between 2-32 teams. There’s also a crazy option allowing you to play each opponent 11 times within a league. Imagine if you choose 11 games in a 32 team league. You do the maths, because i’m not going to even try. There is a plus side on the online leagues however as they seem to play with little or no lag at all, which is also a good thing. The lobby system on LIVE has remained the same as many of the other EA lobby’s in different games. Plain and simple to find a game. It might be worthwhile also mentioning that rewinds are set to ‘off’ for the online leagues. We wouldn’t want any cheats now, would we?
Every year EA have slowly and steadily improved the gameplay found in the Madden series. I’m very impressed with the gameplay controls in Madden 09 and would go as far to say that they are superb. When you are playing you really feel like your playing an NFL game. Sounds obvious, but in some games you just don’t feel involved enough. Crunching tackles have a great sense of achievement, in fact you actually get an achievement for sacking the QB 6 times in a game by the same player. The new Total Control Animation System is a feature that gives you the ability to break out of a tackle when a defender has you in his grasp. You can also use special moves such as Spin or Stiff Arm to break out of the tackle. The list goes on.
What’s even greater about the gameplay is that the presentation of the game just compliments it so well. There’s a variety of new weather conditions in which the players adapts to the conditions. The new weather specific animations alter the way some of the players behave, with a lot of slipping and sliding. When playing in the snow it actually looks like snow, rather than the powder stuff they called snow in previous games. The players also leave footprints on the field of play which just adds to the authentic feel of the game.
This year the two man broadcast team of Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond provide the commentary. As quite a lot of the plays are repeated, especially when i’m playing, it was a breath of fresh air not to hear the commentators repeat themselves. Coming up with new lines all the time it shows that EA have put in a lot of time and effort with this area of the game.
EA have won the Superbowl this year by providing the best NFL experience to date. With gameplay and the presentation of the game being superb, it would be of no surprise if Madden NFL 09 would be touchdowning (pun intended) its way to your Xbox 360 console. Definitely worthy of a purchase for any casual or hardcore NFL fan.