OK, let's be honest about this review from the start. People who hate American Football games aren't going to be reading this review. People who love American Football games will have already bought Madden and might be reading this review to see if I enjoyed it as much as they did. This review is aimed squarely at the undecided, those have you that have enjoyed a game like this in the past or would like to try an American Football game for the first time. Hopefully this review will help you make that important decision as to whether to purchase. To save a little of your precious time, the simple answer is yes, this game is worth the money.
I'm not going to tell you the ins and outs of the sport, you'll probably know how it works, or if not you'll pick it up when you play the game. It's been three years since I played a Madden game so I can't really comment on how it compares to the last few instalments, though I can state the game does feel like a 'next-gen' offering.
The game hasn't just had a graphical improvement, the physics behind the game are truly amazing. The game is obviously about bodies colliding and players going to ground. Previous games have had tackles that simply didn't look realistic. In Madden 08, each tackle feels like a real tackle. Limbs don't mysteriously disappear or clip through other players, merely catching a player with an awkward tackle won't cause them to fall. The game looks like real life, players trip over downed bodies, when a players body is grabbed it reacts as a real body should. This is simply one of the most robust physics engines I have seen and really helps absorb you into the game. On top of this the graphics are well detailed and are at the level that you would expect from a top class title.
The games sounds are what you would expect from a sports title. Flawless commentary is easier to achieve in an American Football game as there are breaks between plays and the commentator only has to comment on a set piece. So as can be expected commentary is to a high standard. In fact the commentary does help improve your skills as if you use the 'ask Madden' plays he will explain why you use certain plays. There are the normal macho grunts that you would expect from the sport, after each play your players will big each other up or vent their frustration.
In terms of actual gameplay the game drops the slight arcade feel that some previous titles had and is closer to a simulation. Thoughtless plays simply will not work, sending players long for huge passing gains will lead to numerous interceptions (as Barnsey found out when I owned his ass). Everything you do requires a measured approach. Whilst a simulation approach normally alienates gamers, that same gamer is probably the type that wouldn't consider an American Football game in the first place.
The game has all the game types you would expect, there is a fully fleshed out season mode, coach your players as you see fit and compete to be the best in a very confusing league system (that's not the game the makes it confusing, the sport in itself makes it confusing). You can create a superstar or even a complete team. You can play online or locally against a friend.
In terms of achievement points (for all you point whores out there) all of the games points can be gained during regular play. Whether that is via a single player game or multiplayer. This doesn't mean that the game gives out points like Christmas presents, each one will have to be gained, though it does have a welcome absence of achievements where you have to complete a lengthy career or beat several people online.
So all you, the undecided, hopefully there is enough in this review to point you in the direction of Madden 08. It retains all the problems that come with an American Football game. A regular game will take a significant amount of time, you will have to remain focused on every play and losing possession can be amazingly frustrating. Though it also has all of the highs, rushing for 80 yards or grabbing a vital interception gives a great sense of fulfilment.