Madden NFL 08 Xbox 360 Review
As of 2002 I have grown to be a huge fan of both the Madden games, and as a result the NFL in general. In fact, without first getting my teeth into the virtual realisation of the sport I really don’t believe I would have grown to love the real life version, as my knowledge of the sport sat somewhere between little to none before that point. Thankfully, now six years on, by jumping in and out of the Madden series over the years, and catching a fair few of the matches on TV, I have at least some sort of idea of what I am talking about when commenting on the sport.
As with all of EA’s yearly sports releases a general roster update is the absolute minimum we have grown to expect to be improved on. Luckily, over the course of the last few years EA have begun trying a bit harder with their beloved big selling franchises, and they seem to be putting more effort into their games to ultimately make handing over your £40 worthwhile, and this year is no different. For 2008 there are many small changes on show in the game, and most of them are there with one sole purpose in mind – to make the game more of a challenge to play. Receiver spotlighting is one new extra, letting you highlight one of you players for extra protection while throwing a pass, but thus letting other gaps open in your defence. Outside of gameplay, there are the likes of the very, very deep Owner Mode, fantasy draft, and roster-editing capabilities all make a comeback after they were unfortunately missing from the next-gen Maddens of the past two years.
However, easily the most noticeable of these changes is the introduction of a new Weapons system, a new mode that helps highlight the most talented individuals on your team. In the game each player on your team can have a specific weapon in his arsenal, like being a great blocker, a brick wall defender, a smart linebacker a spectacular catcher, or a smart safety. In fact, there are 21 different weapon variations in total. However, the smart move by EA is that each one of these weapons has a counter weapon to which they are weak or strong against, and once you get ready to make a play all the info is available on screen to help you make a decision what to do, where to throw/move the ball, or even call an audible if you see your opponent has sufficient cover in all areas. In a nice turn of events this mode does not come across as being a gimmick, and hopefully should be something EA will build upon in the future to make the game even better.
Of course, there are still a few problems on show in the game, some which have become a mainstay in the game for the last few years. Once again the commentary still seems drab and does next to nothing to liven up the spectacle of the match on show. But if the commentary did nothing to offend in previous effort then you’ll probably remain indifferent to what is on show this year. Along with the commentary being less than spectacular the rest of the presentation also comes off as being a bit dull, with informative but uninspired menus on show. Also, they still seems to be one or two gameplay bugs on show in this years effort, which is yet another well-worn, and unneeded aspect of the series. This year the bugs seem to crop up a lot in animation, where some catches end up looking more than a bit off. However, on the whole the animation is greatly improved from last year. In fact, the animation is so good at times it just makes the small inconsistencies standout much more. In truth there is really only a few time you will wonder “what the well happened there”, when the rest of the time will be spent looking in amazement at how well everything else looks; whether they be a short 10 yard passes, a long 70 yard toss up field as you see the receiver diving the last inch just to get the tips of his finger to the ball, some exciting one-handed catches, hurdles, sideline catches, and a whole lot more.
However, some more faults come to light in the games online modes as they have hardly improved at all from last year’s effort. A few matches still seem to have some unneeded lag, an annoyance which makes an on and off appearance even if both connections are of an okay quality. Also, when speaking of online, EA have not included the online leagues this time round either, which is an addition that just about everyone wants. I guess the game’s soundtrack is also yet another point of contention as it really is a love or hate affair. There are a few songs on there that are okay such as Ozzy Osborn’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Stop‘, stuff from Yellowcard, Timbaland, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Bravery, but you would be honestly be better off setting up a custom soundtrack to get something to suit you.
All in all I have to say I really enjoyed my time playing Madden to write this review and I am really itching to get back into the game as soon as I scribble down these last few words. However, if you are new to this whole American Football thing, something which a fair few European gamers most likely are, then I don’t see this as a good place to start, as you’d really be jumping in at the deep end. On the other hand, if you are a fan of the sport then this rendition of the series is just about everything you’d want of a game, as it is probably the truest simulation of any sport available on consoles today. In truth, with my limited understanding of the sport, I believe I’ve only scratched the surface of how deep the game is, and it would really take someone with an all encompassing knowledge of the sport to truly get all out of it that EA have put in.
Another top quality effort, best next-gen Madden yet.