|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Tiburon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 12, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
EA Sports Backtrack is a telestrator segment where Cris Collinsworth will dissect the previous play. This feature does not activate every time, but it will after many key plays. This commentary element does a great job of hitting home the gameday feeling, and it also helps players identify where they went wrong on the play. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work the way it's supposed to. Many times, Collinsworth will tell you that you should've picked out a receiver that was never actually open. Nonetheless, it's a cool idea that works well most of the time and should see a lot of improvement next year.
The Virtual Trainer is another tool that will help players work on certain aspects of their game from both sides of the ball. This VR experience is good at helping players master basic concepts, but working on individual plays and more complex execution is not an option. As such, this is really only a feature for the uninitiated.
Stepping away from the newbs, Madden 09 introduces the Madden Test, Madden IQ, and My Skill difficulty setting, which are all interrelated. At the beginning of the game, a holographic John Madden will introduce you to these three new concepts. By taking the Madden Test (a series of offensive and defensive drills that gauge your ability), players will receive both a Madden IQ score and a My Skill level.
The IQ score will increase or decrease as you continue to play games while logged in with your user profile; this should serve as a badge of honor for players whilst online. The My Skill difficulty level is broken down into various categories such as passing and run-stopping ability. This will customize the way the A.I. reacts to you on-field according to your score in the various categories. For example, if you continually tear through opponents with your backs, the game will adjust by increasing the A.I.'s run-stopping capability. The My Skill difficulty is a good way to constantly test yourself, but it does get a bit frustrating when the CPU begins to outstrip your quality deep into a season. Mercifully, My Skill is just one of the difficulty options. Players can still choose any of the classic difficulty modes or even customize a difficulty setting to their liking.
Other new features include Madden Moments (bite-sized gameplay that has you reenact or thwart key moments from last year's NFL season), Online Leagues (a 32-player online multiplayer league that has gamers battle it out for custom trophies), and Franchise Rivalries (rivalry matches that increase the difficulty during league play). Madden Moments are fun and challenging, and they provide an additional mode for single-player fun, but you'll likely breeze through them. The Online Leagues could be great fun for Madden veterans that have a stable full of Madden-playing friends (who can fill out all the league spots and provide a competitive challenge). If not, then you'll have to deal with rounding out the roster with unknown players, because 32 human teams must participate in the league. Finally, taking a cue from NCAA Football, Franchise Rivalries are a great way to increase the challenge during Franchise Mode by making rivalry matchups meaningful through increased difficulty. As a Bears fan, I love heading into Lambeau, shutting down a supped up Pack, and making my own Lambeau Leap with the brand new touchdown celebration feature.
As you can tell, there are a lot of new features this year, but none of them are of much consequence. If you own Madden 08, there is no truly outstanding aspect that makes a repurchase necessary. In fact, the Superstar and Franchise game modes are nearly identical, and the Online Leagues aren't impressive enough to outshine the excellent online play of last year. However, if you've got money to burn, Madden 09 is a great game to have in your collection.
CCC Editor / News Director