XBox 360, PS3, PSP, WII
They’ve definitely set out to create an epic, anthemic vibe around this year’s game
You know the summer is fast approaching its end for another year when the latest Madden NFL game hits the shelves. It’s as sure a sign that it’s almost time for the schools to go back as shortening of the evenings (Jesus H. Christ I sound like an oul one). Enough of that. Right, another year, another Madden, another overhaul of the front end and more tweaking of the rest. Is there anything to be found in this year’s game aside from updated squad rosters that justify its purchase for owners of last year’s though... as always with these annual sports games, that is the million dollar question!
Well a lot has changed, that’s for sure. For starters they’ve gone all out with the game intro... and not really in the best way either. Expect plenty of sickeningly American hyperbole like “What does it take to win?” and “That’s what the NFL is all about!” preached to you in an almost presidential tone. To say it’s naff is an understatement, and you will cringe while watching it – but perversely, it does set a tone and get you a little pumped up for things, so maybe they’re onto something... we’re sure the Yanks will love it though.
As with last year, and the year before, the interface has received a new lick of paint. If you’ve played an EA Sports title in the last four or five years you’ll have no problems finding your way around the menus, but that’s not to say they’re well designed... because they’re really not. Some might disagree, and welcome the more simplistic approach, but few will argue that the menu screens are anything but dog ugly, which is unlike EA Sports.
The soundtrack isn’t bad though, echoing the tone created by the intro, we were enjoying ACDC’s Thunderstruck followed by Blur’s Song 2 within minutes of popping the disk in our console. They’ve definitely set out to create an epic, anthemic vibe around this year’s game with the likes of Guns N Roses, Bush and Ozzy Osbourne also included however eyebrows might be raised at the inclusion of a Gary Glitter cover (does that mean the game should get an 18+ rating?).
But enough with the aesthetics and let’s push on with the most important stuff, like how the game plays. Well, you’re not going to be short of game modes, with Franchise, Madden Moments, Practice, Mini Games, Virtual Trainer, Be an NFL Superstar (what a ridiculous name for the NFL version of FIFA’s Be a Pro – clearly EA thought that would’ve been too confusing a title for our friends across the pond), Ultimate Team, multiple online modes (although if you buy the game second hand you’re going to fall foul of EA’s much maligned Online Pass system), Exhibition mode, Superbowl XLV and even the AFL has been included. So yes, plenty to do here!
Except that you probably won’t want to bother, because the game isn’t very good.
Before I get tonnes of abuse from people for slating it because I “don’t get the sport”, I actually do. I may not be the biggest NFL fan in the world, but living in Canada these days affords me the luxury of watching games at a reasonable hour, live on the TV, so it’s tough not to get sucked in. The fact is that EA, in trying to make the game more accessible, has managed to suck an awful lot of what made previous Madden’s great out of this year’s game.
For starters, the level of control feels a lot lower than in previous years. It just never feels like you’re really the one in charge. The inclusion of the new Gameflow system might have something to do with that, but at least you can turn it off and opt for the more traditional Conventional Playbook – a system that will be familiar to everyone who has ever played a Madden title. There’s no such option to disable the sluggish feeling controls, disappointing AI, unimpressive and occasionally jerky graphics, repetitive and shoddy commentary or almost 100percent success of various plays (like Four Verticals and Slants, which never seem to fail, ever... rendering the game devoid of any challenge).
It’s not all bad though, they’ve reduced the length of the average game from over an hour to about 45 minutes which, although still too long, does give you a bit more option to just sit down and play a game. With a 30 year long franchise mode though, 45 minutes a game by an average of 20 games a season means that only the most dedicated player will be able to afford the 450+ hours required to see it through to completion.
Honestly, last year’s was a much better game, so stick with it if you’ve already got it, and pick it up from a bargain bin if you don’t.