Madden 09: A month in

I’m a Madden junkie, so naturally I went out the day the game came out bought it right away.  Unfortunately with as busy as I am, I didn’t even take the shrink wrap off the game until 10 days later, then really haven’t played it consistently or extensively since I opened it.   After about a month in and playing it over a half-dozen times, I have a pretty good sense of the game.

The realism of the game is pretty impressive, and overall the performance on the X-box 360 is pretty good.  Before last Christmas, I played Madden primarily on the Wii, PS2 and PC, so the controls took a little bit of adjustment.  They really don’t seem to have changed that much, but still the game took quite a bit of adjustment.  At the same time, the game has become a lot more difficult to play. 

One of the touted features is that the game adjusts to your play: if you’re good at running, the game’s AI gives you a tougher run defense; if you suck at passing, easier pass defense, etc.  While theoretically this is a great idea, the implementation results in you just getting your butt kicked up and down the field.  There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of consistency between the game play.  Personally I’ve had too many instances where I have 1-2 moments of greatness, followed by a half-dozen moments of mediocrity.

While some of these new features are exciting, there are still many things that EA Sports has yet to improve, and even degrade in some instances.  Some I’ve noticed:

  • The In-game commentary is terrible.  Last year they had this ambiance created by the radio announcers that actually came off really well, it seemed strictly play-by-play. For some reason they went out and got a big name commentator – not John Madden, but Chris Collinsworth – but it was really half-assed.  Collinsworth never references any player by name, it’s always “The Quarterback, The Running Back”, and the statements are irrelevant and get old pretty quickly.
  • We still don’t have an easy way to update rosters.  Madden still wants you to connect into the X-box live lobby and start playing with someone else – never mind the fact that you’re not really interested in playing on-line yet, but would like to have Favre on the Jets or Eddie Royal not wearing #3 (although it was cool having John Lynch playing safety for the Broncos). Only then, will it begin to download the latest rosters.  I don’t understand how with the easy environment provided by the X-box Live Marketplace or in-game on-line interactions, EA still has this archaic method of downloading and applying roster updates.
  • Failure to understand 2 Runningback Systems – Over the decade, the NFL has evolved to the point where many times have a “Runningback by Committee” approach. I can easy rattle off the Broncos, the Saints, the Dolphins, the Panthers, the Cowboys, the Steelers – that’s only to name a few.  Despite this, Madden still doesn’t comprehend that these teams sub running-backs in an out on a whim, making it pretty challenging to duplicate this scenario in the game.  The closest they come is having a 3rd down running back, which doesn’t cut it.  You should be able to assign goal-line running backs, or better yet be able to line up 2 halfbacks in the backfield.

I still have a lot of game play to go, and more thoughts may develop on the game, but at this point I’m pretty disappointed with the ’09 differences from ’08.  I know when next August comes around I’ll probably be a tool and drop the $60 on the game yet again, but I would welcome major innovations (or even fixing these minor issues) with the next edition of the Madden franchise.