Madden NFL 08

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2007-09-04


Developer: EA Tiburon Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: August 14, 2007 Also On: GCN, PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox & Xbox 360

It has been a long time since the typical Madden fan enjoyably could kick back, pop open a brew, and play their favorite football game against their friends. Tiburon scrambled to make its 06 and 07 editions of the series appropriate for next-generation consoles, but in the process, they ruined the best parts of Madden: a thrilling presentation, exciting and fast-paced gameplay, and intuitive controls that make the game the best football game on the market. This year, they picked up the pieces—broken and missing—and put together the best damn football game I've played since ESPN NFL 2K5. Last season my 06 requests were answered—new modes, new graphics, and better features were included, but the gameplay just wasn't cleaned up. Once again, Tiburon has answered my hopes and dreams. Last season I said that Madden needed to be re-worked, and it most certainly was.

Madden has always been and will always be a yearly thing, so first and foremost I'd like to address the big changes to this year's game. On the field players will have an easier time than ever distinguishing between their best players thanks to the new "Weapons" mechanic. Certain players naturally excel at different parts of the position. For instance, some receivers are better at running routes, but they won't be diving and stretching for the sky like Marvin Harrison when a bullet goes flying over his head. Defensive players are also included in the fun (and kickers, like Jason Elam and Adam Vinateiri), and you'll have to watch out for a bruiser like Ray Lewis more than ever—his "weapon" status increases the possibility of injuries and turnovers due to his massive, crushing hits.

Off the field players have a much better Franchise mode to play, with some Owner options thrown in. There are fantastic scouting options, and after this much detail in 08's recruiting, I wouldn't be shocked to see hair length and blood types next season. Okay, so maybe that's getting ridiculous, but the added depth is nice. Armchair owners will raise and lower prices, move their teams, and create new stadiums—unfortunately, new stadiums can only be constructed in new towns, so relocating your team is mandatory for that feature. Lame.

The traditional control style from last-gen games has returned, finally. Tiburon went with some wacky setup the last two seasons that rendered the game unplayable, or at least miserable in the attempt. Now, even with extended playcalling options and defensive playmaker controls (not to mention lead blockers; yeah, they got it all!), the game is easier to play than ever. Big hits and slippery running moves are still mapped to the right analog stick, and combined with the new animations (I'll get to those in a second), these moves are even more fun to use against your opponents. I'll never forget shaking fellow reviewer Matt Evangelista out of his socks following an end zone interception and yes, I ran it back for a touchdown. The enjoyment that came from playing old Madden games is back. Forget about 06 and 07, this is the game Madden always should have been.

Animations were a visual focus this year, and that is obvious due to the common appearance of tackles that will have you looking away, cringing, and high-fiving friends. Unless you're using the new Emotion and DMM physics engines, you don't normally see such great interaction between character models. There are still occasional clipping issues but I feel that, especially during tackles, these silly glitches are taken care of. The pre-game introductions of the players are really cool, and they're a great way to get familiar with your team's weapons. After all, this is a perfect time when the game tells you who they are. Other than a few strange-looking coaches (Dungy?) and players, Madden shines visually.

Unfortunately, some of the "next-gen Madden" ailments haven't been cured. The presentation is still not as explosive as it could be, and the fact that the EA Sports radio announcer is still around is a disservice to the gamers buying this game every year. When the extent of your color commentary is speaking of players on a first-name basis, you don't really have an exciting speaker. Even NCAA Football 08 is more enjoyable to hear, and I've heard the same lame Lee Corso lines for half a decade. Tiburon and EA Sports really need to get on this matter and make the game as fun to listen to and to hear as it is to play. In fact, if the huge tackles didn’t sound so painful, I'd have muted the game every time I turned it on.

Additionally, EA Sports needs to invigorate their online system a little bit. Madden 08 is basically unchanged from previous versions of the game, and there are still lag issues online. Achievements aren't as embarrassingly easy to earn as they were in 06, but they're not much different than the list on 07 (NCAA was guilty of this in 08 as well), so players who earned all of those points simply have to repeat their milestones this year. I would like to see EA rip off the NBA 2K series' Achievements, where they are more legend-specific. For example, an Achievement where you got 5 first-half rushing TDs with Shaun Alexander would be pretty cool, and it would let players (particularly NFL newbs and Achievement hunters) see the different teams and weapons on each team from a first-person perspective. When Achievements can be used to flesh out the enjoyment found in a video game, their purpose, existence, and utility is justified and solidified. EA and Tiburon's football duo could easily benefit from this.

Madden NFL 08 is the game that should shut up the naysayers and cheer up the disheartened 06 and 07 players. This year's game is the one that is finally worth its weight in cash, the one that will keep you and your friends glued to the television playing fantasy franchise games. It's so much fun to play that the multiplayer greatness we haven't seen since 04 and 05 returns. You will once again be pounding the hell out of each other, laughing, and having a good time. This, my friends, is the way Madden should be.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 9.5
Final: 8.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn