As week 2 in the NFL season comes to a close, it looks like the perfect time to review Madden 09. Last year, football fans were treated to the most authentic pigskin program ever designed. Will EA Tiberon's latest efforts continue to improve, or deflate before kickoff?
The first things that you will notice about Madden 09 are the dramatic improvements in the graphics and presentation engine. While last year's game nailed the player models and animations, this year takes it one step further. Ridiculously proportioned players of the Madden 06-07 era have been toned down yet again, leaving what some would call the most accurate representation of football players, ever. When this is combined with the numerous new player animations, you will be left wondering if you are playing a football game or watching Fox NFL Sunday.
While on the topic of presentation, one should note that the play-by-play commentary is stellar. Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth make the best pair to host a Madden game since the Lord of the Turducken, (I had to say it at some point!) teamed up with Pat Summerall, so many years ago. General bullshitting between the announcers takes and educational turn, as Professor Collinsworth will take you to the school of, "What the hell where you thinking?" It is actually quite neat to see the last play broken down, complete with telestrator and commentary on the mistakes made. Jaws will hit the floor when people see how accurate and fluid the analysis is delivered. These are the kind of touches that bring the game to life.
One feature to get a huge push this season is the environmental effects. For the first time ever, weather will make a significant impact on the outcome of a game. Strong wind will seriously effect the flight of the ball, rain will slow down the action on the field and torrential downpours will leave most receivers, well... out in the cold. Not only does the weather effect gameplay, it sets the tone for the entire game.
This year's other major addition is the Madden IQ. This will test your skills as a game progresses, and adjust the AI accordingly. Major frustrations of the past will melt away, as you realize that every single game, you stand a legitimate chance at winning. Many will use this to level the playing field, when competing against friends of an unequal skill level.
Speaking of multiplayer, Madden 09 once again delivers the one of strongest online offering available. Matchmaking with friends and family is simple, and under most circumstances effortless. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their new online league features. Players from around the globe have been encountering issues since day one. This may be a simple case of needing a little more development time, but regardless, it might just be best to avoid online leagues until next season.
Though the game is greatly improved from last year, there is still room for growth. A glaring issue in the online gameplay is the kicking system. There was a definite lag between when an kick is made and it is registered on the power bar. Lag like this could rendering attempting field goals useless as a dependable mechanism for scoring. Another nitpicking issue is that after the game has been played multiple times, animations begin to reoccur on a frequent basis. Lastly, the feature that allows players to rewind time to redo plays, needs to go. It is a cheap gimmick that was unnecessary to begin with.
While not perfect, with the return of series staples like franchise and superstar modes, Madden 09 is once again the king of the gridiron. Any sports fan owes it to themselves to get their hands on the most comprehensive football experience to date.
Below is a trailer for Madden 09: