First let me say that I have bought Madden since the first version on the Sega Genesis up to Madden 05 Collector's Edition.
Im my opinion, Madden 05 was the best version of all time. Every year up until that point, the question was asked, how could EA out do themselves? They put out such a great product and innovated each year it kept gamers coming back for more.
Well it turns out 05 was the high water mark for EA. I refused to buy the 06 or 07 versions because neither version offered anything that improved vastly over the 05 version (QB vision cone? Are you serious?! Since when do NFL QBs play with blinders on their head?). I skipped the X-Box 360 version as well as I knew that would be a rushed, " we got to get it out on a Next-Gen System!" version.
So flash forward to Feb 07 through July 07 when previews for Madden 08 were hitting the various online gaming sites. Hungry for a new version of Madden (after playing 10 years of owner mode in Madden 05) I began to get hyped. I also wanted an excuse to upgrade my TV and to get a Blu-ray player.
The previews seemed to give Madden 08 a thumbs up and when the PS3 price drop hit, that triggered my purchase of a PS3 and a brand spanking new 1080p LCD HDTV. I waited patiently for Madden 08 to be released and enjoyed watching Blu-ray movies in the meantime.
So now that I've owned Madden 08 for two weeks, here is my review in one word, "eh.".
Don't get me wrong, the game has it's great points. The graphics are simply stunning. If you aren't playing this game on an HDTV of some sort, you are doing yourself and the game a disservice.
This being my first new version of Madden in a few years, it took me a little while to get use to the new button mapping. But I got rolling pretty fast.
I love the new branch animations, the movement of the players is now so much more realistic than ever. Stop LT with a lightwieght CB? Forget it. You are going to need some help and the if your CB can wrap LT's legs up long enough for help from a LB or Safety, expect to see LT go down with a gang tackle. Otherwise, you can watch your CB hang on futily as LT sheds the tackle and takes off to the end zone.
The AI is so much better as well. On the PRO setting, the AI adapts quickly. If you are passing you have to make your reads very quickly and hit your 4th receiver in the flat if you expect to move the ball through the air. And you better not rely on the same play over and over again because the AI will recognize that play. Of course, it remains to be seen after many hours of play if the AI can be outsmarted as has been the case in prior versions.
My franchise games that I have played so far have been fairly tight which I have enjoyed.
Now for the bad parts:
Sounds: Well, for years online reviewers and gamers alike complained that Madden was getting old and that a new commentator crew was needed. Careful what you ask for. I understand that John Madden was removed from commentating in the game sometime in the last two years but now we are given some announcer whos sounds like he is speaking into a papercup in the closet. Absolutely terrible. Marshall Faulk's intro to each game is forgettable as well.
In fact the presentation of the game is non-existent. As a Madden fan, I was always impressed with the way 2K Sports integrated the TV style presenatation with ESPN on their games and wished for something similar from EA on Madden. Now that EA has the ESPN license, where is that presentation? Other than an ESPN logo on the front upper right corner of the cover, ESPN has no presence anywhere in the game. Money well spent EA, which I am sure has been passed on to the gamers. How can EA not intergrate the ESPN license into the their flagship sports title? Hmmm my guess is that the ESPN broadcast will appear as the "new" thing in a future versions to keep the Madden brand selling.
Also the game chatter that is heard is mostly useless, especially after a play. It honestly sounds more like a live cocktail party than an NFL game.
Details: No chain gang? The 1st Down Markers on the sidelines are a staple of football. But there is no chain gang present. Yet there countless other people on the sidelines that have nothing to do with the game.
No refs on the field? Yet another staple of the game not included for some unknown reason. It's symbolic of EA's shortcomings when after a play is over, a player tosses the ball to an empty patch of grass.
No formation Substitutions? WHAT?! If I have a OLB who is faster than my MLB I want the OLB in my dime and quarter packages, instead I am stuck with a slower MLB try to cover the middle or chase after a scrambling QB. If I want certain guys in my Kickoff unit dedicated to contain to make sure I don't get burned to the outside, I should be able to make the change. This omission by EA is unacceptable.
And the worst issue in this game is the use of a virtual football covered in virtual Vaseline. Fumbles are so prevalent in the game, it is comical and at the same time frustrating. You can have a player with 90+ carrying ability and he will still fumble 2-3 times a game. It's not uncommon to have each team with 5+ fumbles at the end of a game. What's worse there is no slider available to adjust this. There is a slider for interceptions (which also seems to occur at a high rate) but not for fumbles. Another obvious oversight that should have been addressed by EA.
With all that said, I will stil play this game since it is the only NFL game in town.
The bottom line is this game looks Next-Gen and feels Next-Gen but the stunning shortcomings hold the game back from actually being Next-Gen.
Unforuntaely, EA has yet to capture the magic they did with Madden 05.