Developer: EA Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: August 9, 2004
Year after year, companies constantly bring out sequels, some outdoing their predecessors while others are only on par, and in a few cases, the sequels are considered worse. In its fifteenth year, Madden is at it again, returning with new improvements and features. As Madden would say, "He was waiting for something to develop, and bam he got developed." The Collector's Edition of Madden 2005 can't demonstrate this quote any better.
Because of the series' "15th year anniversary," EA decided to release a Collector's Edition that is available only for the PS2. It's a nice gimmick, but I really believe the reason they did this was to appease Sony with their rule that for multiplatform games, the game must be different from the X-box version in one way or another. I mean, why 15th? Why didn't they do one with the 10th anniversary? So many questions – so few answers. Even though I speculate that this is the reason behind their decision, most people will probably end up with the normal Madden 2005 rather than the sparkling silver version of Madden 2005 that costs $10 more.
So what does $10 get you? Well, we know that $1 gets you a whole lot of minutes for collect calls, but what about the $10 dollars for PS2 gamers who splurged on the Madden Collector's Edition? According to the cover, the gamers who buy the collector's edition will gain three playable classic versions of Madden NFL (a version from the 16-bit era, and two Playstation era versions), 15 years of historical playoff teams (not much of an extra, if you ask me), Madden Moments (replay 20 of the greatest moments of the past 15 seasons), Madden Trivia Challenge (test your knowledge of Madden NFL football and NFL trivia with over 1,000 questions), and lastly, probably the most interesting, the hour of footage that shows the Phenomenon of Madden: Music, Evolution, Behind the Scenes, and a game producer's commentary (which I found quite boring). So is that $10 dollars worth it? You can decide that for yourself. I was sold on the shiny silver version that had "Collector's Edition" stamped on the cover.
Aside from the cover and these extra features, the game is the same. Don't get me wrong – extra features are always a plus, but no bonuses can make a game sell better than it being solid on its own merits. If you question whether or not Madden is a solid game, I think you need to take a trip down memory lane and play the old Maddens. Then come back and tell me which Madden failed at being a strong game. With the release of 2005, the same principles apply. The real question is whether or not this Madden is just a retag of the old Madden 2004.
We know that EA is famous for retagging their game system bringing out another incarnation. They may just fix small bugs and add an extra feature or two. EA is smart about this: they are going to keep luring the audience along, slowly and gradually, rather than immediately throwing all possible features into a single game. It is a clever move because if you throw too many different things into a single game without thorough testing, the results can be horrendous. Adding little features over time allows the developers to fine tune the new features rather than rushing to meet the insane deadlines (considering how fast games are coming out now). Even though they may be small tweaks, they can be pretty major additions from the gamers' perspectives.
One such feature would be the defensive audibles. In 2004, if you are in a zone and see that Moss might be running a long bomb, all you could do was pull back the entire defense line, leaving the short range yardage open for a pass or run, and those small yards can make or break a game. EA has heard our complaints, and they now allow us to change the defensive alignment of every player. But to do these defensive reassignments, you must be extremely fast, since you need to highlight the player you want to modify, hitting the right analog stick to change his coverage. If you are too slow and the opponent has hiked the ball, you may have just taken one of your players out of the play, a very costly mistake. This shows that speed, skill, and practice are critical to win games. Maybe one of the harder features to master, but can change the flow of a game immensely. Other potential adjustments are individual match-ups. You are now able to have the backs run different types of defense: bump the receiver, play off, or force a double coverable if a safety is in zone. This allows you to cover Moss accordingly, especially if he is running a long pass. You can set that CB to play off while leaving the secondary in its original position, which is another technique you must master if you even want a fighting chance against the big ballers online or the AI when the difficulty is set at All-Madden.
Other features new to this year's Madden include the Storyline Central, found in franchise mode. This is where you will find valuable information about your team or other teams around the nation. They provide you an e-mail account where you are easily contacted by the members of the team about how happy or unhappy players, coaches or managers are, and they also offer tactics to execute in the upcoming game, even specifying which key players to mark. In addition to e-mail, you also have newspapers. You get these weekly, one local and one national, explaining what is going on with your team and league. They will tell you when a star player is placed on the free agent list or trade block, inform you of injuries, and more. Also, you will be told the opinions that the local fans have about your move. I'm sure if you were to put Vick of the Falcons on the trading block, the entire team would be demoralized, which leads right into the new stat that has been added to the game: the morale of your team and players. Money no longer means everything in franchise mode; some players may want to have a fighting chance at the Super Bowl, rejecting high money offers in exchange for the dream of a Super Bowl ring. This is especially true for the older players (who are usually the team captains). Yes, Madden 2005 now implements team captains, three of them to be exact. These three will be at the coin toss every game. They may also have an effect on morale for the team, but I haven't really noticed it. Maybe that is just due to the fact that my team, the 49ers, aren't very good this year. The newspaper isn't your only source of information, though. The EA sports radio will also serve as a valuable reference to what is going on in the league. The way they have done the radio is impressive, but I'm certain after a few years, Bruno will sound repetitive, just like Madden's commentary (which sometimes makes you wonder if he and Al Michaels were really paying attention to the game).
One of Madden's weak points has always been its commentary, and after fifteen years, it still needs work. I mean, come on, when I'm on defense, I don't want to be hearing Madden comment about the other team's defense when I'm the one in the 3-4 formation. No!!!! I want commentary that can at least get the team names right. Other than these constant errors, Madden and Al Michaels offer some of the most obvious and unnecessary remarks. I particularly hate it when Al Michaels keeps saying, "The cliché police will arrest me for saying this, but we all know defense wins championships." Sometimes I just wish I could tune them out. I would love to mute the audio, but the in-game sounds and music do compensate somewhat. The in-game audio is extremely crucial because you need to hear the screams and sounds of the bones crushing to know how close the rushers really are. When you hear a load scream, you can probably tell it's an all-out blitz; scramble or hope your lineman can hold them back. And to prevent the gamer from ever enduring utter silence, you will get to enjoy music pieces by several top class musicians (like Green Day, Xzbit, and many more), with some songs returning from previous EA games. It may not be as solid of a track as last year's, but it still warrants the purchase of the OST. However, even though the game has great music, it's still all about the bone crushing.
Which brings up another new addition: the Hit stick. This is when you use the right analog stick to produce a harder hit, if timed correctly (EA sure loves the analog stick). And I do mean time it correctly. If you make a mistake with the timing, let's just say you will be more embarrassed than that guy who, by some unknown means, finds himself stark naked in front of a thousand people. It's a great ability, but truly learning the essence of it is a painstaking yet worthwhile endeavor. These hits give the player a higher possibility of landing a fumble or forcing the receiver to drop the pass. But for such a reward, you must take big risks. When it does go your way, you can't help but go, "OH MAN! You just got owned." It's always great to see 200lb+ men get pancaked.
Of course, what's more fun is actually winning. Madden has now added a celebration scene when you win the Super Bowl, although it's pretty much the same thing with any team, but hey, it wasn't such a bad idea. What I really find more satisfying is beating someone at their own game, in online play. This newest installment has all of the same features as the last, including a buddy list, lobbies, VOIP, and tournaments. The newest additions that I appreciate the most are the ability to send messages to your e-mail when you are not connected, the ability to voice-chat your friends, and a rushing attack mode. The rushing attack is much like the mini-camps where each side is given the objective of trying to get as many rushing points against the opponent as possible. I personally have not tried this online because I feel that the real game is still the best. However, there have been a few changes. Now, there are two modes of play: extreme fair play or regular fair play. Extreme fair play employs the settings used for the Madden Challenge, where almost everything is a go. For regular fair play, you can no longer go for it on 4th down. It's nice, but when you are 4th and inches, it's terrible. Aside from that, everything plays pretty similarly to the old Madden 2004.
While it may play similarly, the game has definitely been improved. The sensitivity to the controls has once again been raised a notch, but the most dramatic improvement is the receiver's catching ability, at least in the default setting. When in All-Madden, my players drop way too many passes, and boy, does that tick me off. The standard difficulty can now be considered extremely easy, and most players may need to go up a level, but the All-Madden difficulty is still the same: extremely hard. But now, players can progress through the season, giving you more chances to defeat the computer.
Overall, this game is pretty good, with a few bugs here and there. The first time I loaded the game, I was able to crash it. At times, there are still small glitches with the game where, out of the blue, you may be caught in a corner by some invisible force. Many players may say that this is just a re-tag of Madden 2004, but with its more in-depth facial and body features, the graphics have received a slight revamping, allowing for more of a smooth play. Even though it's smooth, though, the load time for the game has increased by an incredible amount. There will be times when you are choosing a play that will lag for that crucial second. It's quite annoying, but over time, you will get used to it and simply gloss over it. I praised EA for lowering the load on the previous Madden and hope in their next release they take this into account once more. Madden 2005 is a great game and well worth my purchase; those Madden fans out their will be pleased with the purchase and all of the fixes applied in this new game. Definitely try it out, especially if you have that Blockbuster game pass. It will most likely not disappoint you, but don't just take my word for it.
Score : 9.2/ 10