Madden NFL 08 Xbox 360
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
The transition from the previous generation of consoles (PlayStation 2/GameCube/Xbox) to the current generation of consoles (Wii/PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) for the majority of games released on an annual basis was never going to be a short process. Looking at the EA Sports titles for instance we can see that with the initial wave of Xbox 360 titles the developers were essentially getting acquainted with the new hardware and the games were not as feature rich as the versions that appeared on the PlayStation 2. Madden NFL 06, for example, looked great but had no mini-games, no practice mode, no owner or superstar mode, no tournament mode etc. Madden NFL 07 slightly improved the game-play and added some of the features that were missing in Madden NFL 06. Madden NFL 08 on the Xbox 360 continues the trend of improvement and arguably gives us one of the best Madden NFL games in years.
We looked at the new Read and React System in our PlayStation 2 review of Madden NFL 08. Of course as we mentioned in that review, the system was flawed for a variety of reasons. In the Xbox 360 version however, there are no such problems and the system is a fine addition to the game. During a game you'll notice certain players with icons, most of which are icons of weapons. These icons denote the star players and show, at a glance, what type of players they are. The crosshair icon, for instance, denotes a precision passer. You'll be able to see who is a pass blocker, big hitter etc. simply by looking at the player's icon. This is certainly a good idea as it's useful to see what players you can rely on, or exploit, in certain situations. Unlike the PlayStation 2 version, here you can actually see a difference between the players, and the icons really help you to effectively assess both your players and the opposition at a glance.
In terms of game modes, Madden NFL 08 offers the usual assortment. Play Now, Mini Games, Superstar, Franchise, Hall of Fame and Practice make up the choices for the single-player experience. The Franchise mode still isn't as in-depth as in some of the earlier versions of Madden NFL but it's the most satisfying yet on the 360. It's now possible to train your players before games in an attempt to improve their attributes. The scouting options are also more advanced. The Owner mode has also been enhanced to give you more control over your team's monetary matters and stadium upgrades etc. The other modes are essentially the same as last year. The same can be said for the online modes but you still cannot play in an online league, which is disappointing to say the least.
Other new features include the new improved Hit Stick, not surprisingly called Hit Stick 2.0. You can press the right analogue stick upwards to jar the ball loose or you can press the right analogue down to do a drive-stopping tackle. It's now possible to strip the ball from your opponents during a tackle which is a good inclusion. The AI has been improved defensively and now plays a tighter game. Defensive hot routes have also been included in the 360 version of the game for the first time to allow you greater control over your defence. You can also spotlight a receiver and apply double coverage to a receiver of your choice. These features really add to the overall experience and make for a more involving game.
To be completely honest, it's difficult to see any major improvements with the game's graphics. This isn't a disappointment however as Madden NFL 07 looked great and the same can be said for Madden NFL 08. The animations however, have really improved and the players now move in a more realistic fashion and can change their actions whilst in mid-flow with another action. The general game-play smoothness seems to have improved too. Much has been made of how Madden NFL 08 on the Xbox 360 runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second and I have to admit that it's certainly noticeable how good the game runs with no frame rate dips or hitches at all.
Unfortunately, support for deaf gamers is just as spotty as ever. The game commentary isn't subtitled. The pre-game presentation isn't subtitled. Madden's comments aren't subtitled. The tutorial messages that explain each of the weapon icons are verbal only, so deaf gamers miss out on all of this information. Despite these omissions, the game isn't really problematic for deaf gamers as all of the essential information is shown in text. The game manual is rather skimpy and won't be of much use. The most useful information it contains, aside from the list of controls, is the description of all of the weapon icons so that you can see what each icon means.
Madden NFL 08 on the Xbox 360 is the best 'next-generation' version of Madden NFL to date. The Read and React system works well and really adds to the experience. Hit Stick 2.0 and the other game enhancing inclusions also help to make this one of the best Madden NFL games in recent years. The frame rate is also truly impressive and it has to be one of the smoothest running sports titles I've seen. If you were to look on the negative side you could argue that with the exception of the Franchise mode, the single-player modes haven't really changed at all. You might spot the higher than normal number of fumbles by the AI and you might also grumble about the fact that online leagues still haven't been included. However, the game is impressive in many ways and whilst there are some disappointments, none of them are going to stop a fan of the series enjoying one of the best titles in the long running series for the next twelve months.
Madden NFL 08 is the best Madden NFL game on the Xbox 360 to date and not only impresses with its new features but also its ultra smooth frame rate.