Madden NFL 08 Review

For an average Madden junkie like myself, I’m always flustered with one big decision each and every year: do I buy this year’s edition of Madden or do I not? Of course, I always end up at least renting the newest Madden, but spending that extra $60 is a big decision. Madden ’08 is definitely a "buying" year for me. With all new features and great new animations, this is one of the best Madden titles to date.

One of the biggest and best improvements this year are the new tackling animations. In previous titles, the same tackling animations would be seen over and over again, no matter how hard or fast you tackled somebody. This year is much different, and thank God for that. Now, when Brian Urlacher breaks through the line and nails LaDainian Tomlinson for a 5 yard loss (like he will in the Bears vs. Chargers game on opening day), the animation will match that type of tackle. This is partly thanks to the new "weapons" feature.

The weapons feature applies to only the best of the best in the NFL. Select players will receive icons representing their strengths; Peyton Manning, for example, has the "smart" weapon, which allows him to read the defense after a given team runs the same 4 defensive plays in a game. Manning’s icon, which appears as his player marker during gameplay, is a light bulb (imagine that). The light bulb will fill up when Manning gains the ability to read the defense.

The "weapons" feature isn’t just limited to quarterbacks, either. All positions have different weapons. Offensive lineman can be "brick walls" or "bulldozers", while defensive lineman can cancel those weapons out with their own strengths. Running backs can have the power weapon, meaning they have the ability to break tackles and plow through the line, while other running backs have the "lightning" weapon, making them light on their feet and able to zoom past defenders. The weapons feature is a truly innovative part of Madden. I can’t wait to see how EA improves upon it next year.

Group tackling is also new this year…sorta. When a running back blasts through the hole, one or two guys will slow him down, and the third guy will make the tackle. That is what would occur in the NFL, but it isn’t executed correctly in Madden ’08. Instead of the running back getting pushed back, he almost always falls forward. Also, every time more than one person makes a tackle, everybody who is involved in the play has to fall down as well. It’s kind of bizarre to see, because that rarely happens in real football. One man usually makes the final hit that brings him down, not a collision between three or four people that brings them all down. That’s one of the only problems I saw in the physics of this year’s Madden.

Speaking of physics, there are some other upgrades that are worth mentioning. For example, when a wide receiver runs a deep corner route, he’ll actually try to stay inbounds by dragging his feet or tip-toeing. Impressive indeed. Offensive and defensive linemen are not complete idiots this year either, as can be seen in red zone situations. Defensive end A.I. was also greatly improved upon. No longer can you throw up a Hail Mary and connect nearly every single time. In fact, I only completed one or two Hail Mary’s while playing against the A.I. on All-Pro. The story is much different on the Rookie difficulty though, especially if your wide receiver is a "weapon".

The Hit Stick feature is also back, now called the Hit Stick 2.0. With the Hit Stick 2.0, you can choose which way you would like to tackle a ball carrier. Pressing up gives you a hard upper body hit, while pressing down will cause a cut tackle. Like the Hit Stick, the pre-snap controls are more advanced than ever. Nearly every button does something before the snap, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. This may scare off new Maddeners, but after a few rounds with the annoying menus all over the screen, you should get used to it.

Franchise mode, owner mode, and Superstar mode have all been improved upon, as well. One of the coolest new features in Franchise mode is the ability to buy upgrades for your stadium. If you don’t like your stadium, you can even choose to move your team to a whole new city. It’s not easy however, and probably not worth it if you’re serious about your franchise. Owner mode and Superstar mode saw some minor tweaks as well, but nothing to write home about.

Madden ’08 isn’t perfect, though. The in-game radio announcer is annoying and sounds like a machine. After all these years, I can’t believe video game sports announcers are STILL this bad. Turnovers are also a problem this year. Interceptions and fumbles are more frequent than ever, leading to frustration nearly every game. When playing with a friend on All-Pro with 3 minute quarters, we averaged 8-9 turnovers (combined) per game.

Of course, there are also some small bugs which may or may not be fixed in the future. For example, several times when going out of bounds I found the clock didn’t stop. That certainly didn’t go according to my two minute drill plan.

All small flaws aside, Madden 08 is truly one of the best Madden titles to date. I feel as though EA has finally stepped up its game. With new animations and the "weapons" feature, along with other additions, Madden 08 is by no means a copy of last year’s title. If you have a choice between the 360 and PS3 versions, go for the 360. The PS3 suffers from a worse framerate (30 compared to the 360’s 60), and it’s noticeable, especially with some of the new tackling animation.

Either way, pick it up. If you’ve ever enjoyed ANY Madden game, I guarantee you won’t come out of the basement until next August rolls around.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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