Madden NFL 08 PlayStation 2
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
The Madden NFL series is without a doubt the most important game in the EA Sports catalogue. The success the series has enjoyed over the years is phenomenal and every new release is eagerly awaited by its fans. Most would expect the developers to be concentrating on the Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3 consoles, and from what we've seen of the impressive Xbox 360 demo it looks great, but there are just too many PlayStation 2 gamers out there to ignore. In fact if you think about it, with over 120 million PlayStation 2 consoles sold, it's going to be several years before you can safely say that the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles are going to be the main consoles. To a certain degree this must pose a problem as for many aspects of a game such as Madden NFL, things have been made as good as they can possibly be. The graphics aren't going to dramatically improve, neither are the animations and neither are the online aspects. Madden NFL 08 has no such improvements and in many ways it's very similar to last year's Madden NFL game on the PlayStation 2 but that's not to say there haven't been improvements that Madden NFL fans will appreciate.
Madden NFL 08, for the most part, plays just like Madden NFL 07. There have been a few improvements here and there that help beef up the defensive side of the game. The most notable of which is 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. The modes, as ever, are plentiful although most have only been tweaked slightly rather that drastically changed. There's the Franchise mode (which now includes a My Week feature that gives you easy access to all the information you need to prepare for your next opponent), Tournament mode, Practice, Mini-Games, NFL Superstar: Hall of Fame and a new Fantasy Challenge mode. We would have hoped that online play would have finally been included in the European versions of a Madden game. After all, the US versions of the game have offered online play for quite some time now. Sadly it's not to be and I think it's safe to say that it's probably never going to happen in any future European PlayStation 2 versions of the game, seeing as the emphasis is going to firmly shift over to the 360, Wii and PS3 versions for the next three or four years.
Let's take a look at the Fantasy Challenge mode as that's essentially the only the only new mode on offer in Madden NFL 08. As the name implies, Fantasy Challenge is a mode that allows you to create your own unique dream team. You can begin with a NFL team complete with their real-life roster or you can do a fantasy draft of current NFL players and even include some Hall of Famers if you wish. The only limitation is the amount of roster points that you have at your disposal. The idea is to take your team from the bottom league to the top (there are four in total) building the best team you can along the way. Of course you'll need a lot of roster points to build a great team and you'll earn roster points by winning games and mini-game challenges. What makes this mode more challenging is that the AI doesn't simply lie down and let you build a great team. As well as putting in bids for players with your roster points, you'll have to fend off the AI teams who will try to take your players from you unless you can improve your player's terms to match those he's being offered by the bidder.
One of the new inclusions in Madden NFL 08 is the new player weapon icons that allows for a new Read and React system. 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, heavy hitter etc. simply by looking at the player's icon. This is certainly a good idea in theory, as it would be very useful to see what players you could rely on, or exploit, in certain situations. To be honest though, the star players, in most cases, don't appear to be any different from the other players so it's debatable whether there is much value to the Read and React system in the PlayStation 2 version. It's also worth mentioning that different types of players share the same icons (several types have the star and winged shoe icon for instance), which makes it a slightly confusing system to say the least.
Another new inclusion in this year's game is the Skill Drills mode. Essentially these are four separate drills, each with various difficulty levels, which will help you to improve your game. You can either access these directly if you wish or you can wait until the game decides you need to brush up on various aspects of the game. On jumping into my first game, and not having played a Madden game in a while, I found I was a little rusty. The game picked up on the fact and after my failure to lead the Dolphins to what should have been a comfortable victory, it was pointed out to me that I should do a few drills to bring my game up to speed and you're even given the option to go straight to the drills if you want to.
In terms of its presentation, Madden NFL 08 isn't much different from last year's game. Graphically the game isn't much different at all. There are some new animations here that you'll probably notice if you're looking for them but at a cursory glance it's doubtful you'd notice many differences. The same could be said of the support for deaf gamers. The game commentary isn't subtitled and neither are Madden's comments, which he gives when you press the button to request his advice about which play to use. Whilst these comments aren't essential it still would be nice to have the option to subtitle them. All of the important information in the game's modes is subtitled. There is some speech that isn't subtitled, which is a little disappointing, but none of the omissions will cause any real problems.
The general feeling with Madden NFL 08 for the PlayStation 2 is that it's a game that takes Madden NFL 07 and tweaks a few things here and there, adds a new mode and changes the rosters as well as a collection of weapon icons to allow you to discern a specific type of star player at a glance. These additions will probably be just enough to satisfy those Madden NFL fans who have yet to move to either the Wii, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. If you don't make a habit of picking up every release of the Madden NFL games and have a version of the game from the last three years or so then Madden NFL 08 is a little tougher to recommend. That's not to say it isn't another great Madden NFL game, but rather it's a game where only the Madden NFL enthusiasts will really appreciate the minor additions and tweaks.
Although the emphasis for the future development of the Madden NFL series is being shifted to the latest consoles, Madden NFL 08 on the PlayStation 2 is still a very enjoyable game. For some however, there probably won't be enough reasons to upgrade from Madden NFL 07.