Release Date: August 12, 2008
Chances are that a lot of readers have already made the transition from their older PS2, Xbox and GameCube systems into the current-generation stuff, like the X360, PS3 and Wii. That's not to say that gaming is entirely dead on the previous generation of consoles, and the PS2 has seen a surprising amount of solid, if not spectacular, releases in 2008. While things seem to be tapering off in 2009, you can't deny that the system has a bunch of quality titles, quite a few of which I'm still catching up on today. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the system isn't skipped over when it comes to the yearly Madden entries, and the newest release, Madden '09, is no exception.
There are going to be some obvious differences between this version of Madden and what you might find on the PS3 and Xbox 360, some of which I probably don't need to explain, but for the sake of the review I'll go into. Most noticeably, the graphical quality won't quite be up to par with what you'll find on those systems. Madden '09 is a far cry from bad when it comes to the visuals on the PS2, but you're missing out on some of the clarity and the overall graphical powerhouses that the newer systems offer. However, if you're like me and fully believe that the strength of a game lies in the gameplay and not the visuals, then you'll most likely be satisfied with your purchase. The game is about $20 cheaper at retail too, so that's always a nice bonus. However, while the title features online play like its next-gen brethren, you're missing out on the community feel of places like PSN and Xbox Live, and while the matchmaking on the PS2 works well enough, it's not nearly as ideal of a system as what you'll find on the newer consoles.
Notice that I'm not even trying to compare this version with the Wii, since the Wii game goes into the newer All-Play gameplay style, so the experience you're going to get on the Wii will be vastly different, at least as far as the controls go. If you're an individual with multiple console choices when it comes to your Madden fix, then keep in mind that there are quite a few differences between all the versions. The core gameplay is more or less the same, though, so depending on your preference, you might want to put some thought into which iteration is the best for you.
So what else is different? Well, last year's version of Madden on the PS2 featured a bit of a shift in the way the game was being approached in that it was almost like a beginner's version of the football franchise that a lot of gamers have grown up with. This year's entry features more of the same, with a definite approach that feels like the basics of Madden without many of the bells and whistles that dominate the other entries this year. It's not quite something I'd call dumb-downed, but it's definitely not as involved as the other titles. Of course, no longer being the lead platform for a couple of years has obviously taken away from the development on this title, and it really starts to show this year with the distinct lack of features.
If you are new to the franchise, though, then there's some interesting stuff here. The Family option given at the outset is the most user-friendly way of playing the game, and I'd almost compare it to an old-school Tecmo Bowl scheme. The play options are limited but easy to understand, and the difficulty here is pretty minor. Even the controls are basic, and you're lacking the ability, or need, to do things like audibles. This is the most basic version of Madden you're going to get (aside from All Play on the Wii), and it's definitely the easiest version of the game to get into if you've never played Madden before. With that said, it's not going to be something that vets will enjoy, and I imagine quite a few will look at this mode as a giant step backward.
Any of the notable changes to the gameplay this year seem to be offensively focused this time around, like giving the QB a juke move to avoid potential sacks. This works in a fashion that's similar to something I remember from the Blitz series, where as a defensive player is coming close for the sack, you flick the right analog stick in a particular direction to avoid the blow. It's challenging to pull this off reliably at first, since it can be hard to figure out the right direction to move (you only have four movement options), but once you get the hang of it, you'll find that it's definitely a useful ability to have. There are a couple of other play changes too, like the ability to direct a receiver by clicking R3 or taking some of the defensive offense moves off of their previous button setups and simplifying them a bit, but all in all, the changes aren't particularly massive.
The same can be said for the defense, which doesn't even see that much in the way of changes this year. There's the custom play memory option that remembers your play variations for you, so you don't have to constantly make them and can just choose from the pre-existing changes you've done. It's a nice feature to have, but it's hardly worth getting excited about. There are a few other new options in the game as well, most of which don't affect the actual gameplay and seem to be more about speeding up a particular game or adding a little bit of style or visual flair to things. None of the features seem to make any type of impact on how the game plays.
While the main game still plays like Madden, hardcore players are going to be upset at the overall lack of improvement in Madden '09. I'm sure that players are used to the idea of yearly updates, but this update doesn't do much as far as new features are concerned. If you're stuck with a PS2 and only a PS2, then keep in mind that you're not going to be playing a game that's all that different from Madden '08. If you've never played a Madden title before, though, then this version might be the one to pick up, simply because the Family play option is a pretty solid starter for new football players, and it's a decent way of getting yourself somewhat familiar with the series. If you own a current-gen console, I'd definitely suggest going with that option over the PS2 one. Online play is better, the game looks and sounds better, and there aren't any considerable improvements in the gameplay for the PS2 version that you won't find on the other titles.
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