‘Madden’ returns; gamers rejoice

By Oliver Joszt

The slogan of Madden 2008 proclaims, “Maddenites Unite.” This is a perfect tagline for one of the most popular franchise video games in history.

Ever since its first release in 1989 by Electronic Arts (EA), the Madden series has been dominating the charts and bringing football fans together. You don’t have to walk far down your residence hall to hear the sweet sounds of Super Bowl victory. Gamers wait every year to get their new copy of Madden loaded with new features and better graphics.

As they begin their quest for Super Bowl gold, loyal Madden fans will notice new aspects of the game right away. One of those features is a new mode called Skill Drill in which a player can work on a specific aspect of his game, such as passing or defense. The Skill Drill mode helps a player focus on constructing new abilities in order to improve skills when it comes to game time. Also, the Skill Drill could be utilized by new players to learn the ABCs of Madden gameplay.

More importantly, however, is improved computer intelligence. Creating smarter computer players enables an overall more difficult yet realistic gaming experience. Unlike older Madden titles, Madden 2008 makes the computer players more aware of their surroundings. So, if a cornerback sees the team running the ball instead of passing, they are quicker to react and go after the player with the ball.

The new Fantasy Challenge mode allows players to experience a 15-round mini-draft where you choose groupings of players. You can choose to play with your favorite team’s existing roster, start from scratch and draft players or even build a team of Hall of Famers. Hardcore fans of football will find this feature incredible, especially because they can create their ultimate team.

An improved Hit Stick also offers new opportunities for players. On the right joystick, for Playstation and X-Box controllers, you can control whether you hit the player with the ball high or low. If the player is a fast and elusive player you aim high to knock the ball out of his hands. However, if the player is bulkier and bigger you can aim low in order to grab on to his feet instead of aiming high where he can easily brush you off.

But the game is not flawless. The famous commentary from sportscasters John Madden and Al Michaels, though humorous, is still somewhat foolish and assumes that all Madden players know nothing about football. Madden reminds gamers that “the goal to winning is to get some points for your team.”

On top of that, EA has added a player weapon icon. With the tap of a button you can learn what a player’s specialties are. This is wonderful for people who are new to football, but it just gets in the way for old fans. Do players really need to be reminded that Super Bowl champ Peyton Manning is an excellent quarterback?

The coveted Franchise mode has barely any changes to it. Everything stays the same, even the tedious wait time. The only change to Franchise mode is the layout, which doesn’t add anything to the gameplay.

Putting those little problems aside, Madden 2008 is still one of the best football games out there. Speaking as a video game fan, and not a football fan, this game is pure excitement. Every move has to be planned to the last detail and in many ways plays like a chess game.

I finish with a word of advice to new Madden gamers: Be warned. Once you begin to play, you won’t want to stop.

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