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Madden NFL 09 All-Play

 

Madden NFL 09 All-Play

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Sports
 
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Author:

Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports

Features

1-4 Players
Nunchuk and Wii Remote Compatible
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

Madden is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and what a good time as any to produce some of the best Madden games on home consoles yet. I had the chance to play the Wii version of Madden NFL 09. Anyone who has been following the development of EA Sports 09 series of games for the Nintendo Wii should know that they are implementing an All-Play mode which allows for casual gamers to “get into the game”. So how does the Wii version of Madden NFL 09 play? I would have to say very well.

Graphics

(**Editor's Note: Screen shots are directly from EA's website, hence the EA logo**)

Being that the Wii is not nearly as powerful as the other two consoles on the market I had some pretty low expectations for the visuals. In comparison to the other home console versions out there, both of which we have reviewed, you will not find the same detail in the Wii version that we found in the other games, but what is presented is pretty darn good. Player models are well rendered and seem to have the most detail that I have seen on a sports game on the Wii to date. They are pretty realistic and their animations are pretty darn smooth. From jukes when running to one handed catches, everything is very visible and you don’t get any animations that seem out of place. I was impressed by the level of detail that each player had given how many are on screen at once.

There is also ample use of lighting, shadowing and weather effects as well. You can tell when you are playing a day or night game, and you know when it is sunny, raining or snowy outside. Heck, the shadows that players cast on the field match the movements of the player too. It seems that EA Tiburon has started to understand what is under the hood of the Wii in terms of the graphics chipset.

In terms of the stadiums, they are quite well represented. They are not nearly as detailed as those in the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions, but they are quite recognizable and pretty well done. The crowd was a bit of a disappointment for me as there was not a whole lot of detail to them. The animations were basic and there was no definition to the people in the seats. That being said, I do give them credit for bringing the crowd to life with what animations were available, as well as with flash bulbs going off in the seats. There is no doubt that the majority of the horsepower for the visuals was applied to the on-field action, with the players and whatnot, so this downgrade in the crowd is somewhat expected.

Sound

The audio in Madden NFL 09 is a pretty strong compliment to everything else in the game. Al Michaels and John Madden handle the commentating duties in the Wii version. This is different the other home console versions which rely on Cris Colllinsworth and Tom Hammond. The duo of Michaels and Madden do a formidable job, but as with most sports games that you play long term, it can become repetitive. That being said, it isn’t that bad and won’t get on your nerves.

As for the rest of the sound effects, I was quite happy with what I heard. From the sound of the ball being kicked at the start of a game to the sound of a really big hit, everything is solid and manages to give the effect that it is recreating. Even the sounds of the crowd are well represented as they manage to cheer for the big plays and boo during those times when you don’t play as well as you should.

If there was one area in the sound that I was somewhat disappointed, it was in the music that occurs, especially during the menus. EA once again relies on its’ EA Trax, and for a game that is supposed to be geared for the target audience of the Wii the choice of music doesn’t make sense to me. There is a pretty diverse mix of rap and rock, the music that plays just didn’t do it for me, and I am definitely not a casual gamer. I think EA could have done a better job of choosing the music for the EA Trax on the Wii as both casual gamers and the hardcore alike may get a bit annoyed at the musical selection.

Gameplay

Being that the Wii has been targeted towards those who are not traditional gamers I was somewhat worried that the gameplay of Madden NFL 09 would be dumbed down in order to provide a very basic experience for such an inexperienced audience. Along these same lines I was also concerned that EA may focus its’ hardcore simulation orientated football game towards only those fans with one of the other two next-generation consoles. My fears were alleviated upon playing the game. Although there are some very simple aspects to the Wii version, there is also a depth and simulation aspect that allows for deep and engaging gameplay that hardcore football fans may be looking for.

Of course Madden 09 offers your traditional gameplay modes that one can play. There is your traditional franchise mode, which is basically your season, but you are in charge of keeping your team in tip top shape for a full three decades. You make the GM decisions in this mode. Should you wish for the computer to handle a lot of the monotonous stuff you can set certain coaching options for the CPU to do, but should you not set them this way then you must handle all the decisions.

Also making an appearance this year is the superstar mode where you play as a real rookie from the 2008 draft class or create a rookie of your own. You must earn recognition with a terrific career and earn your way to the NFL Hall of Fame. You also control your characters life such as earning a role in a movie, earning endorsements and all the cool stuff that comes with being an NFL star.

Of course there is also local multiplayer, practice, as well as a pretty good tutorial mode called Learn Madden. The latter takes you through a series of mini-games in order for you to get accustomed to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controls.

Party Mode makes its return this year. Here you can play with 2-4 players in a variety of multiplayer games and contests. You can use your Mii to represent yourself in this mode. There are quite a few different games within this mode such as 2-on-2, YAC attack, rushing attack and even trivia. I found these to be nice diversion from playing a regular game against the computer AI or friend. The games are definitely intense in the sense that you are competing in quick games against friends or family for bragging rights. I think that people in general should get a kick out of the Party Mode, I know that I did.

Madden 09 also adds a new 5-on-5 game mode. Here you will play a simple game of football with only four downs to score a TD. Fail and you switch to defense for four downs, and then the whole process starts over. The game’s controls are simplified with only four play choices (e.g. on offence you have a short, medium, long and run play). The game is also played on a simplified playing field and your team’s characters are ‘nintendofied’ with larger heads. You can’t play this mode online, but you can play it against a friend locally. I found the 5-on-5 game mode quite enjoyable and another nice distraction from traditional play.

So how does the game control or play on the Wii? I can say that it offers something for everyone as there are three levels of control. The All-Play mode, which EA is hyping quite strongly for its Wii sports games on the Wii, is as simple as it gets for a football game. It is a Wii Remote only mode where the button presses are simple and you waggle the controller to pull of various moves. All-Play is pretty much a minimal effort scheme given that you only need to do short and quick Wii Remote movements in order to pull of player moves. The All-Play mode can be altered somewhat to provide a middle ground. Here you get more direct control of your players but the moves are still quite simple and you still get some AI help for passing and defensive shifts in your d-line. For the more advanced there is the more sophisticated control. Here the Wii Remote and Nunchuk are used to pull off all your moves. This is where the game gets exciting and very interactive as you have to waggle and move your controllers in innovative ways to control the on-screen action. For those who are worried that they may still not understand the controls even after the tutorial modes there is further help. During a game there is a hint banner at the top of the screen by the score which prompts you to get explanation of what you may need to at that point (e.g. when returning a punt it says “learn fair catch”).

There is also a new celebration feature that encourages you to wave your controllers in the air. It even tells you to get up and celebrate. Upon doing this, and having given your controllers a good workout, the player you scored the touchdown with is given a boost and depending how good the game rates your celebration (based on movement of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk) the better your boost.

For those that may be intimidated with play calling that too has been tailored for varying levels of expertise. You can start at the basic level which has you relying on the “Ask Madden” feature. Here you are given pretty much only one choice as Madden himself will choose what he thinks is the right play for you. The next level up has basic play sets to choose from (e.g. basic running or passing plays). It is a little more complex as it offers different plays for you to choose from but it is limited in number and not overwhelming. The final step up is each team’s full play book that includes everything it has at his disposal. The great thing about all these different levels of play choosing is that anyone can become adept at choosing a play allowing them to have some success.

A really neat feature exclusive to the Wii version of Madden NFL 09 is the Call Your Shot mode. Here you press a button and use the Wii Remote as a pointer to change a receiver’s specific route. You cannot make the receiver infinitely run back and forth as you are only allowed four points of reference. That being said, you can get creative with your route and it can make for some pretty interesting options. Should you desire to make a few yards to just obtain that first down, or launch a big bomb down field, you can be quite creative on how you get it done. Being able to change any passing play is quite innovative and I really enjoyed the fact that I could do almost any type of pattern, no matter how strange it looked. Bottomline, you now have an infinite number of plays as you can quickly change any route at anytime.

Unlike fellow staffer Trevor H, who happened to review the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Madden, I am not a die hard football fan and I tend to stay a way from the Madden games as a whole. However, once I started to play the Wii version of EA’s yearly football game I started to enjoy what I was doing. I was able to be relatively successful, even on the advanced modes, and if I was making mistakes they were pretty much my fault for not reading the defensive position of the opposing d-line when running or throwing into double or triple coverage when I was rushed. The computer AI offers up a good challenge and there are some pretty cool things that happen on the field. Good teams are good and bad teams are bad. I still think that there is a lot to learn in any football game, but Madden NFL 09 on the Wii is pretty fun given how accessible it can be for anyone, including me.

Also new to Madden NFL 09 on the Wii is the online mode. Here you can take your gridiron skills online for some head to head action. What really struck me was the ease of use getting online. You need only to log in to the EA servers, or make a guest account. The latter will not allow you to keep track of your stats. Once online you are able to track down your EA friends that you may already have or just play with other Wii friends that are registered on your console. So what is so great about what I just mentioned? Well, there is no need for any Madden 09 specific friend codes. Yep, it is as simple as using your EA friends list or just adding someone to your Wii system friend list.

Once I got online and found a match or two, my limited time playing others over the web was pretty smooth. There are three lobbies where you can play: social, casual and competitive. You can also play quick ranked or unranked matches too. You can go into your “EA Locker” where you can check leaderboards, import custom teams or playbooks. In terms of any lag, I was able to see what connection strength other players had before playing a game allowing me to play with others with limited to no issues. Overall the play was pretty seamless online. I sure found out quickly that there are a lot of good people online already and I have a lot of practice ahead of me. Anyone wanting to go online with their Wii and Madden 09 should have a pretty great time.

If I have any complaint about the game it would be that the overall presentation and feel have definitely been altered from the hardcore approach on the bigger and more powerful consoles. The whole All-Play idea has been applied to presentation which takes away from the realism. From the Mii-like Madden to the Mii-like referees that pop up to call penalties (from your own Mii library for goodness sake), you definitely know that you are playing the game on a Nintendo branded console, specifically the Wii. That being said, the game is strong in the area that matters the most, what happens on the field, and EA Tiburon did a great job of making the on field play satisfying.


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