IGN Review of Madden NFL 08
During the Wii launch Madden 07 was a no-brainer for sports fans that were looking to get a solid Wii experience, and an amazing introduction to the world of motion control. Everything from stiff-arms to jukes, big hits and interceptions were handled with simple flicks of the wrist. What was even more of an accomplishment, aside from the general gameplay itself, was the fact that EA was taking its time in creating a unique, enjoyable Wii experience that really set itself apart from the other versions, and that Madden 07 was - above all else - better because of Wii. Now that the Wii has had an extremely successful year under its belt our expectations rise, but for the most part so have those of EA itself, as Madden 08 brings another enjoyable football experience to Wii; as long as you can get past a few "last-generation" flaws.''''With Madden 07 it was all about getting players involved with Wii's new input devices, and Madden stepped up to the challenge beautifully. This year, it's about depth and options, particularly those in the multiplayer department. Madden 08 takes what 07 began and unloads a barrage of gameplay options on users, whether you're looking for a better way to play Franchise mode, a stronger Superstar Challenge, more local multiplayer in Party Mode, or online play against users all across the world via EA Nation. The core of Madden remains, and now it's about taking that design and spreading it across as many options and modes as possible, and in that sense 08 is a huge success.''''For starters there's the new single player effort. This year's Madden features the same offerings as last year, along with a few improvements as well. For 08 all console versions now include "Player Weapons," which is a new on-field icon system designed to show users which players are an automatic threat play-by-play, in any and every situation. Simply hold C while waiting for the snap and the camera pulls back, showing off a varying list of icons over players. You'll know who has speed, which blitzers are known for being powerhouses, and whether or not your running back has the speed and agility to take his route. Mix this with the automatic (and customizable, of course) button or gesture-based audible system and hot routes and you've got an offense that's always ready to morph given the situation. On defense, Player Weapons can also be used to scout potential threats, shift the D line to exploit a weak offense, highlight key players to gun for, and allow you to also call defense audibles, should they be needed.''''In addition to the Player Weapons you can also look forward to a vastly improved NFL Superstar: Hall of Fame mode, which gives you the option of creating a new rookie or selecting from the 07 class. Then you progress through the life of a superstar rookie, including everything from agent signing, press conferences, drills, and games. This year EA has spared us the annoying "random parents" stat-assignment from last year, where players would essentially shuffle through random outputs of their parents' traits to determine what their superstar would be good at. This year you select your position, create your player, distribute a full mass of stat points, and jump on in. It's faster, more user-friendly, and a far better Superstar mode than last year. Along those same lines there's an updated Franchise mode that - aside from a few basic changes - is still deep and intuitive, though we're a bit saddened to see that this is yet another year where classic "Season" mode has been omitted. If you want that season experience from older Madden games you'll need to play Franchise mode and just refrain from screwing with rosters, salary issues, or prices of hot dogs at the Metrodome, as the classic Season mode seems to be entirely dead.''''Before diving into all the multiplayer Madden 08 has to offer we need to mention the gameplay changes. Motion controls have changed a bit from last year, and mostly for the better, as things like Big Hit have changed across all platforms, and new spin/rip moves for defense have balanced things out a bit more. On offense you'll still spin with A, juke with the nunchuk, and stiff-arm with the Wii-mote, but the ever-popular Power Move has been changed from a two-controller shove forward to just the Wii-mote, and now includes a context-sensitive layer of depth to it. ''''If, for instance, you're playing as Ladainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers, most Power Moves will result in bone-crushing anti-tackle charges, flooring a defender with direct attacks, rather than evasion. On the flipside, take the 5' 10" Vikings HB Mewelde Moore and you're bound to see spins, jumps, and slight-of-hand stiff-arms as he parries any and all defensive power. It's a nice touch to the game, and a huge improvement over last year. A word to the wise though; if you didn't like the running-intensive feel of Madden 07 Wii, you won't like 08, as running backs are the anchor to a good Wii offense.''''And though the offense still has a huge boost over defense in Wii Madden, which shows a huge preference towards smash-mouth running teams and the west-coast offense of packs like the Atlanta Falcons over a purely pass-based offense, defense at least stands a chance this year. The new Big Hit 2.0 is mapped to the Wii-mote/nunchuk and works pretty well, using specific gestures to attack certain aspects of an offense, such as undercuts with a nunchuk jab, or huge leaping hits with the same Wii-mote action. Combine that with the "Rip/Swim/Spin" of blitzing defense, which allows you to literally rip, swim, or spin away from offensive line members by shoving left or right with the Wii-mote, and players will be pulling off more effective blitzing and tackling across the board. Like last year's Madden, however, if you aren't directly involved in defense you'll most likely be blown away, as these moves are crucial for stopping the amazingly ramped up ground game in Madden Wii.''''Unfortunately it's not all sunshine with this year's Madden, as 08 features more annoying game glitches and odd-ball moments than even last year's package did. While the general motion control is far stronger, the core gameplay has some plaguing problems; most of them resembling last-gen shortcomings that still curse Wii. For starters the AI can be moronic, especially when working off the Play Action portions of your playbook. Characters will forget to block or just do so in a lazy manor, as offensive lines crumble or team members watch blitzers take down your QB. Should you get the pass off, the old "not really pass interference" issue is back, as defense will cut off your receiver or slowly run in front of him, blocking your potential reception but not awarding you pass interference. ''''This was an issue in older versions of the GameCube and PS2 versions of Madden, and while it could still be found in Madden 07 for Wii it seems to be more of an issue this year (or at least we're seeing it happen more often). What this again comes down to is a reliance on the combination of more controlled precision passing teamed with a powerful running game, as an inside run or quick screen pass will often yield more overall than deep passes or complex route running. Passing still works, you just need to pick your situations carefully. As a note on running as a whole, we had a franchise game (difficulty on Pro) where our running back has three TDs and averaged 9.0 yards per carry after a real-time four quarter game. Nine yards per carry? That's hall of fame material right there.''''As another downside with the AI we saw a few strange issues, including everything from defensemen waiting off-screen on the offense side pre-play, and then sacking the QB instantly to offer a "What the hell?" moment in conjunction with a blatant offsides call, to camera blur from specific close-up shots staying on-screen once the short cinema is skipped, blurring out the entire screen until its regular fade-away would have occurred before you skipped the shot. In another instance (one that we've seen countless times, actually) a longer snap motion will not only snap the ball, but instantly throw to a receiver automatically, wasting a down. It's odd, but thankfully it doesn't occur too often. ''''As a final minor gripe that's worth mentioning, EA made the passing icons larger this year, hoping to make the game more casual-friendly, but those too have some oddities, often covering up running holes when doing Play Action plays (if a receiver is near the line, his icon stays up at the beginning of a run) or drop-out issues during family play where icons actually don't show up after the snap. These glitches may seem minor at times, but combine them together and you've got an experience that - while still solid for the majority of the time - screams last-generation programming. It's great to have depth in options, but when the core gameplay suffers, it's time to re-evaluate your use of development time. ''''What Madden 08 does capitalize on, however, is the multiplayer aspects of the Wii. Locally you've got a new Party Mode, complete with the kick-ass Telestrator for Madden-like replays (pen and all), mini-game tournaments, Mii integration, a trivia mode, multiple save profiles for family and friends, and the Wii-mote only "Family Play" mode. For fans of local multiplayer Madden 08's plethora of mini-games and modes may outshine the gameplay issues easily, but even Party Mode isn't exactly a perfect venture. ''''2-on-2, one of our favorite modes last year, now has a gameplay issue of its own, having the new Big Hit mapped to both nunchunk and Wii-mote. When you try to speed up the Mississippi count, you'll lunge, stumble, and dive to the ground in the process, often laying yourself out as "Five Mississippi" is called, having you waste time to get up before being able to go for a sack. Still, much of Party Mode is still a blast, as the Mii integration and mini-game modes make for great Madden competition in a multi-user household.''''As for online, Madden 08 is a bit of a mixed bag. EA Nation is a double-edged sword, offering friends lists, latest players, and worldwide rankings at the expense of actual text messaging. Instead you'll need to use one of 20 available pre-set texts to tell a person "good game" or request that they add you to their list. Creating an EA account is simple and free though, and you'll be able to use a combination of letters and numbers (no spaces or symbols) to make your persona that can be shared worldwide with users across the net. There's a rank-based lobby system, the ability to create rooms with passwords, and a full range of options (including weather, quarter time, AI difficulty, and rank/unranked play) to engage in. More importantly, no friend codes. Thank you EA.''''Once you're in the game, however, there are still some issues. Even in our IGN office, playing feet from one another, we had noticeable lag in our controllers, having all passes, jukes, turns, and stiff-arms follow behind slightly. When moving into worldwide competition we had varying luck, including a couple decent matches (still not high-frame or lag-free), to dropped opponents, multi-second in-game freezes, and serious lag, having controls follow behind our motions by nearly a full second. Luckily you can see connection speeds of everyone in the room before you start playing, though as net speeds flux your game with definitely feel it. As a point of reference we're using an extremely fast connection, and can download a 1.5 gig file within two minutes at our office. Lag should be non-existent in this controlled (or as controlled as possible) environment.''''As for the general presentation and interface, Madden 08 is improved, but still not as solid as it could be. Interface and player selection is now handled with the d-pad exclusively, while things like the Telestrator feature IR. The interface this year is slick and easy to work with, though graphically the game remains virtually unchanged over 07, with a few better textures here, some added depth-of-field blur there (the same depth of field with the odd camera glitch, however), and virtually the same character models across the board. ''''The game still incorporates new animations for tackles (some of which are totally brutal), and up close things like helmet reflection and detail on player models is a bit more impressive, but the game is still barely a step above its PS2 counterpart visually, and nowhere near where it could be. As a final note we strongly recommend component cables for anyone that looks to play Madden 08, as 480i is rough and nowhere near the 480p, 16:9 clarity.''
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