Wii

North America

Madden NFL 08

by Mike Thomsen - August 20, 2007, 6:55 am PDT
Total comments: 9

6.5

The best football game on Wii, redux.

The game of football is an extraordinary combination of complex tactics and intensely focused violence. Players have a dauntingly small window of time to coordinate and execute a play that will have been planned and practiced for weeks or months. For the most part, football video games have favored the strategic elements, offering a wealth of plays, audibles, and hot routes to tinker with, while settling into a comfortably chess-like perspective capturing all the action from a bird’s eye view. Last year’s Madden NFL 07 for Wii represented a rare breakthrough for the visceral side of the equation, offering a full suite of gesture controls to connect players to the physical side of the sport in a more direct way. Arriving a brisk 10 months later, Madden NFL 08 comes with some added control refinements, a huge increase in mini-games, a new mom-friendly "Family Play" control option, and online play. It’s a robust package that trumps last year’s game in many ways, but also reveals some glaring issues with EA’s approach to motion-controlled football that, ultimately, make Madden NFL 08 feel a lot less engaging that it should be.

Madden 08 is packed full of gesture controls, most of which will be familiar to fans who played last year’s version. Many of the motion controls work brilliantly. Pulling up on the Wii Remote hikes the ball, and throwing it forward again passes the ball to the highlighted receiver. Moving the remote faster delivers a bullet pass and easing up a bit will trigger a nice soft lob. Mapping the hike to motion input, in particular, gives a powerfully subconscious underscore to the physical involvement you have in every play. Similarly, the throwing motion really feels great in action and is especially rewarding to see variations in pass speed based on your action. It’s a subtle but powerful effect that carries over some of the intuitive charms of Wii Sports.

As the ball carrier, you will have even more motion controls at your disposal. Moving the Nunchuk left or right will juke in the appropriate direction. Moving the Wii Remote left or right will, likewise, throw a stiff arm in the corresponding direction. A quick shove forward will trigger a power move, a simplification from last year’s more cumbersome system of moving both remote and Nunchuk forward. Power moves have an added layer of differentiation this year, with big beefy players tucking the ball down and bowling right over defenders, while speedy agility-based players will perform an extra nimble slip move. When in the grasp of a defender, players can drum the remote up and down to push forward for an extra yard or two.

There’s a definite learning curve to playing with motion controls, especially for experienced Madden players. It can feel a little bit like rubbing your belly and tapping your head, with hiking, passing, catching, juking, and finally drumming the controller over the course of a typical 3-4 second play. None of the moves are particularly hard to execute; it’s the necessity of remembering what everything does and then doing it with split-second timing that takes some practice. Defense is, largely, a mish-mash of the same basic motions. Tackling is handled by a quick push forward of the Wii remote for a hit up high. Pushing the Nunchuk and remote forward in tandem will deliver a tackle targeted at the ball carrier's legs, good for taking on a big hulking running back with a waify corner or safety. If you’re playing as a defensive lineman, left and right moves on the remote trigger swim or rip moves (depending on the situation) in either direction. Slamming the remote down will have a pass defender swat down a pass, and moving the remote and Nunchuk upwards in unison will go for an interception.

Defense is a lot more chaotic than offense, and you will frequently feel an added layer of distance between you and what is happening on screen, thanks to the motion controls. If you begin as a lineman rushing the QB, you’ll be holding B down for a speed burst, waving left and right to swim your way past the blocker, and then suddenly switching to another player and immediately having to shove the remote forward to tackle the ball handler. It’s not that the actions are hard to do, but that the visceral difference of moving the remote left, right, or forward in the split second required to finish a play feels arbitrary and almost negligible. To further confuse the issue, your player will always be heading from the top of the screen to the bottom while on defense (an age-old Madden tradition) and it feels remarkably counter-intuitive to be holding down on the analog stick while pushing the remote forward only to trigger a tackle animation that moves your character downwards on screen. It’s a bit like having inverted aim turned on in an FPS, assuming you’re not used to the good old "up is down" convention.

While it’s hard not to admire the enthusiasm and commitment to motion controls in Madden 08, it is not a perfect system. It’s tempting to say that the game might have been better served by forgoing some of the motion controls in favor of button pushes, but the deeper issue is really how the game as a whole is presented. Specifically, much of the game takes place in a zoomed out, or semi-zoomed out, perspective where all the elaborate gesture controls ultimately account for a tiny change in animation for the players on-screen. What feels initially new and fun in the beginning will begin to feel forced and unnecessary with prolonged play. Indeed, Madden 08 is a game that could, just as easily, be played with a GameCube controller and wouldn’t suffer too greatly from the transition.

Superstar Mode is where the game shows the most promise to be something remarkable and only possible on the Wii. In Superstar Mode, you’ll create your own player and guide him through the NFL combine, draft day, interviews, IQ tests, practice, and actual games, progressively building his stats and skills, over the course of a full career. During games your control is limited to your created character, and you won’t even be able to pick plays because the computer does all the in-game coaching for you. If you’re playing halfback and it’s a passing play, you’ll have to simply pass block and hope to buy enough time for the computer AI to hit the open receiver. If you’re playing as a defensive lineman, you’ll play whole games down in the trenches perfecting your swim move. Since you won’t be able to switch to other players in Superstar Mode, the game is played up-close with a camera zoomed in on your character. Playing the game from this perspective comes the closest to realizing how football on Wii could revolutionize the way the game is played. Being able to see the detailed moves your player makes in concert with each gesture of your controller makes the motion controls feel natural and superior to the old style of play, none of which comes across effectively in the zoomed out, traditional mode of play.

True, you won’t get to be the hero of every play, but you will feel a lot more in control of the action and be in a better position to appreciate all of the subtle nuances and strategic choices inherent in the motion controls. While this mode feels a little tedious on other consoles, where you’re limited to simple button pushes, the motion controls unlock a dizzying wealth of possibilities, and hopefully this will be an area that EA continues to evolve and tailor more specifically for the Wii remote in the future. Imagine the possibilities of multiplayer where every player has his or her own position and unique moves. Mastering a position and learning to play that position in concert with other players, either online or in split screen, could truly push the experience of Madden on Wii into territory simply not possible on any other console.

The game looks better than it’s PS2 and GameCube brethren, but only marginally so, with an added depth to colors, crisper textures, and a fluid animation system that looks impressive enough. The underlying AI in the game, however, is strictly last-gen, and if you’ve got any amount of Madden experience you’ll have figured out how to pick apart the computer in a couple of hours or less. It’s hard to overestimate just how disappointing it is to play a version of Madden with so many fresh ideas and not have a more robust way of using them. For all the exciting possibilities inherent in the motion controls, the game doesn’t do anything special to showcase them outside of shoe-horning them into a glossy port of the PS2 game.

Playbooks have been streamlined here as well, defaulting to generic play types like "Short Pass" or "Outside Run." You can still back out a level and choose your own plays based on actual formations, but it’s an extra layer of hassle to go through on each and every play, especially considering that higher difficulty levels require a very specific deployment of every formation and player combination at your disposal to counter the computer. Good luck playing Veteran without being able to differentiate 4-3 from 3-4 on defense.

Family Play is a nice gesture towards making the game more accessible for people not already indoctrinated in the modes and methods of video game football. Players will be able to play whole games using only the Wii remote, with the AI controlling character movement while players control key actions like passing, juking, and tackling. It’s a terrific idea in theory, and will probably make the game a lot more palatable to girlfriends and grandpas around the world. But the AI controlling your character is unremarkable and will back players into some unnecessarily stupid situations like QB’s getting hung up on a lineman or not attempting to roll away from blitzers. In other words, it might convince new players to give Madden 08 a try but probably won’t have them coming back for more.

Online play is a welcome addition that has the great promise of providing relief from the tired old AI routines of yesteryear. EA has chosen to forego Nintendo’s Wi-Fi service in favor of their own EA Nation servers which, thankfully, don’t require friend codes. All you need to do is fill out a brief registration form associated with an e-mail address and you’ll be ready to go. The options are fairly straight-forward, offering only one-on-one matches. You can play a quick match and let the game’s match-making system find you an opponent, or you can enter a lobby and search available players based on their bandwidths and ratings. You can also peruse leader boards in a number of categories. As of now, the system is rather underwhelming and, in some instances, unplayable with nasty lag that can be a second or more (I played on a DSL line with a 384 Kbps upload speed). If you think pushing buttons with lag is a confounding experience, just wait until you have to waggle 4-5 times in a row to make sure the game registers your passing motion during a nasty hitch. It can also be a hassle finding an opponent with a strong connection who won’t have dropped out by the coin toss. In some instances I’ve spent over ten minutes popping in and out of lobbies before actually making it to kick-off. While online performance on Wii is definitely an evolving creature, and EA has already acknowledged some problems with Madden 08, its performance at present probably won’t hold your attention over the long-term.

Madden NFL 08 is a tough game to rate. There’s much in the game done right, and it’s obvious that EA is really invested in getting the most out of the Wii’s unique controller. The problem is that they haven’t invested nearly as much time in the game that exists underneath the control scheme. The AI, the playbooks, and the presentation are still inexorably rooted in the PS2 design that might have been compelling four years ago but which is now really starting to show its age. For all the creativity of the motion controls, it becomes painfully apparent that this Madden engine was originally designed for button pushing and not arm waving. There’s definitely fun to be had with Madden NFL 08. Online, a wealth of mini-games, and the user-friendly Family Play mode are all welcome additions, but none of them really change the basic fact that this is an old game with a shiny new coat of paint on it. Madden NFL 08 is a marginally better game than last year’s, but it’s still got a long way to go to fully realize the potential hinted at with the motion controls.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7 7 6 6.5 8 6.5
Graphics
7

There are some nice Wii-specific flourishes with crisper textures, brighter colors, and some impressively varied player animations. Character models are generic, and stadiums, while accurately replicated, are all empty and hard to differentiate during gameplay. This is basically the PS2 engine with some extra cherries on top.

Sound
7

Madden and Al Michaels offer passable commentary that seems a little more smoothly integrated into the game than in years past. The generic rock and hip hop tracks that play in all the menu screens are insipid and make the whole package feel like an overgrown marketing exploit instead of an actual game. Hiking noises coming out of the Wii Remote speaker are a nice touch.

Control
6

Parts of the motion controls work brilliantly. Hiking and passing feel great, while busting jukes and pulling off power moves can be really satisfying in the right situations. Pulling off all the motion-based moves in the short window of time given to you during each play makes it a little to too tough to remember what does what. Defense is a jumbled mess, and EA has unforgivably left out IR controls for Menu screens, forcing you to scroll up and down with the d-pad.

Gameplay
6.5

If you’ve played a Madden game in the last five years you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into with Madden 08. The AI routines, playbooks, and move sets are mostly unchanged from past offerings. The motion controls do help freshen up the formula, but after a few hours you’ll start to feel a disappointing sense of déjà vu.

Lastability
8

You could easily spend 30-40 hours each in both the Franchise Mode and the Superstar Mode, assuming you won’t mind putting up with the mildly predictable gameplay. Online is a nice addition, but lag and problems getting into a game make it hard to enjoy at present. Mini-games and Family Play will give some added life to the game with friends and family who, otherwise, would never have dreamed of playing a Madden game.

Final
6.5

Madden 08 is caught in the generational cross-currents, a second iteration on a console that’s only ten months old. Its ambitions towards revolutionizing how football games are played is sometimes quite rewarding, but just as often totally frustrating. The underlying game to which the motion controls have been applied is wholly underwhelming and very last-gen. Playing Superstar Mode with full motion controls hints at some great things to come, but the present experience is ultimately over-familiar and getting dangerously close to its expiration date.

Summary

Pros
  • Family Play mode is a big help for new-comers
  • Motion controls work great on offense
  • Player animations are impressive
  • Superstar Mode is fantastic with motion controls
Cons
  • AI is predictable
  • Defualt camera doesn't always work with the gesture inputs, especially on defense
  • Lackluster presentation
  • Online isn't up to snuff just yet
  • You could just as easily play this game with a GameCube controller
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

darknight06August 20, 2007

Well, I've managed to play this one and I'd have to agree with the review. I honestly feel like that despite some improvements 07 was better on Wii than this years. I don't remember accidently making a pass after a hike on 07 which seemed to happen WAY too often this time for it's own good. The random blurring of the screen isn't all that hot either. Weapons are pretty pointless unless your version of the game is either PS3 or 360.

I think overall, the bottom line is that Madden on Wii NEEDS a new engine that is actually catered to it's capabilities in control and technical prowess.
I can understand 07 using the PS2/GC engine as it's base, they needed to get it out in time for launch, but at this point if next years game isn't a huge step up from this I got a feeling there's gonna be even more upset people than what you see right now.

Then again, in a wholistic sense every verson except the 360 one got screwed over in some stupid way or another. Maybe this is EA's way of saying "We know where the gridiron players are this gen..."

darknight06August 20, 2007

my apologies, double post. mouse clicked twice.

TJ SpykeAugust 20, 2007

I've read reports that things like Create-A-Team (and other Create-A- features) were removed from the Wii version. Can either of you confirm this? If so, then I have to say FU to EA for gimping the Wii version. Adding online play doesn't mean anything if you remove so many features that have been in the series for years.

The OmenAugust 20, 2007

So many complaints about the AI, it makes me laugh. What skill level were you playing? Because on All pro and Madden, the AI is tough as nails. If you play on Pro setting, you might as well play rookie. The two are only marginally different and both are quite dumb.

As far as this years version goes, I think it's better than 07. Last year was missing far more than just online in comparison to the other systems. This year everything that was missing last season, -plus the EXCLUSIVE 4 player mini games, have been included. That alone means to me this game gets a 7.5-8.

Of course it's disappointing the engine is essentially last gen. However EA found that they underestimated the Wii far too late to do anything about it now. If it means skipping a year and coming back with a new engine next year, or getting the best out of this engine as long as they can, guess which way they'll go? And I understand, from a business standpoint, why.

Still, I find it hard to fault EA when they're putting forth a considerable effort into their Wii games, unlike some other third parties..

vuduAugust 20, 2007

Watch out NWR!! The Omen is going to come in and edit your review!

miketMike Thomsen, Staff AlumnusAugust 20, 2007

TJ Spyke: Create-A-Team isn't in Madden 08 on Wii. It sucks if that's your thing, but the game still has a really robust set of features and different modes. Trust me, franchise mode and making a few superstar profiles to try out a few different positions will be more than enough to keep you busy.

Darknight06: I definitely think there's a great Madden game in the Wii's future. The console hasn't even been out a year yet and EA is already 2 iterations in. Hopefully they'll revamp the entire game design, camera angles, and AI for next year. There are stll so many different possibilities to explore...

The Omen: I play on All-Pro. I normally play on Madden on other consoles, but it's a little too unforgiving when trying to compensate for the motion controls. Also, I don't think 6.5 is an unfavorable score at all. Madden 08 is a good game, it's better than 07 which makes it the best football game you can get for Wii. But there's also a tremendous amount of room to grow and it's not fair to our readers to over-hype a game that's still caught in the transitional backwash of transitioning to a totally new way of making games for a completely unprecedented console. Maybe it's good business from EA's perspective to keep pushing out yearly iterations of Madden but it's not my place to review their business acumen, all I can look at is the game. Anyway, I'm glad you're having fun with the game I've definitely had some fun with it too. Check me out online sometime, I'm on the west coast servers "mplmiket".

WuTangTurtleAugust 20, 2007

I haven't really played a football game since NFL 2k5 and before that Madden 2002, but I picked this one up and I'm glad i did. So far it's been a blast, especially with multiplayer. The graphics aren't......well lets just say they are last gen, but the gameplay is so great. If you can get past the occasional zooming out screen blur, and auto pass (personally i think it has to do with motioning the wii mote up and then down on accident) you should have a good time. It's nothing compared to All-Pro Football, at work we played it during our breaks for a week and we've seen a few games crash among other glitches.

trip1eXAugust 25, 2007

The reviewer is spot on. I agree with "Specifically, much of the game takes place in a zoomed out, or semi-zoomed out, perspective where all the elaborate gesture controls ultimately account for a tiny change in animation for the players on-screen. "

Dead on. I thought that with Madden '07.

WE really need a Madden designed for the Wii controls. Alas I doubt we'll ever get it (because we're talking EA.) I guess the game would be more alot more arcadey and first-person-ish. Alot more in your face at least. There would be options, but not 30 billion like Madden has. The options would be more like Madden had 10 years ago had on the Genesis. Enough to give you variety, but not so much you don't use 90% of them and they all start blending together. I"m not even sure I'd put 11 players on a side. Maybe I would do less.

What they really need to do is get the essence of the football experience down on paper and then transfer that to the screen.

That essence can divided up into smaller games within the game.

They need to get the QB experience of scanning the field and avoid tackles and hitting the open guy down.

They need to replicate the RB dodging and weaving.

They need to do the same with the kicking game.

And then on defense you need to have a game within a game too.

For the QB game you could point at the screen and the wiimote would be used to scan left and right on the field. LIke the reviewer was mentioning, the perspective needs to be zoomed in alot. The speed may also have to be slowed to fit in with the controls. So when I hike the ball, and drop back then I"m looking at a much narrower view of the field than in Madden. I'm not talking first person football, but a zoomed 3rd person view. Now I can scan the field left and right with the wiimote (pointing or left/right twisting to do it) and then when I see a guy open I line up my throw and hold down 'A' and throw the ball to him. The game measures the speed of your throw to judge how far you threw it.

That's one of the games within a game. It's dependent on your skill to scan the field, lineup/time your throw and put the right amount of touch on your pass.

miketMike Thomsen, Staff AlumnusAugust 28, 2007

TripleX - You've got some really interesting ideas and I think it highlights a fact that a lot of football videogames have been able to skirt with the old tried and true chessboard style presentation: football isn't one cohessive game it's a bunch of mini-battles at every different player position on field. There' inherent possibility in the Wii remote to make these individual face-offs dramatic and compelling in ways not possible with a regular controller. Football on Wii should be fundamentally different than it's ever been before. If the controls are more immersive and physical doesn't the POV necessarily have to follow suit and become more focused and closely aligned to the action?

Anyway, Madden 08 is still a fun game, it's just not an optimal Wii experience just yet. I'll look forward to next year's edition with great interest : )

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Madden NFL 08 Box Art

Genre Sports
Developer Tiburon (EA)
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Madden NFL 08
Release Aug 14, 2007
PublisherElectronic Arts
RatingEveryone
eu: Madden NFL 08
Release Aug 31, 2007
PublisherElectronic Arts
Rating3+
aus: Madden NFL 08
Release Aug 30, 2007
PublisherElectronic Arts
RatingGeneral

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