Best in a long while
The Madden franchise has always been criticized for its lack of evolution, generally the improvements from each years release are very minimum, and sometimes even unnoticeable to the casual player. While the same can be said about this year’s instalment, it is obvious there was a genuine effort to improve the game in pretty much all areas of the game, and with the various improvements, Madden 09 becomes on of the best Football games in years.
The biggest and most notable changes have to do directly with the gameplay of Madden 09. EA clearly tried to make Madden as more of a sim as it has ever been this year, with a rebalanced run game, and with more difficult passing, this is a success. No longer can you run a quick running back to the outside for a twenty-yard game over and over in a game. It is now very unforgiving to not play a run, or even a pass play the way it’s designed. At times though, the running can be very frustrating, CPU defensive players shed blocks better than ever this year, and if you’re too indecisive in the backfield, you’ll be getting tackled for a loss very quickly. Also when breaking tackles in the back field, normally with the spin move, your player can go into an animation that makes them run backwards at a rather slow pace, causing a even bigger lose of yards, basically punishing you for not just going down after the first hit.
Passing has also taken a boost to the realism, no longer are you able to throw a bomb to your streaking wide receiver and expect him to be able to catch it, in fact unless your playing on a rather low difficult, streaks are near impossible to complete. To be successful with passing, crossing routes are your best bet, as the cover oddly seems to break down in the middle. The audible’s have also been slightly improved, but if you aren’t a hardcore madden player, this will be pretty much unnoticeable. Despite the improvements to the passing, the most annoying issues are still there, players fail to do a toe drag when near the sideline, even tough it was added into NCAA 09, as well as with certain routes if you throw the ball to a receiver they will run directly out of bounds, despite having open space ahead of them.
Defence is relatively unchanged; you still have the hit stick, which works as good as ever, although forcing fumbles seems far more difficult, now. The only real improvement is the ability to spotlight a receiver, which basically covers him extra tight; this can be used to shut down a relatively good receiver very well.
The biggest new feature in Madden this year by far it the addition of “Madden IQ” this is basically a adaptive skill difficulty, after every game it rates you in how you did in Rush offence, Pass offence, Pass defence, and Rush defence. While this sounds great on paper it doesn’t always work too great. To originally determine your IQ you partake in a series of Rushing, and Passing games, the offence ones feel too easy, leaving most players, whether they are madden vets or not on the All-Pro or All-Madden difficulty. The defensive games feel too awkward and hard, often leaving the player on a Pro or even Rookie difficulty. This makes the first few games of using madden IQ to be incredibly frustrating, you’ll find yourself running for two yard gains, while throwing interceptions left and right, luckily you should dominate enough on defence to still with. Madden IQ does do a good job of adapting to your skills, after a few games it will find a nice balance of where you are, and it really helps to improve your skills as a whole, while never making you feel too overwhelmed. The last really notable feature addition would be Ea sports backtrack, basically you can now rewind your game if you make a mistake, this is good if used well, and bad if abused. You can use it to learn from your mistakes and improve, but you can also use it too much and become dependent on it, if you are a serious player, you’ll probably want to disable this to make your game feel a bit more realistic.
Games modes in Madden really are what keep you going, and unfortunately they are pretty much untouched this year. Franchise is nearly identical to last years, and Superstar is identical, other than that Online Franchise has been added, but it is very bare bones, and basically works as a tournament. While the modes are all still fun, if you spent a lot of time playing 08 you may have problems having a good time with a long Franchise in 09.
Madden’s presentation is fantastic in 09, the game looks better than it has ever looked before, and is one of the nicest looking sport games available right now. Some lazy problems are still present with the graphics though, everything off the field isn’t really there and your players just clip through the making it look really bad, but other than that the on field game looks superb with brilliant animations, and great frame rates. The games menu’s looks crisp and clean, and function great, while a solid licensed sound track if a nice addition. Commentating has also been improved, no longer do we have the annoying radio announcer now we have Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond, they both sound solid, but Collinsworth sounds far more believable.
As a whole Madden 09 is the best football offering we’ve seen in years, it’s improvements makes the game feel fresh, and if you look past the few issues it has it can be a great Football sim for serious or casual fans.