Madden 09 is one of those annual franchises where no one really knows if it will be good or not. Since EA Sports acquired the exclusive NFL license a few years back one could argue that the Madden team has been complacent in the absence of 2K Sports. Well, this year the Madden franchise turns twenty years old and it seems like EA Sports is trying to change that perception. Immediately upon booting up the game you will be presented with one of the new features this year, the virtual trainer. Here John Madden will guide you and put you through some tests to see where your “Madden IQ” is at. The results of these tests as well as your Madden IQ will determine the difficulty of the game itself. This is how the game tries to adapt to your playing style and provide you with a more immersive experience.
Another new feature that is making its debut this year is the “Madden Moments” feature. Basically this feature will let you relive some of the NFL’s biggest moments from past seasons. You can choose to play as the Giants against the Patriots in last years Super Bowl as they are driving in the fourth quarter on their way to ending the Patriot’s perfect season. Or you can participate in the “Mile High Miracle” with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. There are 34 different Madden Moments for you to experience and see if you can mirror the real life success of each individual moment. There is of course a superstar mode where you can create your own player as well as the main franchise mode returning as well. You can also create video highlights in this years Madden and manage them in the main menu.
If you are a hardcore football fan then fantasy football plays a big part in your football season and this year’s version of Madden features it as well. You can create your Fantasy football team using the Fantasy Football “game” that EA released on XBLA a few weeks ago and then import them into Madden 09. This title features all of the depth that you have come to expect from Madden with player management, depth charts, roster breakdowns, create-a-team and much more. There is of course online play over Xbox Live as well as online leagues in this year’s version. You can jump into a thirty two player league with its own trophy and you can play as your favorite team. The controls are pretty much the same although some have been refined to offer a better playing experience. The player now has more control over potentially breaking a tackle by using one of the face buttons or trying to juke with the hit stick. As you are performing all of these maneuvers on the field you will hear the commentary of Collinsworth and Hammond who do a tremendous job of bringing you into the action even further. There are times where their comments don’t reflect what is going on in the field but it doesn’t happen all that often. There is also a brand new “rewind” feature. Basically what this feature does is it allows you to do a play over again if you didn’t like the result. If you threw an interception or fumbled the ball on a play, you can use this feature to “rewind” and do that play over again. Before you start the game you can set how many times you will be able to use this feature in a game or you can turn this feature off completely if you are a purist and want to just let things happen as they occur. It should be noted that this feature is not available for online play. You can only use this feature when you are playing offline in a franchise and even then you don’t have to.
The graphics in this game seem to have been given a bit of an overhaul too as player models and textures seem to be a little bit more crisp. Animations are still a little wonky at times but for the most part they are really well done. When I was playing franchise I noticed some frame rate problems but it only happened occasionally and it was only after the play was over so it didn’t hurt the gameplay. Also playing over Xbox Live I tended to get dropped a lot while playing against other players. Hopefully EA will have that fixed in no time.
Overall this is a fun experience and if you are a football fan I would definitely recommend checking this title out. While it is not perfect it has taken some steps in the right direction. All of the new modes seem to work really well and it is all integrated into a nice little package. EA has also released a new cover of Brett Favre in a Jets uniform if you want everything as realistic as possible. You can go to their site and download it to your computer. If you are willing to spend an extra twenty dollars I would recommend getting the limited edition as that version also comes with NFL Head Coach as well as Madden 93.