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Friday | December 9, 2016
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Madden 09 (Xbox 360 & Playstation 3)

Madden 09 (Xbox 360 & Playstation 3)

Madden, the video game, has been running, every year, for as long as I can remember and amazingly, the title still seems fresh and exciting. Throughout the 20 years of development the game has received numerous nip n’ tucks which this year reaches the pinnacle of execution on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

EA Sports have changed the core gameplay to focus on different play styles and a user defined difficulty setting which they call "My Skill". In combination with the even higher production values it is sure to appeal to new users.

Initially, after loading you are presented with the Madden Test, this comprises four drills which gauge your Madden IQ. The results from this are used to establish the aforementioned My Skill difficulty level. This algorithm constantly accesses your playing ability and changes after each game. It works well to a certain degree, however there are some flaws.

If you excel in one particular area, such as gaining huge yards with a halfback, the AI nails that down so you face tougher rushing defense. While in theory this sounds fair and justified, in real life there aren’t many teams who will be able to suddenly change tactics in such a startling manner. It also makes getting MVP with players very difficult as those star players will have to deal with heightened computer AI levels. Thankfully in all areas of Madden 09 there are options to change the settings so you can fine tune it (which I did).

Play styles work very well because even if you are a novice, you will find a setting to suit. The easiest level for instance handles everything except for hiking, running and throwing the ball. This means if it is a very young or inexperienced player, they will still be able to get into the game, with the help of the computer AI. Obviously at the other end of the scale, the hardest level has no computer AI input, so you are on your own. Perfect for the die hard, experienced purists.

Play styles are a great addition and are obviously there for the most part to help new users, however they work just as well when a an unskilled player wants to play a Pro. Madden has a handicap system which can help people of different skill levels to compete.

Unfortunately while the game has been fine tuned for new users, the old veterans don’t really get many additions. There are some new aspects, such as slide protection, bluffing play art, formation subs on the fly and rivalry games. That however is about it.

I was particularly impressed with Madden 08, and it was probably the best game in the respected series. This years is a fine tuned version and improves in key areas. As I mentioned in the introduction, the presentation levels are incredibly high and thankfully EA Sports have added Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth to the broadcast booth … they both do a fine job of accurate and entertaining commentary. Backtrack is the new football analysis system which breaks down the game into concise and often fascinating snippets. Some bonus points are awarded for this because it really does make you feel as though you are interacting with a live game on television.

Rewind is a new feature which might not make the grade in future years if my assumptions are right. This gives players a mulligan at the previous play. It isn’t used at all during online multiplayer however it can be used locally. I really don’t like the idea of watching one of my touchdowns being "deducted" by a friend. To be fair, there are times when they come in handy, such as a player fumble in a key play, but the option was normally turned off when I played.

The game modes are Exhibition, Franchise and the classic Superstar. There are really no changes to these modes and anyone who played last years will be right at home. Two new additions however come in the shape of Madden Moments and Online Leagues. Online Leagues works well and is rather self explanatory.

Graphically the game has been improved, for example the player models are enhanced with the arms and hands working independently of the core body. This improves the visuals when a player throws or reaches for the ball and greatly raises the realism levels. Running and lower body movements have also been improved from the 08 version. For example you now have more influence when breaking out of a tackle. Once the animation begins you can hit a face button or flick the right stick to attempt to break free. If you mess up with the timing or motion, the player makes the effort to escape but strains and fails. These are all nice little touches which never fail to impress.
The grass has been redesigned from the ground up and the texturing and lighting really show the differences. You will be surprised how something which sounds so minor on paper actually improves the whole visual impact during a game.

There is also a new camera angle which does a great job of keeping the action in front while delivering a greater sense of size in relation to the stadium and the crowd.

With regards to the differences between the consoles, they are very minor and both actually appear to be using some form of anti aliasing, as the edges seem much smoother than last year’s version. Sure, PC aficionados will assuredly spot aliasing on some levels, but for a console they are very well presented.

The animation is also top drawer with individual players moving with fluid and believable actions, and even though the odd time you get a "quirk" here and there, overall the graphics are top drawer.
Madden 09, believe it or not is more than just a minor upgrade, this version of the game is the most polished and plays extremely well. I would go as far to say that this is actually probably one of the finest sports games in history. If you are in anyway a fan of American Football then this should be in your list of games to get this month.

Gameplay

94/100

Madden is always good, but this year it is the best yet. Some of the best action and movement seen in a sports game. Ever.

Graphics
94/100

The animations, new player models and visual detail and presentation is stellar. If you have a large HD tv, then make sure you get this game.

Sound
85/100

With the addition of Hammond and Collinsworth the soundtrack takes on new life. The rest of the audio is pretty much par for the course.

Value
88/100
If you enjoy these games every year, then you will still be playing it when Madden 10 arrives.
Overall
(not an average)
93/100

One every sports fan needs to purchase.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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