Madden NFL 2009

BY Jeremy Steeves  //  August 21, 2008

By no means perfect, it's one of the best.


t's that time of year again. EA's cash cow, the Madden series, released their 20th edition just last week. Madden NFL 2009 was touted to be the culmination of all the fine-tuning the franchise has gone through over the years, and though by no means is the game perfect, significant work has been done to make this year's release one of the best.

You'll immediately notice a new feature known as the Madden Test. Its purpose is to run the user through a series of drills in order to determine an appropriate skill level. Though the test accomplishes little more than a set of slider bars, its user-friendly appeal makes the addition notable. This concept is taken one step further when, at the completion of a game, the computer adjusts your skill level based on a strong or poor performance. Struggle in a certain area and the computer will suggest that you try practicing that skill a little more. I think of it as my own personal coach telling me how much I suck at the end of every game. Thanks, EA!

When you do step out onto the field for the first time, you'll notice the area that has seen the greatest improvement from last year — presentation. A new, wider camera angle allows for much more of the field to be viewed at once.

The game has a whole new polish.
Though this may seem a little strange to Madden veterans, after a few games even the most accomplished "Maddeners" will feel right at home.

A whole new level of polish seems to coat Madden 09. The dynamic weather looks and feels fantastic, the animations are crisp and accurate (albeit a few minor graphical mishaps every once in a while), and the stadiums have been recreated for prime atmospheric effect. I've got no complaints for the sound engineers, either. Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth have been cast as commentators, doing a pretty good job for the most part, and each big hit on the field comes with a glorifying crunch. Where previous Madden titles haven't been able to suck me in and keep me, I was truly engrossed during my first few matches.

Certainly the game looks and sounds better than ever, but there were also a couple noteworthy game play additions this year, the EA Sports BackTrack and Rewind systems.

The EA Sports BackTrack system can help a novice player considerably. Though I enjoy playing a good game of Madden here and there, I'm certainly no professional football player. Often times I'll choose the wrong play or force the wrong pass to the wrong receiver. More often than not, this results in me turning over the ball and watching the opposition march down into my end zone. This is where the EA Sports BackTrack plays the role of coach and shows you what you should have done after you make a mistake. Either by suggesting a different play, or by getting you to look at other receivers, this feature really can improve your game.

Slightly less impressive is the EA Sports Rewind system. Basically allowing you to take the equivalent of a mulligan in golf, this do-over system allows you to, well, do-over a botched play. Pressing the X-button after a play will rewind the game back to before the ball was snapped giving you another chance to get it right. Depending on the difficulty you're playing on you'll be given one to five rewinds per game. Personally I don't like the idea of being able to erase my mistakes, but in a game that can be daunting for new players to grasp, I can see how EA wanted to be more forgiving.

Each big hit comes with
a satisfying crunch.
The franchise and superstar modes seem to be half-baked, left largely unchanged from previous years. The only significant new play mode is one known as Madden Moments — essentially a compilation of the 2007-2008 NFL season's biggest moments, recreated in Madden for quick consumption. Moments may only last a quarter or even a few plays, but it allows the user to have access to a game mode that they can sit down, enjoy for a few minutes, and feel like they've accomplished something afterwards.

Finally, online play consists of ranked and unranked matches and the option of joining or forming a league. I wasn't able to have any success joining a league, but the matches I played were largely lag-free and enjoyable. It would be nice to see Madden follow the direction of EA's other sports titles with online team play, as the feature is an incredible value adder.

For all the hype and promotion the Madden series gets, expectations grow larger with each new release. Though there's nothing revolutionary to be found in Madden 09, enough was tweaked and added to satisfy virtual football fans until next year.

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