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Madden NFL 08

For: DS   Also on: Mobile, PSP

Well worth a punt

Product: Madden NFL 08 | Developer: Exient | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: DS | Genre: 3D, Simulation, Sports | Players: 1-8 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network) | Version: Europe
Madden NFL 08 DS, thumbnail 1
Although David Beckham's recent high-profile move to Major League Soccer may have generated a whirlwind of interest this side of the Atlantic, you'd most likely be greeted with a blank expression if you asked your average American about the injury-prone star.

Soccer may be gaining some attention in the US of A, but on the TV screens and in the newspaper sections, it's about as popular as tractor pulling. When it comes to the favourite sporting pastime of the nation, American football effortlessly retains its status.

Within the video game arena, its popularity is even more pronounced, with EA's long-running Madden series continually blitzing its way past the opposition. And not just within the sports genre – the franchise often tops the yearly US software sales.

We quite enjoyed last year's DS effort, but it was sadly undone by a raft of unseemly glitches, the most serious of which was the unforgivably sloppy stylus-based kicking system. Thankfully, this has been rethought and simplified for Madden NFL 08. In addition, developer EA Tiburon has also introduced some neat changes that turn 2006's promising yet wet-behind-the-ears rookie into this year's experienced veteran.

For one, by embracing the possibilities offered by the touchscreen, it's created an interface that showcases innovative features – passing the ball is possible by simply skimming the stylus from your quarterback to the place you want the ball to go. You can still use the D-pad and face buttons if you want to be a bit more traditional, though. A good thing, too, because touch control is often erratic and hard to depend on when your beloved MVP is about to be flattened by several large opponents.

Another improvement is the ability to instantly see which player represents the best option for a pass, thanks to a rather nifty colour-coded red-amber-green system. Directly after the snap, your quarterback will 'assess' the field. Possible receivers are identified with a colour above their heads, which changes depending on how much 'coverage' they have (basically, how many opposing players are marking them). This enables you to read the situation quickly and pick out your nippy wide receiver when he's at his most open.

Graphically, things are much the same as they were 12 short months ago. Everything generally moves along smoothly, too, although there can be the odd jitter during big plays. Player models possess a more realistic and detailed appearance when compared to those found in Madden NFL 07, but only the most dedicated fan is likely to spot significant differences.

Of course, the greatest intoxicant for aficionados is the sport's dizzying array of tactical options, and Madden NFL 08 continues the series' reputation in this area. As you navigate the multiple menu screens – accompanied by the dulcet (yet strangely inappropriate) tones of Sir Ozzy of Osborne – it becomes glaringly apparent that the game is packed to the rafters with all manner of statistics, features and modes.

The usual Quick Match, League, Practice and Season options are there, as well as the now ubiquitous Career and Create-A-Player offerings. The most striking addition, then, is the Paper Football mini-game you may have played at school using a coin. The object is to flick your 'football' over the edge of the table without it falling off. Once achieved, you can attempt a field goal. You may be shocked to discover how long this short and sweet game will divert your attention from the proper action…

Still, there are some less polished areas. Artificial intelligence is often a problem on the processor-restricted DS, and while here it's not the game-breaking issue it has been in the past, when another easy pass bounces off the intended receiver for the umpteenth time in one match, it's difficult not to begin getting a little irritable.

To counter this, why not indulge in the multiplayer online side of Madden NFL 08? It supports single- and multi-cart modes, as well as play using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. While we're usually of the opinion it's better to be within punching distance of a human opponent, the online option is nevertheless perfect for those nights when you can't entice fellow gridiron fans over for a gloriously foul-mouthed scrimmage session.

Besides, the addition of a sturdy and lag-free online multiplayer mode is a definite step in the right direction for the series. It's just a shame the core game isn't entirely free of the unfortunate bugs that plagued last year's effort.

That said, there's much that is solid here. It may not score the outrageous game-winning touchdown EA Tiburon will have wanted, but Madden NFL 08 remains a definite improvement over previous attempts and well worth the investment of your time and cash.
Madden NFL 08
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 6 September 2007
It's not without faults but thanks to an excellent multiplayer mode and a vast number of gameplay options, this takes the series to a new high on DS
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