Genre: Sport Developer: EA Tiburon Publisher: EA Sports Classification: G Release Date: 14th Aug 2008 Platforms:PS3
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The Good bits
EA Sports Backtrack should be in every sports game from now on – even ones that aren’t EA Sports games.
The animations and graphics are better than ever.
It’s an immersive football experience.
Superstar mode is still great, and it’s great to see it in more games – check out Be A Pro mode in NHL and FIFA.
The Bad stuff
The AI still gets dumb sometimes – out of bounds passes and worthless blocking is not consistent but occasionally frustrating.
EA Replay should never see the light of day again. No one needs a mulligan.
The Madden series drives some people nuts – it really does. I know people who will get vocally angry at the idea of someone in Australia buying a Madden game – I’ve encountered it in games stores and even heard it from some of my slower friends. They call it “un-Australian” and call me a “Yankee lover” and they whine about EA’s decision to pour money into an American football game and never make a decent Rugby (either code) game.
It’s not like that though – I’m not a Yankee lover or un-Australian, and I too hate the fact that EA makes good Madden games and crap Rugby games. I’ve just given up waiting for EA to actually make my magic Rugby game, so Madden was the only alternative.
There’s not a massive difference between a Rugby game and American football – at least not in video game form. The same basic elements are there – two teams, men hugging, and a misshapen ball - plus in a video game the flow of the game isn’t affected too greatly by breaks between plays. Learning how to play isn’t tough either – the basic rules are quite simple and the buttons are easy to understand – you might take some time getting the basics of the rules down, but you’ll find yourself winning in no time.
Anyone can win when you set the difficulty to Rookie, of course, but it wasn’t long before I started bumping up the difficulty and continued winning. Finding the difficulty where the game was both fun and challenging was always tough – not so with Madden 09.
Madden 09 uses the new Madden IQ system and the Madden Test to decide what your skill level is across four different categories – Passing Offence, Rushing Offence, Passing Defence and Rushing Defence. Each of these categories is ranked from Rookie to All Madden, and when you play the game the other team adjusts its skill to play at your level. It changes game to game as well – as you get better the game will amp up the difficulty until each game is challenging for you. It’s optional too, so you can set everything to Rookie for an easy win if you want.
There’s more to the game than just a self-adjusting skill level though – almost 20 years of annual updates to the game give Madden more features than any sports game out. On top of the Superstar mode (where you take control as only a single player on the field for his entire career), the extended Franchise mode (where you control the entire team through every aspect down to ticket prices at home games) and the bone-crunching tackles we’ve come to count on, this year sees probably the best addition yet.
GameArena’s guide to playing Madden like an Australian.
Rush. For a true Rugby experience try to rush on every Offence play. This means giving the ball to some tiny Alfie Langer/George Gregan-esque player and letting him run at men three times his size.
Blitz. An Aussie should blitz on every Defence play. Every single play. If you don’t know what a blitz is, just look for a play where there are arrows pointing towards the opposition. All your guys will run at the other team.
Kick-off. If you ever win the coin toss choose to kick-off. If you’re playing multiplayer this is especially fun because you can give the ball to your opponent in the dying seconds of the second quarter and then laugh at your friend as they have to give it straight back.
Never Punt. This one explains itself. You never, ever punt. The game will tell you to punt, and your Aussie Rules instincts will encourage you to boot the ball up the other end of the field but you can’t chase down the ball and retrieve it, so don’t waste your time.
Hail Mary. Find the section in your playbook called “Shotgun – 4WR”. Find the play called “Hail Mary”. Watch as all your Wide Receivers run straight up the field - you can take your pick. Call this play any time you have to pass the ball. This is the NFL equivalent of the 40-20.
Onside Kick. You have four options for kick-offs usually. Three long kicks and one short 10 yard option. As long as the ball makes it 10 yards you can get the ball back! Do this everytime you kick-off.
Hit stick. The right thumbstick is the Hit-stick. Flick it upwards to make your player unleash a massive shoulder hit. Do this continuously any time you’re near the ball.
Two-point conversions. Wayne Bennett says kicking a field goal is for sissies, and we trust Wayne Bennett. He’s Ok for a Queenslander. After you score a touchdown never use the field goal play. Just try to run the ball into the endzone for double the points!
If you mess up bad enough the EA Sports Backtrack mode kicks in – it gives you an in-game replay which assesses where you went wrong. Say you call a pass play and the ball gets picked for an interception – once the play ends the game will wind back to the start of the play while the commentators tell you where you went wrong so you can try and do better next time. It’s flat out the best tool for learning how to play better. You’ll find yourself looking for routes and scanning for blockers like never before. It should be in every sports game.
Coupling EA Sports Backtrack with the EA Replay feature EA Sports are apparently putting in every game is probably not the best idea. EA Replay lets you rewind the game back to before you call that intercept play and try again. It’s a mulligan feature. EA Sports probably dumped it in to make their games easier on new players, but combined with Backtrack it just means the game tells you where to throw the ball on your second attempt. It’s a worthless addition to the game which saps away the realism.
The AI occasionally kills your immersion as well. There are times when everyone on the field will go a bit brain dead, and you’ll watch your wide receiver run out of bounds for a pass or your blockers just stand and let the opposition through for a sack. It’s a recurring issue in the Madden games, but frustrating nonetheless.
It’s tough to watch the AI turn a good play into trash by repeatedly putting your receiver out of bounds. You’ll notice it the most in Superstar mode as a Quarterback, where you’ll repeat the same play over and over until you’ve got it down to an art. It won’t be long before you find yourself practicing a play where the only open man will run out of bounds each time – destroying your training progress.
Superstar mode is still great despite this slight issue. You can play any position in an NFL game, and you’ll go through an entire game only playing your role. As a running back you’ll have to block for your quarterback on passing plays. As a linebacker you have to resist the urge to go for the sack every play and effectively cover your receiver. And when your player isn’t on the field, you can either skip plays or you can watch it unfold as a spectator. It’s not new in Madden 09, but it’s a great part of the complete experience.
With new features like Backtrack and old features like Superstar and Franchise mode, Madden 09 is probably the best Madden yet. While year to year the value of the updates has been variable one fact remains – there’s still no Jonah Lomu Rugby remake and FIFA still hasn’t put Road to the World Cup’s headbutt button back in. Madden is still the best solution for gamers who want a complex football simulation, even if it isn’t the exact football code they want. Madden 09, the 20th Anniversary of the game, delivers what any football fan could want. Hard hits, good football and great graphics. Get this game.