Madden 08 PS2 Review

It wasn’t until last year that I tried my hand at a bit of video game American football. As a Brit, the game always seemed to be too different from the soccer that I grew up with as a boy. Different nations certainly imbibe different sporting desires into the hearts of their youngsters, and this can make it difficult to make the short crossing from one game to another.

Once I had got to grips with the different language and pacing of the real life game, things started to click into place for me on the console version as well. After a few hours I was glad I had made the effort to investigate the game further. Now a year later, I am truly won over to the sport from the other side of the pond and was really looking forward to this next update from EA.

The majority of you will already be familiar to these annual releases from EA. At worst they tend to simply append the New Year’s player stats and line-up to the previous year’s game. This time around however, with some added competition from the likes of 2KSports, it seems like EA have realised they need to offer more if punters are going to shell out for a new game each year. The most significant change here is the new weapons system. This is designed to help you quickly distinguish between your different types of star players during the run of play. They have implemented a nice icon system that lets you identify particular types of players, which should help you adjust your plays and moves accordingly. Player types that receive this new feature include the possession or big-play receiver, the strong-arm or accurate quarterback and press-coverage or shutdown quarterback.

As its name suggests, this feature really lets you draw upon the weapons in your arsenal and put them to much better use in the game. No longer will you try and get your press-coverage guy to try a shutdown play. This works best when the higher resolutions of the next generation 360 and PS3 enable you to really distinguish between the icons. On the PS2, things start to get a little harder to read, and some of the finesse and enjoyment this features brings to the game is lost. This is a shame as it is an excellent innovation in a game that is crying out for some fresh features.

The PS2 controls have also received something of a refresh this time around. You are now able to concentrate your Defense on a specific receiver with a single button press. You can also control your big hits with the right analogue stick, a feature which becomes key as you place your blows carefully to take out different types of players. Hit high and you have a chance of knocking the ball free, whilst hitting low gives you better odds of bringing the player down. Apart from these tweaks, we really are getting a very similar control experience to that we have become familiar with from last year’s game.

Moving away from the main game for a moment, EA have included some interesting additions in the form of the ever popular mini-game. These provide ample distraction from the main game, and provide some good clean fun when you don’t feel like throwing down on the full game. These games are all themed around football but place you in situations that range from the ridiculous to the bizarre. One of our favourites was the fantasy challenge game which challenges you to build a dream team without needing to worry about the ins and outs of contracts injuries and the like. Once you have it all set up you can play through a Blitz: The League style offering in which you work your way through a four-tier league.

Meanwhile back in the main game, all the usual game types are there. An online mode is included for the PS2, and whilst it did suffer from a wee bit of lag there was nothing to ruin our experience. Visually, the PS2 game looks much the same as it did last time around. The bottom line being that there is only so much horsepower you can squeeze out of older systems. The character models retain their slightly squished appearance and lack any true resemblance to their real world players. Frame rate on 360 and PS3 has obviously been something of a hot potato. On this front the PS2 comes out smelling of roses, things hold steady with no sign of slow down or juddering. Whilst the PS2 can’t quite keep up with the next gen systems it certainly holds its own.

Sonically, the background music and commentary voice work both play their part well. EA has refined this aspect of the game over the years and their steady hand in delivering solid voice work from TV presenter types is telling.

Overall, this is a pretty decent game. The only downside is that if you have last years outing, there is little incentive to shell out again for this year’s model. If it wasn’t for the yearly churn of football players and teams, EA wouldn’t sell too many of these games. As it stands they know the faithful will be lining up to buy it. That said, if you’ve not checked in with Madden for a few years, or even want to dip your toe in the American Football pool for the first time you could do a lot worse than grab a copy of Madden 08.

Another solid release from the EA sports team.

8 out of 10
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