- Genre: Sports
- Format: DVD
- Developer: EA Games
- Publisher: EA Games
- Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.4.9, 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 1GB RAM, 2.2GB hard disk space, ATI X1600 or NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT or higher video card (Intel GMA950 chipset not supported), 8X DVD-ROM drive
- Review Computer: 2GHz 20" Intel Core Duo iMac, 1GB RAM, 256MB ATI Radeon X1600
- Network Feature: Yes
- Processor Compatibility Intel only
- Price: $39.95
- ESRB Rating: E 10+ (violence)
- Availability: Now
- Demo: No
- Official Website: www.easports.com/maddennfl/
Note: The screen captures featured below are taken from apple.com.
There is one big problem with Madden NFL 08, and it's not what you might think. It's not Leopard compatibility, because Electronic Arts has released a patch (3.3MB .tgz file) to address the jumbled menu bug. It's not performance, because the game looks and runs great on Intel Macs. It's not online play, because although it's buggy right now, that'll also be fixed. Instead, it's the fact that Electronic Arts seems to think we've all played the game before...not a safe assumption with Macintosh users.
The Madden NFL series is extremely complex, and despite claims to the contrary, it gets harder every year. With nothing to add each year except new players and team strengths/weaknesses, the developers look for new ways to improve control and detail with every release. The result is that users end up with a button mashing game that rewards experience and punishes newbies. This alone wouldn't be a big deal, except that the instructions and tutorials offer little to help a new player get started. Learning how to make a move and when to make it is as much trial and error as anything else, which can get frustrating when you're also given complex playbooks to memorize and master for pretty much every "skill" position on the field. Just starting your Madden experience can be incredibly frustrating, especially if all you want to do is hop in and start controlling your favorite team.
Thankfully, I started cutting my Madden teeth on '07 for the Wii last year. Although the controls are quite a bit different on the Mac than on the Wii (and I recommend getting a game pad instead of going with keyboard controlsremember that these games are designed for consoles), it wasn't hard to adapt. Learning to play Madden NFL 08 was just a matter of learning the new control options, which reinforces my earlier point. I can't imagine many PlayStation or Wii owners are going to get this for the Mac instead of their gaming system, which leaves mainly only those without consoles to buy the Mac version. Considering we haven't seen a Madden title for the Mac since 2000, that's a whole lot of inexperienced players. This is another reason why online multiplayer troubles aren't all that pressing; people will need the time to get good before going online to get their butt kicked.
Madden NFL 08; where apparently they let anyone in the Super Bowl
The benefit to all of this is that once gamers finally do get the controls and the playbooks down, it's a very rewarding feeling. Putting together a solid drive because you know what you're doing (as opposed to just getting lucky, which happens sometimes) gives a strong sense of accomplishment, made even better when you're controlling a team you've probably been actively supporting for most of your life. I'll admit it feels good when my Seahawks trounce any of the teams I hate, especially if they've recently beaten us in real life. I've even found myself succumbing to the "armchair coach" syndrome perpetuated by Madden NFL. If I can beat down the Browns with my play calls, why can't Holmgren seem to coach his team to a victory? Of course, that's dumb, but it doesn't stop me from yelling about it on Sunday.
Again, when you reach the point where you're starting to get good at the game (or are past it), Madden NFL 08 is fantastic entertainment. The gameplay is solid and the animations are smooth. It's not the best looking game on the Macintosh, but it's certainly towards the top. The weather effects are done nicely, and the stadiums throughout the league are faithfully recreated. Madden even lets you go so far as to create the fans you put in the stadium. I kid you not, you can design the look of the fans. I mean, obviously not all 67,000, thank goodness, but it's still a good way to get yourself into the game.
There's no option for throwing beer bottles and batteries
at fans of the opposing team.
A better way, though, is to create your own player, whom you can take from a rookie to a Pro Bowler, if you're good enough. That may actually be Madden's main strength; the numerous ways to play. You can just play one-off games, you can control a team through a whole season, you control an entire franchise, you can follow the career of a single player, etc. In other words, not only is there enough here to keep the most avid player entertained, but there are also methods of play for those who can't devote more than a single sitting a week. What I would really like to see, however, is a coaching mode that combines the Madden NFL franchise with EA's recent NFL Head Coach. This would make a great option for those who are more about strategy than control, and it would help new players get started more quickly. Conversely, an "arcade" mode that focuses solely on basic gaming action would also be a welcome addition.
Now, I keep harping on the learning curve, but Madden NFL 08 does have some new features that help you play a better game. Skill icons indicate your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, helping you determine where the ball should go. For instance, if you've called called a deep pass but see that the Pro Bowl linebacker is lined up to blitz, it would be a good time to audible to a quick toss underneath. And yes, there is a Skill Drill to help you learn how to read defenses and call the right audible. The drawback here is that the implementation of the skill icons is a bit messy, and in many ways you just can't do anything to counter the strong players, so why bother indicating who's who and what he can do? I get that Brian Urlacher's pretty good. What do you want me to do about it? I can't spend the whole game avoiding him.
The Browns will survive the second ice age,
but they couldn't survive Art Modell?
There are some troublesome quirks to address, too. Player AI isn't always the smartest, which would be terribly frustrating (especially for new players who are still relying heavily on teammates) if the bad AI didn't spread across both teams. Players seem to get injured too easily. Clock management is sketchy at points where it should be the focus (did Mike Holmgren program this game?). And worst of all, from my point of view, is what I call the Madden Compensation. If you're winning a game by too many points, it seems your team will suddenly get hit with more penalties and turnovers in an effort to keep things close (did Mike Holmgren program this game?). That could just be me, though. I always felt the same way when playing Strat-O-Matic Football with my brother, and that was all determined by the randomness of the dice. And speaking of Strat-O-Matic, one of the cool things about that game was using stat cards from different seasons to play teams that couldn't have played each other in real life. You can do the same in Madden NFL 08. I played some good games with the current Seahawks line-up taking on the 1984 Seahawks. Everybody wins! Not only that, but there are also fictional teams to play when you're bored with whooping on the real guys all the time.
In the end, though, it doesn't matter how you chose to play. It doesn't matter how complex it is. It doesn't matter whether online play is all there. What matters is that Madden NFL, one of the biggest franchises in gaming history, is back on the Macintosh. It may not be the perfect version for new users to get into the game, but you have to start somewhere, right? Madden NFL 08 for the Macintosh may be daunting at first, but it becomes more fun the more you play, and it looks and performs great on the Intel Macs it requires. If you've got a console, the Mac version probably isn't enough to dissuade you from sticking with that. To everyone else, suit up. You've been activated for today's game.
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