The most Blitz-like a Madden game will probably ever be.
Thanks to the addition of All-Play, this year's Wii Madden game has finally distanced itself from its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 counterparts. While the other versions best the Wii version graphically, Madden NFL 09 All-Play is good for rookie and veterans alike. The growing distinction between the Wii edition and other platforms is a welcome one, because it seemed like previous Wii Maddens suffered from trying to be too much like the 360 and PS3 installments. The best thing about this new direction is that it is not lacking any major modes that the other versions offer, despite its unique presentation. In addition, it adds new modes such as 5-on-5 and Party Mode.
The big focus this year is All-Play mode. All-Play mode is much like last year's Family Play mode, except it is more involved because it uses both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk. It is also a lot more effective in introducing the game of Madden to younger players, or someone who hasn't played Madden since the jump to 3D. You are still given basic control over your entire team, but the controls are simplified so that a lot of the confusing modifiers (like line shifts and choosing receivers) are eliminated.
With this simple and more arcade-like presentation, Madden NFL 09 All-Play seems to be bridging the gap between Madden games and Midway's Blitz series. While the same solid gameplay is present throughout, there are numerous touches that make the game more like an arcade affair than recent entries in the franchise. The new celebration mode is a prime example; whenever a player on your team scores a touchdown, registers a clutch sack, or intercepts the ball, you are taken to a cut scene during which you can pump up your player by shaking the Wii Remote and Nunchuk furiously.
At the center of this Blitz-like revolution is the new 5-on-5 mode. Using big-headed characters, this mode incorporates simple plays and is a showcase for the new Call Your Shots mode. Call Your Shots mode allows you to use the Wii Remote pointer to direct your receiver wherever you want. This new mode is intuitive, and also highly effective in game situations during 5-on-5 mode and regular play.
The Party Mode, which was introduced in last year's edition, has seen little to no improvement; it's still the same series of stale mini-games and inane football trivia. Hell, most of the mini-games don't really support the four players they advertise. While Miis seem to be a big part of Party Mode, they're really only used as avatars (and by the way, I am still waiting for the ability to make a football team out of my Miis). The only other cool use of Miis is the fact that they appear as in-game referees.
EA's obvious Mii influence reveals a lot of graphical flaws in the big-headed fun of the 5-on-5 mode. While it doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the mode, the big-headed graphics remind me of the characters in Goldeneye on Nintendo 64. The graphics in other modes are roughly the same. There’s a lot of clipping issues, and even though it doesn't take away from the game very much, it places Madden’s visuals in the "typically sub-par third-party effort" category.
On the other hand, the flaws in Madden 09’s controls do indeed make the game less enjoyable. For the most part, the controls work well and are generally intuitive. However, the motion to pass and the motion to evade a defender are the basically the same, and since the game has a hard time distinguishing between the two, your quarterback gets sacked an abnormally high number of times.
The game includes just about every mode that Madden fans are used to such as Franchise, Superstar, and the Online Play that was introduced last year. Franchise and Superstar mode haven't been changed too much from previous outings, but they still offer the in-depth experience they always have. Online play is serviceable, and thankfully not as laggy as it was last year.
Overall, Madden NFL 09 All-Play is a very fun game for casual football video game fans. If you don’t want to invest the time to learn the complex controls of football video games or aren’t concerned with learning the rules and nuances of the game, then this is the version for you. Madden fanatics accustomed to the more complex controls and granular strategic options of other versions will probably want to stick with those versions instead.