While so many of us have been getting all hot and bothered over the latest next-generation Madden games, it's kind of easy to forget that about a gazillion people still own the venerable PS2. What's more is that tons of 'em lined up for that console's Madden 08 - and, so it turns out, for good reason. Another year, another Madden, another winner.
This season's title is as familiar as an old baseball glove (wrong sport, right analogy). Between the crisp visuals, tight controls, and Al Michaels/John Madden commentary, someone who's thrown down in a recent version of the game on any system will feel right at home. Those of you out there who've skipped a gaming generation may feel intimidated by the level of depth, and we feel for you. You've missed a lot, and there may not be any hope left for your football dreams.
Above: No shots of the PS2 version have been released, and you can probably guess why. Pictured here is the PS3 version. Stand back a few feet and squint to get an authentic PS2 experience
There is so much happening on the field that it borders on obnoxious. After you call one of the hundred or so available plays based upon dozens of personnel packages, you can put players in motion, call hot routes, shift line coverages, even take on the lead blocker. Then - and only then - you hike the ball. Defensive pre-snap tweaks are even more pronounced, including the ability to adjust any individual player's assignments based on what you see on the other side of the line. Little of this is new, of course, but it still amazes us every year how far along these games have come. If you don't know NFL football, you don't know Madden.
The biggest on-field addition is the Weapons feature, a nifty little option that makes it easy to spot mismatches and exploit or avoid them. Icons appear under certain players to let you know who the top guns are on either side of the ball. Got a fleet-footed slot receiver matched up against a lead-footed, run-stopping linebacker? Time to hit a hot route down the field and light up the defense for six. Suppose you spot your wideout covered by a lock-down cornerback? Better avoid throwing to that side of the field, unless tossing an interception is part of your game plan.
Our main gripes are the aging presentation features. How many years have we been subjected to a victorious player walking up to the camera shaking it as they saunter off the field? By our count, plenty. And for crying out loud, when we win the Super Bowl, there should be a ten-minute montage celebrating our awesomeness, topped off by a ticker tape parade. What do we still get? Thirty seconds of players celebrating and a "Congratulations" message. Blecch!