Review: Madden 08 (360)


Good: Super Sim, great animations

Bad: All the yearly additions are adding up to a ridiculous degree

I could write a 3,000-word review that encompasses every single nuance of Madden 08's gameplay and various options, and it still wouldn't sum up my complaints more than a blurb in today's installment of The Onion. In an "Infographic" listing the new features in Madden 08, it says:

"Actually Have Fun While Playing Mode," where all of the bullshit features created in the past five years are switched off so you can actually have fun while playing.

It's obviously intended to be satirical, but it really does make you think about how all the crap they've added has truly bogged down the experience. What should be a "football videogame" has turned into an absolute mess of piled-on unnecessary options and features that virtually no one uses past the initial curiosity. Remember all the talk about "QB Vision"? When was the last time you used that voluntarily? Or what about last year's Lead Blocker Control?

Madden is a true anomaly in the videogame world. Most hardcore gamers revile the franchise (and EA in general), but many of us still line up in mid-August with $60 in hand. I complain year in and year out that it's the same game, just with roster updates and unnecessary additions. Despite this, I still line up and give EA my money like an asshole every summer.


I do understand the obsession, but only if you're an NFL fan. I've been a Chiefs fan from the AFC Championship days of Montana, through the doldrums of Bono and Grbac, up to the more recent cautious optimism of the Green/Holmes era (I have no idea what to expect from Huard and the gang this year, however). Because of this, I feel the need to play through this season's schedule with this season's roster. I may not agree with the $60 price tag for this luxury, but I can't fault EA for continuing to charge it as long as people like me keep buying it.

It's hard to be overly critical of Madden outside of the "improvements" and the complaint that it's the same game every year. The reason it's the same game every year is simple it's a pretty damn good game. When you strip away all the crap they throw in, there's still a very competent game of football at its core. This year is no different. If you opt not to participate with the Lead Blocker/WR Control, QB Vision, and all the other crap introduced in recent years, you can still sit back and enjoy some NFL action.

One of this year's addition is the new "weapon" icons that indicate specific threats on the field. You'll know at a glance if a receiver is capable of game-changing amazing catches, if a defensive lineman is going to plow through your OL, or if a quarterback has the rocket arm needed for an end-game Hail Mary. It's not a game-changing addition, but it can be handy from time to time, like when you're deciding which direction to send your running back. If I would have thought of that earlier, maybe my virtual Larry Johnson wouldn't have broken his ankle in the second game of the season. Then again, maybe that injury made my season's roster a bit more realistic thanks to LJ's holdout.

You're also able to spotlight individual receivers now. If Steve Smith is causing you a lot of trouble, it's easy to put some added attention on him from your defense.

The one addition that is truly a universal positive for the game is the Super Sim option that was introduced in NCAA 08. You can sim through individual plays, possessions, or quarters. It's fantastic for when you're up (or down) 30 points in the fourth quarter and you just want to get the game over with.

Without a doubt, this incarnation is the most visually impressive in series' history. It runs at a great framerate (something the PS3 version can't claim), and some of the new animations are positively brutal. Player faces and crowd activity are also better-looking than ever. Despite the overall visual polish, there are hiccups from time to time. Most of these involve some sketchy collision detection. The camera will be focused on the referee announcing a penalty, and players will run straight through him. There are also some odd comments from the announcer, such as "they're now within range for the kicker" when you're already within 10 yards of the goal line.

No review is going to change the money-printing machine that is the Madden franchise. Hardcore gamers will continue to despise it, casual fans will continue to eat it up, and EA will laugh their way to the bank. However, no matter what anyone says, it's still the best football game in town. It's just up to you whether or not it's worth the yearly $60 price tag.

Graphics: 9.0

Sound: 8.5

First Play: 8.5

Replay Value: 8.0

Gameplay: 8.5

Overall: 8.6


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