Two words: online play.
Madden NFL 07 was a good start for the Wii edition of the franchise, but it was ultimately just that – a good start. Madden NFL 08 looks to improve upon its predecessor in almost every way imaginable, delivering a more robust package that holds up better feature-for-feature against the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.
Madden veterans will be interested to hear that Franchise Mode (play as one team over several seasons) and Superstar Mode (play as one player over several seasons, starting with their rookie year) are included. Those familiar with last year’s Wii edition will find expanded gesture controls (you can now call one of four audible plays by flicking the Nunchuk up, down, left, or right, for instance), but a lower degree of gesture complexity across the board that should improve playability.
In a move to embrace more casual Madden fans, there will be an optional on-screen help system to let players know when they should perform certain actions (i.e. snapping the ball, or going up for an interception). You can also have the game highlight player mismatches during gameplay, so you’ll know when your star receiver is on a cornerback that he can burn deep. The goal is to appeal to hardcore and casual Maddenites alike.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the new Party Mode. This mode includes an expanded roster of twenty-two mini-games (including three that return from last year’s game), such as a 2-on-2 Rushing Challenge and a 40-yard-dash “Mini-camp Drill" (requiring the player to pump their arms as if they were running), and they all support up to four players. There is also an NFL trivia challenge to see just how well you know your football.
In Party Mode, each player will have a “Party Rating". The better you do in the mini-games, the higher your Party Rating. Like any player on a Madden roster, you’ll be able to max out your rating at 99 if you work hard enough. You’ll also be able to link your Mii to your player profile to give it that personalized touch.
Perhaps the most interesting element of Party Mode is “Telestrator Mode". Any of you familiar with John Madden’s football telecasts know that he loves to replay footage and draw on the screen, sometimes for no other reason than to make fun of football players. Madden NFL 08 capitalizes on this idea and takes trash-talking to a whole new level. If you make a big play on your buddy you can call up the Telestrator and replay it, fast-forward it, rewind it, and write all over the screen so he won’t forget. In turn, he can shake the Wii remote and Nunchuk to close the Telestrator and put your showboating to a premature halt.
While these new features are great, the most important addition is online play. You’ll finally be able to challenge friends online in two-player exhibition games (both ranked and unranked, but no online tournaments unfortunately), check online leaderboards, and even watch a streamed real-time sports ticker. Downloadable roster updates have also been hinted at, but we won’t see those until 2008 at the earliest.
Surprisingly, this new Madden doesn’t appear to use Wii Console Codes or even separate Friend Codes. Instead, you’ll connect to Electronic Arts’ servers, create your own EA Nation account, and use it for all of your online needs from that point on. There’s no online voice chat this time around, but having an EA Nation account means that you’ll have access to their EA Messenger instant messaging service. You can use this service to send text messages to anybody else with an EA Nation account.
Madden NFL 08 certainly looks to be a vast improvement over the franchises’ first Wii installment. The addition of online play, improved gesture control, and expanded roster of mini-games should make Wii gamers take notice when it’s released this August.