Save your $40 and Put it Towards a PS3
The PS2 is becoming more and more outdated as the months go by, and it’s only logical that development companies focus more attention on creating games for current-gen consoles. Lately, PS2 games feel like dumbed-down versions of new releases and PS2 owners have no choice but to feel a tad ripped off after spending money on a lackluster product. In the case of Madden NFL 09, PS2 owners should be wary of how much they actually want to play a game that is very similar to last year’s installment.
It becomes hard to review annual sports titles such as this, which sometimes offer nothing more than updated rosters and a few new features. While the PlayStation 2 version of Madden NFL 09 is a great game, you have to take into consideration how much this title has to offer longtime fans of the series – and it’s safe to say those who purchased last year’s title may be disappointed.
As soon as you open the package, you might notice the booklet is in dull black and white as opposed to bright, glossy color, automatically making PS2 owners feel as though EA is doing all they can to save on manufacturing this PS2 game. Of course, Brett Favre is still in a Packers’ uniform considering his decision to sign with the Jets was only made a couple weeks ago. When you load up the game, you’ll notice the menus look crisper than ever, and this edition is backed by an energetic soundtrack featuring the likes of Offspring, Gym Class Heroes, Busta Rhymes, and Disturbed. The menus make for a great presentation, doing a good job of getting the player pumped and ready for some football.
Jump into Play Now and it takes short time to realize how simplified this PS2 version of Madden has become. Where last year’s installment simplified things on the defensive end with the introduction of the Hit Stick 2.0, which also makes a return this year, 09 takes things further on the offensive side with the all-new QB Avoidance Stick. When being rushed by defenders, tapping the Left Analog in any direction makes your QB perform a rapid sidestep or another maneuver to avoid being sacked. It’s still a bit tricky to pull off, however, since you are mostly looking up field for an open receiver, but it can work for you to get out of hairy situations. Passing is easier in 09 than it seems, A.I. defenders don’t make a lot of effort to intercept the ball or bat it away. When the opposing team is carrying the ball, it seems turnovers are more frequent, as the A.I. fumbles easily and is incredibly slow when it comes to recovering loose balls. Juking is also much easier when performing several sidesteps in a row to move past defenders.
When it comes to new features in Madden NFL 09, there aren’t many to speak of. The all-new Family Play is the only new mode, which was introduced by EA earlier this summer on their NCAA Football 09 title. Family Play is basically intended for those who aren’t used to the series, and it offers an extremely simple way of playing the game that involves nothing more than hitting X to pass to anyone on the field, as the computer selects the most open man for an easy reception. You don’t swing the Left Analog back and forth for kicking at all – tapping X allows for the perfect punts, kickoffs, and field goals – and there aren’t as many plays to choose from, while the best ones are highlighted for you as if you selected the Ask Madden feature. While Family Play is a good addition for those looking to get the whole family involved or just learning how to play, experienced Madden fans will rarely use this seemingly tacked-on mode.
The Franchise Mode has been given a minor tweak with the addition of a new scoring system called Franchise Decades. It’s essentially an extra screen where you can track your progress as a franchise manager by winning games in the regular and post-season, increasing attendance, making smart draft picks in the off-season, and more. It also seems like a pretty unnecessary and uncreative new feature.
NFL Superstar Mode has been given a somewhat interesting new feature that puts more focus on fulfilling your contract and building your status as an MVP. Attending all required practices and staying in the coaches good books will be essential to avoid being traded and souring your reputation as a professional. Skill Drills introduces receiving into the mix of drills and Fantasy Challenge hasn’t changed much either, featuring three additional teams to beat and a new Champions Stadium.
Visually, the character models and the way the players move look pretty impressive on this older console version. Sometimes, graphics suffer in games prioritized for current generation consoles, but Madden 09 looks bright, clear, and does a great job of simulating the NFL atmosphere on the PS2. That being said, the game isn’t without visible flaws, which occur a bit often. You will notice some stuttering and skipping in the animations and half-second pauses, as the console takes time to load up the animations. It’s not a major problem, but it is definitely noticeable. It also seems as though not much has changed in the way of new animations, as extremely familiar and perhaps identical cutscenes from last year often make you feel as though you’re playing the exact same game. Lack of detail and crowd movement looks somewhat unrealistic when concentrating on the background, though the stadiums all look amazing and incredibly atmospheric. The sound of the players breaking up from the huddle and shouting at each other before coming to the line adds a nice amount of realism to the game, though another complaint I have is that the commentary of Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond is choppy and unimpressive, and it seems John Madden’s words of wisdom haven’t changed much for this version at all.
In all, Madden NFL 09 is a wonderful game for football lovers. Heck, EA has the formula so down-pat by now, how could it not be a good title? However, it fails to offer enough reasons for those who spent their money on last year’s installment to purchase this one. Where updated titles usually feature upgrades in gameplay and new challenges, Madden 09 takes somewhat of a step backwards in its concentration on offering even more simplified controls and the new Family Play mode. Still, for those who haven’t been keeping up with Madden in the past few years, this is a great title, while not offering many improvements since 08.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.4 Graphics
Stadiums and character movements look excellent, though stuttering and pauses between and during animations are noticeable. 3.0 Control
Simplified offensive controls may be well-suited for first-timers and party settings, but Madden fans might find them unnecessary. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent soundtrack and stadium ambience, somewhat dull and choppy commentating becomes repetitive. 3.0 Play Value
Offering little in the way of new features or modes, those who already own previous Madden installments won’t find much reason to purchase this otherwise great title. 3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.