(August 12th,2008 – TMRZoo.com) It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down, NFL Mini camps are getting into full swing and EA Sports is releasing the new iteration of Madden. Madden has had a bit of tumultuous run on the next gen consoles. It has been rightly criticized for glaring omissions, but it has become a little better and more refined each year. To me, this year is the first that feels like it has finally hit its next gen stride.
The biggest addition this year is the new Madden IQ. This is designed to level the playing field so that a Madden noob can line up against a grizzled vet and have a competitive game, and for the most part it works great. Basically you will be put through 4 Madden tests when you first load the game up. Your Passing, Rushing, Pass Rushing, and Pass Defending will all be analyzed and a level of play will designated. For example: I scored All Madden for Passing, Pro for Rushing, Pro for Pass Rushing, and Rookie for Pass Defending (always a sore spot in my game). Now when I play game my Passing Difficulty is set to All Madden which makes for much a much more challenging experience while my rushing difficulty is set to Pro which in theory should be just as challenging based on my skill level. These adjust the more games you play so it always shifting based on your performance, and won’t allow someone to beat the system by sandbagging. If I line up against someone who is much better than I am, the game remains competitive. I still usually lose to the better player but the games are more fun, and I can occasionally sneak out an upset. It mimics the “any given Sunday” feeling of the real NFL very well. The one downside is it sometimes feels like you get penalized for doing well. If I have a top level RB or QB, they will more often than not put up consistently good numbers in the real NFL but this system makes it difficult to do that as it becomes increasingly harder the better you do. Eventually your skill level should compensate and the mechanic by no means feels broken, but it can be frustrating at times.
Presentation wise the game has taken a big step forward. Graphically, new animations and amazing grass have been added. That’s right grass. It sounds minor but when you see it, you will see it adds new depth to the overall feel in a way that makes it seem like you are on the field yourself. Breakaway cam and Hit cam are also minor additions that add to the feel of the game as well as some dramatic moments. The old dull radio broadcast announcing has finally been dumped in favor Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond in the booth. They are pretty spot on most of the time, but as in all of the sports games, an occasional “what the f — did he just say” moment will happen. Another great addition in the booth is the introduction of BackTrack moments. When you make a mistake at big time, Collinsworth will break it down during the replay using the telestrator. He will tell you where it went wrong, and what you should have down. Sometimes his advice is good, and sometimes not so good, but when he hits it right on the nose the BackTrack really shines, and feels like your game is being broken down by professional analysts. it needs some work, as the “what you should have done” portion is frequently dubious, but it is a great idea for future games to improve upon.
In the end to me the gameplay feels like last years Madden which is a good thing. Take a good base and fill it out with some new and genuinely good ideas, mix and you have this years Madden. 4 out of 5 stars and definitely worth your money.