Happy John Madden Day, one and all! Today marks the release of Madden NFL 09, the 20th installment of the venerable video game franchise. Aside from updated rosters, what new features and tweaks does this year's game introduce? And do the new additions make this year's game a must-have upgrade?
In years past--before kids and home-improvement projects--I purchased Madden year after year with little thought. I needed the new rosters and whatever else EA Sports' programmers decided to add to the game each year. But as my Madden-playing friends and family members got married, starting producing offspring, and moved away from one another, a new Madden release ceased being an automatic purchase. Judging by the reviews of this year's game and the rosy prospects for my Cleveland Browns, I may have to find an excuse to get myself to Best Buy this weekend.
You can read CNET's review for the full rundown of Madden NFL 09, but here are the highlights of this year's game from what I've gathered from the early reviews:
A new Madden IQ test greets you upon startup and puts you through running, passing, tackling, and pass-coverage drills to match the game's difficulty level in each area to your skills.
Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond take over in the broadcast booth, two of the better announcers under the NFL's employ.
A Rewind feature gives you the option for "do-overs," which might be handy when you're playing against the computer and it creates a fortuitous fumble for itself. It may also result in flung controllers after wiping away a long TD pass when playing against a human opponent.
A Backtrack feature lets you review a play with analysis from Collinsworth on what you did wrong and what you should have done with the ball instead.
Online leagues have been added. You and up to 31 others can create a league where you can compete for bragging rights and a virtual trophy. The online leagues appear to be pretty basic--only autodrafts and no way to round out your league with CPU-controlled teams--but at least this feature has been added and will likely be expanded upon in future releases.
You're given even greater control at the line of scrimmage, including flashing fake receiver routes to bluff your opponent, calling hot routes on third down that will take your receivers past the first down marker instead of a frustrating yard short, and the ability to quickly spotlight a receiver while on defense to double-team him. This last feature may have prevented me from hitting the ol' reset button before halftime after my brother threw his fourth TD pass to Randy Moss the last time we played.
Two reported gameplay tweaks of note: Linebackers aren't nearly as likely to intercept passes thrown over the middle, and you're given more control to shed would-be tacklers.
The Cleveland Browns' rating is a lofty 88.
Lastly, for those who need realism inside the game and on the outside cover (and to give closure, perhaps, to those in Green Bay), EA Sports has Favre-as-a-Jet covers for Xbox 360, Playstation 2 and 3, and PSP formats.