Madden NFL 08
Top-notch fake footie or evil annual update?
Xbox 360, All others
It seems that EA has been on the receiving end of that thing that's the opposite of moans from gamers - 'prays' or something - thanks to the company pursuing original IP and seemingly pushing some of the boundaries people felt they were all too determined to leave very much un-pushed. It certainly is an odd time. But then something comes along and reinstates that old feeling of disdain we have towards the evil megalomaniacs at EA - the annual sports update. This year, we're up to Madden 08. It's about the 349th in the series, and by golly if nothing much has changed at all between this and the last.
But wait, idiots! Madden games have, by and large, been utterly quite-a-bit-of-fun, and maybe it's this fact that keeps the possible baby-eaters at EA from changing too much. I mean, they added Quarterback Vision(TM) the other year, and everyone complained. Yet when they don't change much, they'll still complain. The damn war criminals at EA can't win whichever way they play it.
Whereas FIFA tends to be an exercise in either getting football wrong or copying Pro Evo badly, those crazy mass murderers at EA certainly know how to do a gridiron game. The Madden series has long been one of the most in-depth and accurate portrayals of modern Catch In Tights, and 08 is no exception - even those who know little about the sport can have fun with the game, and those playing blind can pick things up just as fast as those who choose to take young (old) John's advice. It's win-win. Possibly win-draw. Hmm. Basically, any fat idiot can play the game, and anyone who's played any of the series before will know what to do straight away. Simple.
There are some new features to the game that stop the Supervillains at EA releasing exactly the same game as last year, with the main one being the 'weapons' system. Essentially, the bigger players at teams are designated onscreen icons representing what kind of 'weapon' they are - if they're fast, if they can throw long and the like. This helps from a defensive standpoint as it means more tactical decisions can be employed - it certainly makes you watch the players closer than before, and it can add something of a prestige to the moments when you successfully foil one of these 'weapons'. Though it does all essentially boil down to kicking someone's face off with your fists. But what would you expect from those possibly involved in the distribution of illegal pornography at EA? Other than this main feature, there are some other random rubbishes thrown in for good measure; a skill drill option and some other insignificant asides. Nothing fun, mind. Oh, and quarterback vision can still be turned off, and it's still a pile of poo poo.
Crazily enough, with this being a (they're so evil they can make your face explode by looking at you) EA game, the presentation is absolutely top notch. There are pictures of things, menus that work, players that even look like tiny men trapped in the TV - it's nothing short of a miracle! And I still maintain that commentary on the Madden games is the best of any game available, bar none - it helps that the game has more stops and stutters than that one off that singing programme before he learned how to not have a severe speech impediment (note to self: learn better metaphors), but the play-by-play feels really solid. Not even the repetition hurts that much. Well done there, you massive drug dealers at EA.
It should be noted that the 360 and PS3 versions of Madden are very different beasties, and play a far more interesting and - dare I say it - better game of fake football. The PS2 version is unfortunately something of a hatchet job for a dying console - certainly not behaviour out of character for the deeply evil souls at EA. Nevertheless, it's still a decent game. It's just not worth picking up at all if you're the owner of any of the last few years' versions, unless you're a psycho. Like the folks at EA.