Madden NFL 09 Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Madden NFL 09 is a milestone edition of EA’s long running series, not because it has some revolutionary new features or anything like that, but 09 is actually the 20th edition and, as there’s been a new Madden annually since its debut in 1988, that means that the 20th edition marks the 20th anniversary of the series. Go Madden.

The back of the box may claim that the game has more than 85 new features and enhancements, although you’d have to possess the eye of a hawk to single them all out as most are just mere tweaks. To be fair, it would be impossible to keep coming up with barrel loads of new options and ways to play the game each year, although EA somehow make their annual updates worthwhile, and Madden NFL 09 is no exception, with some pleasing new additions.

EA have obviously attempted to make the game more approachable this year for those that may be daunted by all of the Madden series’ intricacies. The MySkill is a new adaptive skill level that you’ll almost be instantly shaking hands with and being introduced to. As soon as you place the disc into the waiting tray and power up the console, you’ll see John Madden in a holographic like form as he explains how the new adaptive difficulty works, you’ll then be given the opportunity for the game to assess your skill level by playing stylish looking virtual training games. In a clever touch it takes into consideration how good you are at certain things, and even when this training is out of the way (you can replay it as many times as you think necessary) the game will be constantly assessing your skill and giving you a level for how well you do with the all important offensive and defensive methods in American football, as well as a Madden IQ number. At the end of each game you are even given the opportunity to go straight to a training game to improve an element that you may be lacking in, although in reality playing the actual game is harder than playing any of the training modes, so it’s here where you’ll truly find out how good you are.

You can skip the Madden test altogether if you like, choosing a preset skill level or even customising it to your liking by using menu sliders instead. With all the latter said, everyone should be happy, although I just know that many of us are going to be curious as just how good our understanding and skill of the game is, I know I was. If the adaptive difficulty is just an initial curiosity for you, you could always change the options to tailor your needs later on.

When it comes to being out on the field Madden 09 hasn’t really changed much since last years game.

In keeping with being more approachable, button hints now appear on the screen, which is helpful for learning what to press in individual situations, particularly for those unfamiliar with the series. A rewind feature (as seen on everything from the rebooted Prince of Persia series to Race Driver: GRID) is an optional feature that allows you to rewind the play back in an attempt to rectify one of your stupid and unforgivable mistakes, and whilst you may feel like scum to deny an opposing team a touchdown upon them reaching the end zone, it’s another feature that will hopefully allow a player to get wise to where they are going wrong and then do something about it. It can be turned off, of course, or it can be limited to a certain number of uses.

As for the usual EA polish, the graphics have been greatly improved (if you’ve never been particularly turned on by grass, this may change when you see the green playing field here), presentation is fittingly slick for an EA Sports game, and this year we also get a proper commentary team opposed to the lone radio style, and out of place, announcer of recent games. Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth are on the microphones, and the latter even attempts to help you out when you botch a play, doing it professionally and politely without shouting at you like a sergeant major (perhaps things would have been different if he was actually addressing you opposed to the audience). EA Sports Backtrack is basically a glorified replay with Collinsworth pointing out what you did wrong and what you could and should have done right. Madden 09 is a game that just wants you to stick with it and work on your technique, all these helpful features should certainly make a player welcome – I’m just surprised that the game doesn’t give you a warm cup of tea and a biscuit before you begin playing, such is its accommodating nature.

New play options include online leagues for up to 32 players (which are seemingly suffering from dodgy server issues at the time of writing), and a Madden Moments mode which takes some of the best moments from last years NFL season and places you into challenging situations. Major modes such as the Superstar and franchise modes have changed very little which might irk those expecting some major additions.

Madden NFL 09 is another great update for the 20-year-old franchise and the best game in the series yet. Those seeking major changes should probably avoid this, although long-time fans should, as always, be happy with the headline changes as well as the small tweaks that continue to better the series.