Safe to say that the brand of football currently on most UK sporting fans lips is the one packed with new foreign owners, slightly dodgy Swedish managers, and even a former Prime Minister of Taiwan. You don’t get that kind of excitement in cricket or rugby, do you?
With new realisations of the much adored FIFA represented sport still a few months away, its Gridiron fans that have the latest new title to while away their lives, with EA’s latest in the long running Madden NFL series. Not so humorously titled Madden NFL 08.
As always, the basics of the game remain just about the same as they have been for the last decade. Selecting plays remains the same old grid system that EA have been using for nigh on forever. And out on the field of play, controlling your players actions is still the same convoluted collection of button presses, and analogue stick prods and pokes.
There are a number of "big" changes to the gameplay model and available gaming modes to make upgrading to this year’s version that much more of an appealing prospect. The biggest of which is the new Weapon system, which makes certain players specific talents all the more obvious.
Luckily for us, this isn’t a case of simply handing over a handful of player’s superhuman powers like some sporting franchise titles seem eager to offer. We’re looking at you and Adriano’s ridiculously unstoppable shot here Konami. Instead, certain identified players will just have that slight extra edge over the rest of the players out on the field, be it an extra spring in their jump, a hint of additional power to burst through tackles, or simply a bit of a burst of speed to head towards the end zone.
Another big feature for this year is the "Superstar mode". Before you all send abusive emails my way, yes, I am fully aware that this mode that allowed you to take control of one particular player was available in Madden NFL 07. This time around however, EA have seen fit to drag the camera kicking and screaming away from focussing on your chosen player’s bottom, and actually gives you an opportunity to play the game to a reasonable level.
Plus, you can now take on the role of one of the leagues top rookie players in this particular mode, giving you the chance to fulfil their sporting dreams. Sadly, your PS3 won’t slip out the player’s salary through the disc drive. A missed opportunity there EA.
Aside from the big changes, everything else in the game has had its form mildly tweaked and perfected. Graphically this PS3 version looks absolutely incredible, as each version has done for the last few years as console technology has progressed to a supremely powerful level. It’s the little extra hints of atmosphere, with the infrequent holler of the stadium announcer, or the sheer dazzling detail that’s been poured into the crowd watching the on pitch action.
The players have been drowned in extra possibilities too, with them now visually making errors in play, and even slipping on a rainy pitch. Always nice to see them clad in a little humanity now they’re starting to look superbly real too.
But, there’s one major problem with this PS3 version of Madden NFL 08. Unlike the 360 version which runs at a pure and steady 60 frames per second, the PS3 iteration stutters and starts at a poor 30 frames per second at best. Though for most that won’t make one jot of difference in terms of enjoyment, the sheer ridiculousness of a PS3 title suffering from slowdown is one that we’re sure fans aren’t going to take too kindly towards.
The best representation of this American centric sport is no doubt the best yet. With new features that actually add to what was already an incredibly addictive title, only the dodgy frame-rate stops this from achieving top marks.
Wonder what they’ll add next year, huh?