IGN Review of Madden NFL 08
Over the last few years the Madden franchise has been anything but a go-to series on Nintendo DS. While the console versions continue to improve DS always seems to be the odd man out, as EA first began its development track internally, then took on mobile NCAA developer Exient, and since started pairing the company with Tiburon to try and salvage average gameplay on a system that's not quite N64, but more than Super NES in pocket form. We're now at our fourth iteration of the series, and though much has improved over the years Madden still has a long, long way to go before becoming a superstar franchise.''''Last year we were a fan of the still-glitchy and simply "so-so" gameplay aside from one major issue: Kicking. The stylus control was simply broken in 2007, and this year's Madden promises to fix that issue, and capitalize on another year of DS dev time. Well, the issue was fixed, but it wasn't exactly the "overhauled gameplay" we were expecting, as the team embraced the classic "golf meter" for power and accuracy once again. Hey, we understand, why not take it back to its roots?''''''''This time around the vastly improved Madden 08 isn't a less-than-enjoyable experience due to some huge single issue or game-ending bug like it was last year, but it still has a compilation of issues that keep it from being an amazing game of arcade/sim football. This year's Madden couples some great interface presentation with decent 3D work on DS, plenty of EA audio taken from the console versions (the track list, while much smaller, is made up of the same songs), and a ton of options. Hell, there are options in Madden DS that aren't even in the Wii version. Add local multi-card for up to seven players, single card download play for two players (that's right, full games with only one purchase), mini-games, and Wi-Fi to the equation and you have a game that, while still flawed in some aspects of execution, is a far better offering than any other DS football game.''''Upon booting up the Madden 08 you'll find compressed video (top screen only) set to music that does a nice job of setting the tone. Compliment that with an easy-to-use interface that's either touch or d-pad enabled, as well as bright, DS-friendly iconography and true Madden-like backdrops based on your user-assigned favorite team. The game includes franchise, season, custom leagues, tournaments, a full practice mode, and situational gameplay, and for the most part we were impressed with the full gamut of features throughout. You can create plays, create players, create a whole team with full customization, and rip up any mode with those created items, and for the most part it works. We'd still like to see touch implementation for creating plays or drawing audibles on the fly, but apparently that just isn't in the cards. Case in point, everything about Madden 08's front end is impressive, deep, and simply shouldn't fit on DS. Solid.''''Where the game hits a bit of a wall, however, is in the main gameplay. Graphically the title pushes some decent visuals, though you'll notice a sketchy framerate at times and when tons of players get on screen the poly count on models seems to actually drop on the fly to accommodate it, making for cube-shaped heads and really odd visual "WTF" moments from time to time. On the audio side the game needs a serious crank up, as crowd and music drowns out the sparse commentary. Drop the levels of the others to make up for it and your DS feels like it's outputting audio at 1/3 power. ''''Even more of an issue, however, is the gameplay, which has its fair share of bugs and an overall lack of balance throughout. Passes often bounce off receiver's heads, AI lines up when chasing running backs rather than trying to cut them off, the computer will let the entire play clock die down to zero while a random wide receiver (seen off-screen via the top screen, which shows icon-based characters) sits idle on the sidelines, and AI blocking can be a pain at times. ''''''''When on offense nearly any contact will knock you on your ass, as the game becomes more of "avoid those guys" and less a "runner vs. defender" physical match. To counter that, player-controlled defenders will glitch out when using the sprint button, running in place for three or four steps for no apparent reason. It's these kind of AI glitches and simply moronic bugs that keep Madden 08 from being a full-fledged football experience, and more of just an acceptable game of pocket football for DS owners with a bit of patience.''''Even with the oddities that seem to pop up during casual play Madden 08 still has its redeeming factors though. All options - be it run power, pass power, or even offensive/defensive AI - can be tweaked on your game cart, so finding your sweet spot of pass/rush strength is still possible. In addition the new pass icons help the distance game a ton, showing button icons in green, yellow, and red depending on how much coverage each receiver has. If he's green, bomb it. If he's red, you better come up with an alternate strategy, and fast. On the running side of things players will get mowed down like paper dolls if you try to pull off any power running (something totally opposite from the Wii version), so instead you'll need to rely on your jukes, spins, and a little bit of luck. On defense, shy away from the buggy "speed boost" A button and you should be fine. It isn't the most stable core engine, but there's still fun to be had.''''And while some of the bugs in Madden 08 can be extremely frustrating, credit is given where it's due, and Madden shows serious multiplayer love. Wi-Fi plays without a hitch, running with literally no lag or dropped frames. As a bit of an oddity the game treats Wi-Fi connect (and single-card download) as the same direct link, so even when online both players can control both team selections, pause menus show up on both screens no matter who pauses, and post-game menus are navigated as if P1 and P2 are sitting at the same console. It's odd, but it also explains how the game manages to connect flawlessly over Wi-Fi, and stream a full-fledged Play Now mode with just one copy of the game, again with no dropped frames or slowdown. Team that up with eight player multi-card and multiplayer paper football and you've got one hell of a package for Madden 08 DS.''
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