Madden NFL 08
Madden is back for the 2008 NFL football season and it’s got something to prove. The Madden franchise has one of the strongest fan bases in all of video games and sells millions of games worldwide each year. On the flip side, the Madden franchise is often flamed by video game junkies who site a lack of innovation as a major pitfall. For the last three years Madden has been the only Pro football game on the market since EA purchased the exclusive rights to the NFL license in 2005.
After a lack luster debut on the Xbox 360 with Madden 06, EA went back to the drawing board and emerged with a beefed up Madden 07. Features that failed to make it on the bus for the Xbox 360 debut returned and EA made a step in the right direction. So what about the newest addition to the Madden family?
Let’s get the big question out of the way first. Is Madden 08 improved over last year’s version? Yes it is. In fact, Madden 08 is arguably the best football experience available on the Xbox 360. EA has done a lot of things right with this one.
Lets start with the most important aspect of Madden 08, the game play. Things flow very smoothly on the field this year thanks to a much needed frame rate increase. Madden 08 runs at 60 frames per second and you can immediately tell the difference when you pick up the controller. The game is much faster and more responsive than last year’s version. This year also sees a significant improvement in the animation department. Madden 08 features a ton of new animations including more running styles and gang tackles than ever before. You can go an entire game without seeing a duplicate tackle animation. Also, gone are the frustrations of watching a receiver catch the ball and spin out of bounds because they were stuck in a canned animation. Now you can interrupt any animation and change direction quickly. This added responsiveness is not immediately recognizable, but after playing numerous games you won’t know how you ever managed without it.
Another improvement over last year’s Madden 07 is the artificial intelligence. Madden 08 features some stiff competition from the computer. You can’t just sit back in the pocket and bomb it long to your speedy wide out play after play. I’m not saying it’s impossible to complete a long pass, but it’s not as simple as last year’s aerial extravaganza. The A.I. improvements are also very noticeable when running the football. Wide outs will hold blocks 25 yards down the field instead of just trailing off or stopping completely. It’s these little things that really bring a smile to your face when you play Madden 08. These small improvements seem to add a greater sense of balance to the game. Running and passing flows together and creates a more realistic football experience. These are things that are crucial to the Madden experience and its nice to see them finally being introduced into game play.
The graphics in Madden 08 seem to be a slight improvement over last year’s game, but the improvement is marginal at best. Players still look great in high definition, but it would be nice to see upgrades to the graphical engine at the same rate that the game play improves. The sound in the game is another area that has gone virtually untouched since last season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. The soundtrack in the menus and audio on the field all work very well. The announcers don’t get overly annoying this year, which is greatly appreciated. The sound department is also where you can spot the ESPN integration in the game. Live updates while navigating the menus via a bottom line ticker and audio updates keep you connected to the real world of sports. Its nice to be making some key front office moves in your franchise while hearing the latest sports headlines in the back round.
Every year that Madden steps on the virtual turf for a new season, EA touts a new gimmicky feature. Last year was the lead blocker and this year is the addition of weapons. Most of the time these features do not mean much to the overall game play and they usually only last one season before getting the axe. Last years lead-blocking feature is still included in Madden 08, but it’s taken a back seat on the field. This year’s new weapons feature designates superstar players with heightened abilities. Weapons are labeled on field by circular yellow icons and can be found on both offense and defense. These players have added moves that make them hard to stop. The Weapon’s special abilities are activated using the regular controls, but they produce a more impressive outcome. It’s not that great of an addition, but also not annoying enough that it takes away from the game experience.A major complaint with Madden 06 and Madden 07 on the Xbox 360 is that they missed some of the features of their less expensive ”current gen” counterparts. You will be happy to hear that Madden 08 doesn’t suffer from this disappointment. All the franchise options and game modes are back and better than ever. One of my personal favorites is the superstar mode that allows you to control a single NFL player from inexperienced rookie to Hall of Fame inductee. This game mode even uses a different camera angle to get you closer to the action. Superstar mode isn’t new to Madden, but it is more polished this year.
Achievements in Madden 08 are not too hard to come by. Like most sports titles tons of achievements can be unlocked throughout a single game. Achievements are unlocked in any game mode as well, so gain 200 yards rushing online or kick a 50-yard field goal in a franchise game and you will rack up gamer points.
Madden 08 wouldn’t be complete without online play over Xbox Live. EA makes you register with their database before you log online, but it isn’t too much of a pain. Once in a lobby you can find games in your region or hook up with a friend. In the dozen or so online games I have played, I have not experienced connection problems or any dreaded lag issues. My only complaint with online play is that EA still has not provided gamers with online leagues. You do have stat tracking and leader boards, but it would great to set up a full fantasy league with some of your friends.
While Madden 08 now includes all the modes and features from the Xbox and PS2 versions of the game, it still fails to feel truly groundbreaking. The game play is making steps in the right direction, but it lacks a certain wow factor. If you think back to the first video EA showed as a concept for Madden “next gen”, you will realize even two years later the ideas are nowhere to be found. Even though the game play is improving and the graphics look good, it would be nice to see a true leap over the games from previous generations.
Overall, Madden 08 is an impressive football game on the Xbox 360 and it serves as a step in the right direction for the franchise. Madden 08 shines the most where it counts, in game options and the play on the field. While the game may not be perfect, it is a fine entry in the series and one that should not be missed by football fans.
Smooth game play and more game modes make Madden 08 the best football experience available on the Xbox 360. I just hope that next year Madden can continue with the improvements and deliver a football title that is worthy of the "next gen" label.
Rating: 8.3 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I got attached to gaming at a pretty early age when I first played pong on my uncle's Atari. I have continued gaming ever since and play during most of my spare time. I am currently a working as a legal assistant for the man, but who knows about the future. A few of my other favorite things are comics, film, and music.
Some of my favorite games are Goldeneye, Metal Gear Solid, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, GTA, and Zelda: Twilight Princess.
My favorite comic books include Watchmen and Batman:Year One, but there are many others I love.
I enjoy all kinds of music, but a small sample is Joy Division, Gang of Four, The Beach Boys, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
As for films... I like a lot of these too, but a few include Batman Begins, Fight Club, Se7en, Pan's Labyrinth, Godfather, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Some times I am accused by my friends of being an elitist geek, but I don't think that is entirely true. After all, its not my fault I like cool stuff. View Profile