Review: Madden NFL 09 (Sony PS3)

Review: Madden NFL 09
Genre: Sports – Football
Developer: Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 8/12/08

Two decades of one game: no matter how you slice it that’s impressive. You could chalk it up to the overall success of the NFL, of EA’s great job at marketing and PR, and the love and admiration of millions of sports gaming fans through the good, bad, and ugly that this game has released year after year. Some versions have been revolutionary, and it’s debut on the Playstation 2 was a graphical masterpiece. Unfortunately sometimes it seemed like it was nothing more than a “roster updated” version of the last year’s edition and I’m sad to report that the 20th installment of Madden falls into that category.

I’m also realistic in my review of this game in that if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve played Madden, know of Madden, and have possibly even read detailed reviews elsewhere – such as the slew of other editions you’re going to find right here on Diehard GameFAN. I’m going to spare you the intimate details on the basics and cut right to the chase on what really stood out for me in this year’s edition.

While some may disagree, I really like the idea of the “Madden Test” that kicks off the game. You’ll get tested on your basic football gaming skills like running, passing, and tackling. The results of this test – which takes about 5 minutes to complete – gives you a grade that will get you started on a custom difficulty setting getting in on the action. After each game, whether it be in a Dynasty/Season mode or against a friend , your grades in each category will either rise or fall slightly depending on how you fared on the field.

Taking the “Madden Test” is not mandatory and you can skip around it and use the basic difficulty settings, whether it be “Rookie” or “All-Madden” and you can also use sliders to create your own difficulty level.

The test does need a lot of work heading into next season, the VR-looking “dummies” you compete against are ridiculous looking, its like something out of TRON. Just give us real stadiums where you can see the field, and actual rendered players,- they can even be practice players for all I care, but the awful looking “VR people” makes it even complicated to figure out which person you’re controlling.

Also, the offensive tests in particular are really easy. I don’t consider myself an All-Madden caliber player but I tested out to the absolute highest level difficulty without even trying all that hard. As I’ve progressed in season mode, my test has started to even out a little which I do like, and it has made my games fairly competitive. Give this aspect a lot of polish heading into next season and I could see this “test’ catching on not just in football games, but all sports releases in the future.

The action on the field while actually playing a game can simply be described as solid. The players respond well, its easy to understand the routes, and its hard to really necessary complain about anything in particular. The thing is, it just plays exactly like the last few years of Madden with no real innovations. Us gamers can become spoiled, but a game that’s been around for 20 years should make serious strides to keep trying new things when it comes to the heart and soul of the game – an actual matchup on the field. If you don’t’ care about bells and whistles, just football, you might as well buy last year (or the year before, or the year before) version out of your local “Pre-Played” section at the game store. Again, Madden NFL 09 has great action on the field…its just not innovative and we’re ready for it to go to the next level.

A big “thumbs up” goes to the addition of the commentary team this season. For the last few years Madden has inexplicably used a generic radio announcer that didn’t match the high broadcast-like presentation of the game. Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond do a great job of calling the action – and the “EA Sports Backtrack” does a pretty cool job of having them illustrate exactly went right – or wrong – on a game-changing play.

They’ve also added an in-game “Rewind” option for offline games. Simply put you have an option of adding some “Mulligans or Do Overs” prior to kickoff. Throw an interception? No problem, just hit the “X/A” buttons and the game will literally rewind back to right before the snap, giving you a second chance at redemption. Nothing sucks more than playing a friend, making a seemingly game deciding stop on 4th & 2…only to have your opponent hit “Rewind” to get a 2nd chance – and this time they convert. Again, this feature is totally optional and I can see some people liking having this “crutch” if they’re into that sort of thing.

The Scores

Story/Modes – Classic
Graphics – Great
Audio – Great
Gameplay – Very Good
Replayability – Very Good
Balance – Mediocre
Originality – Poor
Addictiveness – Mediocre
Appeal Factor – Good
Miscellaneous – Good

Final Score: Good Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Overall, Madden has added a lot of new features off the field, but yet nothing about this edition has really had me just addicted to the game. It’s not revolutionary, its not a “must buy”, but yet millions (including myself) will buy it because it’s earned our respect. Long after John Madden takes the “Madden Cruiser” to the big “ACE Hardware” in the sky, his name will live on (bonus points if you get those references) as I see no reason why this franchise won’t be around another 20 seasons. SOMETHING new in the gameplay needs to be added next season though – its time to be revolutionary again EA!

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