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8/14/2007 12:26:00 PM

Review: Madden 08 (All systems)

By Lang Whitaker

If you are reading this review with red, dried-out eyes, you are likely among the initiated: I'm guessing you stayed up until midnight in order to be among the first in the world to own the latest edition from the greatest sports video game series of all time, Madden 08. It's become such an event that last night's "SportsCenter" had live coverage of the game going on sale in Times Square. (I suppose all that air time could have had something to do with ESPN's contract with EA Sports, although I doubt ESPN would allow any sort of blurring of the lines between their editorial and advertising departments. Le Anne Schreiber would be all over them.)

NCAA 08
Fans wait for Madden to go on sales in Times Square :: Diana Eliazov/SI
But to be honest, Madden dropping is a big deal. Gamers, particularly sports gamers, wait breathlessly for this game to be released, causing a stir akin to an iPhone release. Only this event happens every year.

I did not spend the evening sleeping on a sidewalk outside a Toys"R"Us, but I did allot most of last night to playing Madden 08, until my contacts turned into sponges. And I plan on doing it again tonight. Yes, Madden remains a very worthwhile, addictive game. And it's right around the corner from being a great game.

Each version of Madden usually fixates on a particular portion of football -- previously including defense, the passing game, and last year, blocking. This season the emphasis is more general: player match-ups. EA has devised a complex system of badges that appear under players to denote their various skill strengths. It's a little confusing, like the players are floating on colored poker chips, and it's the first time there's been something so unnatural on the football field. For years, the Madden series was focused on being as close as possible to an actual video game simulation, but the addition of the "weapons" system takes in more of an arcade direction. Gamers are supposed to look for advantages in the matchups before the snaps, although any good football player would have done that. I guess this is EA trying to help us gamers along.

NCAA 08
Madden 08 :: EA Sports
Defensively, the hit stick now allows you to dive high or low, though you can whiff if a offensive player decides to try out a hurdle at the correct time. They've also returned defensive playmaker controls, so you can designate certain defenders to cover a particular back or receiver. This is no substitute for good play-calling, though.

I played Madden on an Xbox 360 (it's also out on the PS3, PS2, Xbox, Wii, PC, PSP and mobile!) and it's a stunningly beautiful game. The jerseys are particularly well-rendered-you can see the tiny holes in the fabric in close-up replays. It's also safe to say that EA Sports accurately captured the, er, character in Norv Turner's complexion. One strange thing: I didn't notice tattoos on any players. And maybe it's just that I haven't spent enough time with the game, but I found the score bar across the bottom of the screen confusing and unintuitive. Shouldn't you be able to easily check the time, score and timeouts remaining?

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We've reached a point where the animations don't seem to change much from year to year, mostly because they're already so realistic to begin with. EA has talked a lot about a new "branching animation" system that doesn't leave the players locked into animations, but the gameplay didn't really feel all that different from any recent version of Madden. There do seem to be harder tackles and bigger hits, though, including a lot of gang tackles, like Barry Switzer was coaching.

There are still a fair amount of weird visuals and animations. Game Room contributing writer Aaron Samus reported Peyton Manning throwing a pass that hit a LB in the back, and then the ball spinning all the way around defender's body, glued to his hip, before bouncing several yards away. The spin moves also remain way too easy and effective for any player to be able to perform a spin so effortlessly. If Falcons receiver Roddy White was really so astonishing at spinning past cornerbacks, he'd be in the Pro Bowl by now instead of fighting for playing time.

To me, the most disappointing part of this year's Madden is the further diminishing of John Madden from the game. I touched on this in last year's review, and Madden seems to have seen his role further reduced, now only chiming in when you "Ask Madden" for advice, and even then only in single-player mode. During games, Al Michaels and Madden have been replaced by a nameless radio announcer, and an awkward Marshall Faulk reads the pregame notes. As often as people complain about the bombast of big-time announcers and beg for a game of silence, Michaels and Madden are definitely missed.

Game Play: 8.5 out of 10 Madden 08 is a fun game, but it's by no means perfect. Besides the issues mentioned above, there's also an odd propensity by ball-carriers to fumble, and linebackers with even the worst hands can pluck short, high-speed passes from the air as they zip over their heads. Does this happen in the NFL? No. But it does in Madden. A lot. Overall, though, it's a very good game.

Graphics: 9.5 out of 10 Here's where EA really nailed it. The stadiums look unbelievably good, and the players themselves are just as polished. If the gameplay matched the graphics we'd have a classic on our hands.

Replayability: 8.9 out of 10 Playing online adds a lot of replayability to the game, and online there's a little bit of lag, but nothing disastrous. Though there's still no online league play, EA did throw next-gen gamers a few bones, for the first time adding a full-on Owner's Mode to a next-gen version of Madden.

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Comments:

Posted: 2:52 PM, August 14, 2007   by Nique
I played this game yesterday on the ps3 & 360 consoles. The graphics are amazing and pretty much show off the power of the systems they were on. The playing of the game left me speechless, I could not believe how much of a stepback EA took in the playability. I seriously thought of the super nintendo when it came to playing it. They are absolutely no fluid movements in the game. On top of that it sounds like the announcer is your spotter in a nascar game. I have yet to play this game on the ps2 console.. but with the way ncaa was from ps2 to ps3/360 .. Im sure I wont be disappointed. EA has gotten away from what made the game fun and thats the game play itself.. and not the way it looks.
Posted: 10:19 PM, August 14, 2007   by Anonymous
Why does no one mention the fact that when you play someone else (2 players not online) you can see what plays they call. It's impossible to hide your play from your opponent. It makes it totally pointless to play against other people.
The Wii version is terrible.

Bad graphics, bad game play, and just not fun.
i'm so happy that they left out John Madden as the in game announcer again this year. Even though the nameless, announcer is redundant as John was, he is less annoying and calls the game with enthusiasm like a hometown sports caster should.
Posted: 12:21 PM, August 15, 2007   by Anonymous
1st!

Madden 09 better have on-line league play. EA knows they can do it now, they are just making us all wait so they can sell us on the next versions.

Once they have on-line leagues, forget Fantasy Football....its on!
I have been a big Madden fan ever since the original on PC in 1989. When Madden 07 came out on the PS2, I was blown away by the improved franchise mode. To correct the article above, this is where the assigned roles were first on a Madden game. These roles mysteriously disappeared in the XBOX 360 version that same year. I gave EA the benefit of the doubt and bought Madden 08 for the 360 this week. The franchise mode is PITIFUL. The scouting portion of the game is ridiculous and useless. You can no longer work college players out before the draft. There is a free agent period before the draft only (PS2 Madden 07 had one before & after). The draft is boring and missing Kiper (again...PS2 Madden 07 had this). You can't do individual workouts anymore with players in the preseason to try and improve their ratings. And WHY can you not edit the player's positions?! I can not move a RG to LG or a DE to OLB. I know I can stick them there on the depth chart, but it doesn't go towards the required number of players for that position. Don't get me wrong....the graphics are superb and the gameplay is solid. I just can't believe how much the franchise mode has digressed. If there was competition for an NFL liscensed game, I don't think EA would be slacking in the game development. OVERALL: Big Ripoff
Posted: 5:55 PM, August 16, 2007   by Anonymous
I have the Wii version of the game and it has madden and michaels doing commentary.
Posted: 2:19 PM, August 17, 2007   by Anonymous
I played the PS2 version, I was well, a little disappointed. The playbooks are the same(except a new offense play called Trick-plays) being a Steelers fan I would have loved to seen a hybrid defence. On offense there once again is no hurdle,I also feel its is once again a exploitable videogame. I am starting to get the feeling EASPORTS has no Sports fans working for their company!
Posted: 2:28 PM, August 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Madden and Michaels also do the commentary on the PS2 version. My problem is with the team ratings. They are all basically the same. The Patriots are a 91, the Cowboys are an 87 (and TO is a can't miss when you need a reception), but then the Texans are an 84 and the Browns are an 85? These numbers seem made up to not hurt anyones feelings.
Posted: 5:59 PM, August 17, 2007   by Anonymous
Why does the PS3 version only run at 30 fps? The 360 runs at twice that rate(60 fps)...what a ripoff, if you have the PS3 version...
Posted: 11:21 PM, August 19, 2007   by Anonymous
so how the hell did they mess up Lincoln Financial Field!!! the stadium is open at all 4 "corners", but in the game only 3 "corners" are open!!
Posted: 1:24 PM, August 21, 2007   by Anonymous
Where the blank is the CoOP?? Has the concept of getting a couple buddies together to punish the computer completely been forgotten from EA Sports? YES. So for now we have to stick playing 2kSports games to enjoy some male bonding. Bring on NHL2k8.
Posted: 3:51 PM, August 21, 2007   by Anonymous
Hi i've played the ps3 version of madden and let me tell u i'm a bit dissapointed. Even though the game is growing on me a little as i play it each day there are several flaws. For instance,ps3 version only runs at 30fps which is unacceptable for ea sports to do that. The crowd and the sideline players look horrific also there is no cheerleaders or refs. The pregame presentation is awful and there is no halftime show or superbowl hoopla,just the same old crap.Have some imagination Ea, where are the superfans like in ps2? Impliment some tailgaters before the game, try setting a home announcer then the monday night crew for monday night games. Honestly i can't wait until another company can compete with Ea for the Nfl liscense, then maybe Ea can stop sliding by making an inferior product for us to buy.
Posted: 2:06 PM, August 22, 2007   by Anonymous
Lincoln Financial Field is not open at all four corners. Three are open. I sit in the closed corner.
Posted: 10:17 AM, August 23, 2007   by Anonymous
The LINK is not open at all four courners. It's only open at three of the corners. Go check out the pics of the stadium.
Posted: 4:43 PM, August 24, 2007   by Anonymous
CHEWCHILLA,

You can individually train players in the pre-season. when you click on the games in the pre-season, you have an option to train team. you can then run drills for 3 players each week. 12 drills total over the four weeks.

i suppose if you just "simulate preseason" you would have missed that feature.

it took me a while to find that, but its there.
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