It’s the third try for EA Sports on the Xbox 360 with the venerable Madden franchise. Simply put, they nailed it. Not only is this a truly deep, involving simulation, we finally have the feature rich backdrop ever so lacking from previous entries. At times it sounds repetitive, but this it the best Madden effort to date.
It starts on the field, with a tighter feel progressing from what started in ’07. This feels refined and the tweaks will be noticeable to cynics and fans alike. This is a true update, not just a release with a new year slapped on the end of the title.
Noticeably improved animations are everywhere, and add to the feeling that this is a fresh experience. Players’ models have been re-modeled to appear sharper, with superb details in the jerseys. The field and sidelines require desperate attention in future editions, though the vast array of reworked tackles makes these exceptions to the rule acceptable. A deeper edition of the Hit Stick returns (aptly titled Hit Stick 2.0), leading to some truly brutal blows. Some do feel over the top, though this doesn’t take away from the game play.
As usual, the A.I. has been tuned. Deep passes are difficult this time out, as defenders handle their task with no compromises. It does lead to some awkward plays in which the defensive back will appear to “warp” to where the ball is thrown for an interception, but this is more of a visual hitch than a cheat. If a defender were close enough to make the catch, it would have happened regardless of how it looks in the game.
While players are still designed around layers of statistical categories, including a record number of rating areas this year, Player Weapons have been added to the fray. These are additional skills, highlighting strengths in specific categories with a stunning balance on both sides of the ball. On the field, they appear as icons below the player making it easier to read the play set and find critical weaknesses.
This is the type of Madden option that will leave uninterested parties unaffected, while strategist will ensure the Possession Receiver never go against the Pass Blocker. On the surface, this seems like a menial upgrade. In execution, it’s brilliant. Weapons adds an extended need to utilize the depth chart to ensure on-field players are being properly utilized, and not shut down by their opponents.
Front Office makes a return, allowing those without ambitions of being the next Hall of Fame quarterback to manage the team via finances. Building stadiums, managing prices, and dealing with contracts can eat up ridiculous amount of your playtime. If you’re not interested, you’ll never have to deal with it. This is a Madden that wonderfully balances the gamers wants and needs dependent on their play style.
Presentation is still something keeping this franchise from being considered truly great. The hometown radio commentator has lost its appeal and it’s time for Madden to step back into the booth. The ESPN license is wasted during the game. It’s utilized for the solid text, audio, and video feeds when browsing the menus. This is a wasted opportunity.
Though another aggravating boasting on the cover states this is the best selling pro football franchise (given the complete lack of available competition), EA Sports is not running away with the money generated from this series. The strides are massive in 08, arguably creating the largest gap in quality from one year to the next since the series moved into 3-D back in 1999. This is finally worth the $60 sticker price on the next generation consoles.
Madden NFL 08 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360 and Mobile Phone.