EA Games Madden NFL 09

It's here and it's freaking amazing!

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EA Games Madden NFL 09
  • EA Games Madden NFL 09
  • EA Games Madden NFL 09
  • EA Games Madden NFL 09
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Beautiful, lifelike graphics, tight controls and intense gameplay, and new adaptive difficulty settings

Cons

  • Artificial Intelligence still makes some bone-headed decisions

Bottom Line

The bottom line: Madden 2009 remains a top-notch football game. Sure it's the only NFL game in town, but it's damn good. Buy it.

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Much like Christmas and Thanksgiving, the Madden franchise has become an annual institution for gamers. It might as well have its own holiday so that its legions of fans can celebrate the game properly. This year, gamers have reason to rejoice even more as Madden NFL 09 brings with it impressive visuals, some interesting new features and the same brand of virtual football that has made Madden one of the most recognisable franchises in all of gaming.

We were also not able to test out the online modes due to the fact that we were playing early builds and the network was not accessible.

Madden 2009 is a visually stunning football sim that feels faster and more intense than previous versions of the long-running series. This year, the game makes a noticeable leap in visual quality, so much so that at times, it feels like a real-life TV telecast.

One of the biggest improvements is an adaptive method of determining how challenging the computer opponents are; it's called Madden IQ and while it sounds boring, it's really a huge leap forward. I'm always sensitive to these new feature announcements, so I was sceptical of the IQ system. I thought it would be more overstated smoke and mirrors feature than authentic enhancement. I was wrong.

When you first turn it on, Madden 2009 tests your on-field performance in a holographic simulator (I'm not kidding) and automatically determines an initial difficulty level for you. This is your Madden IQ and it changes as you play well and/or poorly. While play-testing Madden 2009, I came to love this new IQ system. Previously, I always found myself eventually frustrated by the game's difficulty levels after two or three seasons of play. I could never find the right fit: All-Pro would be too easy, and All-Madden would be too difficult. The Madden IQ constantly adjusted the game's difficulty to my skills, and the end result is a more perfectly balanced experience.

Aside from these two upgrades, this 20th anniversary edition doesn't feel hugely different than last year's version or particularly unique in the pantheon of Madden games. That's not necessarily a bad thing as last year's game was great. But here are the highlights and lowlights of the '09 version:

Graphics are OMG good. Madden 2009 has the kind of visual fidelity that makes Madden 2008 pale in comparison. This may be one of the best-looking games of 2008. Players move and react in a highly realistic manner. This is the kind of game you can show your friends with pride.

A new "Rewind" feature allows you to immediately take back a poorly executed play by pressing a special button immediately after the play. Unfortunately, it feels a little bit like cheating, and the computer opponent's surprising inability to utilise the same feature in single-player contests feels unfair.

One mild disappointment is that the game's artificial intelligence doesn't feel appreciably upgraded. The computer opponent still makes some very surprising mistakes, such as halfbacks catching short passes and then running out of bounds, or questionable, time-consuming play calls late in games. I'm really hoping these flaws get addressed next year.

Superstar Mode is solid. I'm becoming more of a fan of Madden's superstar mode every year. Practising the same plays over and over isn't that exciting, but playing as Darren McFadden in his rookie season with the Raiders is pretty entertaining.

Football action remains excellent. Madden's controls are so sophisticated and complex that I'm surprised more fans of shooters and other action games don't play. This year is no exception. The controls are tight and responsive, and the overall flow of an NFL contest feels realistic. A slightly refined camera angle on pass plays makes seeing the field easier on directional play action passes. The running game remains very challenging — it's not easy to run outside in the NFL, and it's not easy here either.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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