Some things come standard with new console launches; usually we see a collection of new franchises and of course a fair share of sequels. The one thing that is almost inevitable though is the release of the latest Madden football. The Xbox 360 is certainly no different, bringing with it the latest in the pigskin powerhouse to its new console on day one. The question on everyone’s mind however is, is it worth buying if I already own it for another console? This and many other inquiries shall be answered in our full review of EA’s latest entry of its dominating franchise.
The original target video for Madden was jaw dropping to say the least. EA promised us visuals that rival even the best CGI; did they deliver on that promise? Well not exactly, the game does look amazing, but still a far cry from the early target renders EA swore was real time. The visual upgrade is definitely the highlight of this new Madden though, players have emotion on their faces, you can see the individual veins on each hand, and they even sweat in real time. Visually this is one of the better looking launch titles for the Xbox 360. The stadiums are all rendered with stunning detail and even the crowd is fully polygonal and totally animated. The graphics in this game are certainly made to show off the power of the 360 even at this early stage in its life.
Great visuals however will only take you so far in this day and age, you must also have content and this is where Madden for the 360 fumbles the ball. While you do have the option to play Franchise the rest is pretty much been nixed from the other versions. Superstar and Owner modes are gone and the online play has been limited to simply exhibition games, sorry guys no more leagues or tournies. While this may seem like a minor gripe fans of Madden have come to expect this in every iteration, in fact without all the bells and whistles this game simply falls flat and feels like just another generic pigskin simulation.
Another touted feature from the previous versions, QB Vision Control has been disabled by default. You can still enable the feature by using the right stick for those looking for more of a challenge in the passing game, but most players found it more of an annoyance than anything else. The rest of the game feels and plays extremely similar to the other console versions released months ago, in fact aside from the visuals this game actually feels very dated. Probably the biggest surprise in the lack of features department is the inability to challenge a call on the field. Did your receiver have both feet in-bounds? It doesn’t matter because the call on the field stands regardless of what the replay shows you. Why something so important to the game of football could be left out still boggles our minds, perhaps it was a small stab to other companies that no Developer can “challenge” EA with a gridiron game since they own the exclusive NFL rights now, or perhaps its just me being bitter. Either way this oversight is truly unacceptable.
The actually game play in Madden is pretty much unchanged, you still have the same feel when passing the ball, and scoring 100 points is not unheard of on the rookie difficulty. Step it up to the All-Madden difficulty and have your virtual ass handed to you on a regular basis. My main problem with the game is that there doesn’t seem to be a balance for intermediate players, for instance we played a game online with the AI set to All-Pro and it was basically a shoot out. The final score after four quarters of play was 63-58, yeah makes me wonder where the defense was as well. My biggest complaint however is that the running game still feels off, finding holes in the line is hard and when your back hits the line he never bounces off, he simply runs in place until he gets tackled. While these are minor complaints I still feel the game has room for improvement in these areas.
While there are many things holding this title back one thing is for sure, it is pretty. Showcasing this title when your friends come over will make them envious of your shiny new console. If you are simply looking for a quick fix football game to pick up and play when you buddies come over you can’t go wrong. However if you are expecting the depth and variety that Madden has offered over the past few years, you may want to hold off until next year. For those of us simply dying for a new football fix, this is the only game in town, and EA has certainly shown us that it knows that with this game. I would throw a red flag but unfortunately I do not have that option, in reality or in the game.