Madden NFL 09 Review
A few key gameplay additions and enhancements make this year's Madden great despite some unseemly flaws.
Longtime fans of the series will recognize the "all new" Madden Challenge feature. These challenges, which have appeared in some form or another in some earlier Madden games, let you try your hand at reliving some of the more dramatic moments of the 2007 NFL season. This is a good way of quickly placing yourself in a variety of different high-pressure situations, but the sometimes punishingly difficult/cheap AI, combined with the repetitive nature of many of the challenges, ensure that the fun is short-lived. One final new mode lets you use your console to track fantasy football teams created (for free) on the EA Sports Web site. At the time of this review the NFL season hadn't yet started, so we were unable to see the stat-tracking mode in action. It's not going to make up for the game's lousy online leagues, but its inclusion will likely please those looking to manage their Madden and fantasy football addictions at the same time.
The rest of the game modes are holdovers from last year. Franchise mode is solid. The simulated statistics seem to be fairly accurate, and it's certainly fun to take the reins of a franchise, but the mode has received only cursory attention since last year, and you can still sign overpriced free agents and package them into deals for draft picks and star players. That's more than can be said for Superstar mode, which is virtually indistinguishable from its 08 incarnation. If you've never tried to take a created player or rookie from his first training camp to the Hall of Fame, there's some fun to be had here, but if you've previously put up with the lame training events, obnoxious agents, and inane e-mails from your in-game mom, there's nothing here that warrants another look.
Madden 09 is easily the best-looking Madden to date. The presentation now features more dynamic camera angles, and player emotion is a bigger part of the game than ever thanks to new touchdown celebrations. By running to a highlighted area of the end zone and pressing a button after a score you can dunk the ball over the goalpost, climb up the wall to bask in the admiration of the fans, and more. The dunks often don't work and they look kind of terrible, but the rest of the celebrations are cool--especially when you steal another player's move. You can do Chad Johnson's River Dance or Steve McNair's hands-to-the-helmet pose, or you can taunt Denver fans with the Mile High salute. Other player animations are top-notch, and if you play enough you'll notice some great little touches, such as kickers tackling just as awkwardly as they do in real life. You'll see some odd transitions and quirky moves upon close inspection of replays (which can be uploaded and shared online), but you'd be hard pressed to notice most of these instances during gameplay.
Stadiums aren't blurry anymore, and they feature more detail than ever--they look great. Snow and rain effects have been cranked up to where it feels as if you're playing in a blizzard or monsoon. By the end of a game in the rain, players' uniforms will be absolutely filthy. You'd have been grounded for a week if you had come home that dirty when you were a kid. The only knock against the weather is that field conditions don't seem to degrade as the game progresses. It's odd to have players caked in mud when the grass looks like the fairways at Augusta. You may notice some stuttering before and after plays, but when the ball's in play, the frame rate is as fast and smooth as you could hope for.
Cris Collinsworth is easily the highlight of Madden 09's audio. His commentary is timely, accurate, and insightful, and it sounds perfectly natural. Imagine having one of the best commentators in the league standing next to you talking about your grudge match against your little brother like it's a real-life showdown in the playoffs--that's how good Cris is here. On the other side of the coin is play-by-play announcer Tom Hammond's performance. It's bad enough that he'll remind you that the game is "brought to you by EA Sports" several times per game, but his choppy, vague, and monotone play calling will almost make you miss the radio-style announcer from previous years. Almost. John Madden might be one of the greatest announcers of all time, but you'd never know it by listening to the game that bears his name. His vaunted "return" to the franchise is limited to brief pregame introductions as well as one or two sentences at halftime and the end of the game. He barely even talks during "ask Madden" plays; occasionally he'll explain why he's suggesting a play, but a vast majority of the time he doesn't say a thing.
The Madden series has been so good for so long that the bar for each yearly release is extremely high. And it's because standards are so high that, while it's still great, Madden 09 could have been better. For every addition, like the backtrack feature, Collinsworth, or improved visuals, there's a problem that rears its ugly head, like the unchanged Superstar mode, poor pass coverage in the middle of the field, or underwhelming online leagues. Newcomers will still face a steep learning curve, but if you're a football fan or series veteran, you can't go wrong with Madden 09.
- Player Reviews: 167
- Game Universe:
- Madden NFL 2004 (PS, GC, GBA, PS2, XBOX, PC),
- Madden NFL 2000 (PC, GBC, N64, PS, MAC),
- Madden NFL 2001 (PS2, PS, GBC, N64, PC),
- Madden NFL 97 (PC, PS, GEN, SAT, GB, SNES),
- Madden NFL 98 (PC, PS, GEN, SNES, SAT),
- Madden NFL 99 (PC, N64, PS),
- Madden NFL '94 (GEN, SNES),
- Madden NFL 95 (GEN, GB, GG, SNES),
- Madden NFL 96 (GEN, GB, GG, SNES, PC, PS),
- Madden NFL 2002 (PS2, GC, PC, PS, N64, XBOX, GBC, GBA)
- Offline Modes:
Competitive, Cooperative, Team Oriented
- Online Modes:
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
4 Players Online