Madden for All
The Wii is a peculiar piece of hardware. Any game made for the system has so much potential. Unfortunately, only a handful of third party developers understand how to tailor their software to utilize the Wii’s unique characteristics and make the game more than just a ported gimmick. The good news is that EA is one of those companies. They struck gold last year with Madden NFL 07, but they’ve done an even better job this year. The refined graphics, the new Party mode, and the addition of online play makes this year’s Madden outstanding.
The Wii version is surprisingly complex and does a good job of capturing the feel of real football. However, football purists should not expect the same kind of depth of play that can be found on the other systems. In general, the Wii version is a bit dumbed-down, but the gameplay is just as good as its Microsoft and Sony counterparts due to the unique controls, sounds, Party mode, and family friendly accessibility.
Like the PS3 and Xbox 360, there are a host of new features that blend in flawlessly with the rest of the game. The Read and React System allows the gamer, at a glance, to identify key players on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Simple yellow spot icons at their feet indicate if the linebacker is a big hitter, if the wideout is a possession receiver, or if the quarterback is a precision passer. This makes for better defensive and offensive adjustments via line and coverage audibles. This also adds greater depth of character to teammates and opponents alike. Long gone are the days of pixelated backs and generic amalgams of defensive lineman.
The Front Office mode gives the gamer a lot of control over their football franchise. Tools available to you include drafting players, hiring coaching staff, and the ability to control the ins and outs of your stadium. Additionally, the team at Tiburon included Madden Unmatched which makes gameplay even more realistic this year. This feature allows you to control whether you want your defensive players to deliver a bone crunching torso hit by pushing the remote forward or make a solid open field tackle while taking out the legs by pushing the Nunchuk forward. You can also make a possession grab with your receiver known as a passive catch to ensure the first down. This is done by bringing both the remote and the Nunchuk in toward your body. These changes are subtle, but their incorporation really helps with the overall feel of the game. Another subtle addition is that of the Receiver Spotlight. This little beauty allows you to key in on particularly dangerous receivers, forcing the opposing QB to take a big risk by throwing into double coverage or to throw to their second and third choice receivers. This is tremendously helpful when your opponent lines up with a possession receiver (indicated by the dual-hand icon) on third and eight, looking to complete a short slant underneath. It can really help you foil your opponents’ third down conversion attempts by doubling coverage on key receivers.
Another new feature this time around that really seems to enhance gameplay is that of the Defensive Playmaker. This feature is not quite as deeply packed with options on the Wii version, but it still requires you to know a bit about football in order to use it effectively. Certain situations, including downs and yards to go, can dictate specific offensive play selection. This is especially true against the computer and football savvy humans. What the Defensive Playmaker feature allows you to do is hop between various team members in order to give them a specific tactical command for that down. For example, you can tell your defensive backs to blitz even though they’re lined up in man coverage. You can tell your linebackers to show blitz only to ease off and drop back into coverage in a short or deep zone to cover the slant or crossing routes. If you’ve got to contain a QB that’s fleet of foot, tell your lineman and linebackers to go into QB spy coverage. It is all very simply executed for those comfortable with how Madden plays and who are looking for an advanced experience. For casual gamers, children, moms, and dads it may be a bit too much, but it definitely adds tremendous depth to gameplay. Bravo!
The game controls like a good Madden game should. The Wii controls are really fun and allow the casual gamer to really sink their teeth into the series. This year, the developers introduced two ways to play with the Wii’s motion controls. The controls are divided into two schemes known as Family Play Controls and Advanced Controls. Family Play has the players use only the Wii remote. This is a very simplistic way to play, but it is still very fun. Your role in the action is far more passive, but you will still select the plays to be run, throw stiff arms, switch between defenders, swat the ball out of the air, and perform finesse and power moves with lineman. I really enjoyed this mode because I felt more like a head coach rather than a player. The Advanced Controls are definitely more of what you have come to expect from a Madden title. The Advanced Controls marry the Wii remote to the Nunchuk and provide for analog controls, a second set of motion controls, and a much broader and technical set of tools. In fact, the Advanced Control scheme is nearly as complete as the PS3 or Xbox 360 controls. You can choose to play a quick exhibition game, start a franchise, create superstars, play mini-games, go online, and even get sporting news. All of your favorite content and control from last year are here with enough quality changes to make another purchase of the title more than worthwhile.