Madden NFL 2005


posted 8/20/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: Xbox
It’s pretty easy to sell games when you’ve got things like tradition and prestige behind you. Luckily the guys at Electronic Arts have realized this in the past, and have created a game that relies not on its namesake or past, but on the current product that will be played on the consumer's televisions. And while the Madden franchise has been consistently solid for the past decade, one can’t help but look at each successive entry as more than a mere expansion pack devoid of any significant changes or upgrades.

It’s pointless to go over the core features found in Madden 2005. If you want a better rundown of what to expect just check out my review of Madden 2004 or Madden 2003. Instead we’ll focus our energy on the new additions that look to take the franchise to the next level. With the exception of a few minor additions here and there it seems like the designers were content with resting on the laurels of last year's game and taking that ride to retail success. I'll tell you though, with the leaps and advancements that the NFL2K franchise made this year, that rest might be much shorter than the guys at EA would have liked.

Electronic Arts went to great measures to bring you into all aspects of running a team. For this they created Storyline Central, the main mode of play for true football fans. It replaces the Franchise Mode and features a bevy of new additions to really engulf you in the atmosphere. The largest addition comes in the form of a talk radio program hosted by syndicated sports talk host Tony Bruno. Here he’ll give the dish on your team while discussing the biggest stories around the league. It’s very well done as Bruno rambles on and on, seeming to never run out of material to discuss and talk about. Also new in this mode is the inclusion of newspapers on both the local and national level. The National Paper discusses the biggest headlines while the local paper gives information pertinent to your team. As a nice touch, the game features real papers according to region. So if you choose the Giants you’ll get your information from the New York Post and so forth.

Taking a cue from its NHL line of sports games, the designers decided to give players more control of their tackles. This is accomplished via the “Hit Stick” which is mapped to the right analog stick. Operated separately from the tackle function, the Hit Stick can lead to jarring hits and momentum shifting tackles. New animations help push across the power of these hits, often times illiciting “oohs” from anyone watching. It could have easily been a gimmick, but the designers were able to make it an integral part of the game. Deciding when to use the mechanism is half the battle; use it right and you can jar the ball loose. Use it in the wrong situation and you'll miss the ball carrier, taking yourself out of the play.

Building upon its PlayMaker feature, this year’s game includes the ability to give defenders hot routes. Basically what this boils down to is it gives you the chance to change a defender’s coverage scheme before the snap. So if you have a linebacker blitzing you can push him back and have him fall into zone coverage. In theory this sounds very good, but utilizing it consistently is harder than you’d imagine. In order to get it to work you have to switch the individual player and then arrange his coverage zone via the right analog stick. If you play any amount of Madden against human opponents you’ve probably realized that most players are trigger happy and spend very little time at the line. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to change one defensive assignment, barring that you actually had the time to read the play. It does work out pretty well in the single-player franchise mode though. Speaking of which, it's much easier to do well on the defensive side of the ball than ever before. D-backs are easier to control as I had no trouble covering receivers and swatting away balls. Actually it might be a little too easy to play defense. During the season I was able to get my hands on the majority of passes, yielding only about 40 passing yards a game on the default setting.
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