Madden NFL 08 PC Review page 1
I love the month of August, I really do. Not only does it signal the last remaining gasps of Winter here in Australia, but it sparks the beginning of a new NFL season, and hence, a new Madden NFL from EA Sports. August comes with its challenges, though. Being an Aussie who follows the NFL with a passion such as myself can be quite hard - not only is it often difficult to quench my football thirst by actually attending games (damn our lack of teleport transport), but the TV coverage here is
shabby at best, and the Internet can only do so much. With this in mind, NFL videogames have regularly filled the gap and fueled my and I imagine many other non-US people's passion for the sport, and with EA's well publicized acquisition of the exclusive NFL license, Madden has been the only choice when it comes to NFL videogames for the past few years.
Being a PC gamer at heart, Madden on the PC has always been my version of choice. The graphics were better, the animations seemed smoother, and the online community forleagues and editing/game mods is second to none across the Madden platforms. Whether it was the impeccable user created 'Struttdaddy' rosters, or the countless amount of fellow enthusiasts wishing to pit their GM skills in roster management only simulated leagues, the PC version always seemed superior to me.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem many decision makers at EA agree. While the Xbox 360 and PS3 have been seeing new engines with top notch graphics and revamped animation systems from EA with the Madden series, the PC version has been tossed aside and given the scraps from the old PS2 engine for years, and this continues with Madden 08 PC. This means the vast majority of features touted prior to release for 08 on the next gen consoles are not in the PC version, which is considerably disappointing if
not a little misleading on EA's behalf, as actual PC specific features were not announced until very near the release date and were only hidden away in a developer's blog post at that. This was hardly a surprise as every year EA don't seem to show the PC version much love publicity wise, but Madden 08 PC seemed exceptionally neglected in this regard.
Perhaps this was the case because, thanks to the fact Madden 08 PC is based on the PS2 version of the game, there really wasn't that much the marketing department at EA could have focused on. What you will see that is new in 08 PC is so minimal, at times you may think you accidentally loaded up 07 instead. As far as modes go, three minor changes were made - there are a bunch of new mini-game like drills to enhance your football skills with in the new "Skill Drills" mode, in the Superstar
mode you can now take on the role of a real life NFL rookie drafted this past April, and there is now a new addition called "Ring of a Champion", which is not so much a mode but more of a visual aid to track your game achievements through the representation of diamonds on a Superbowl ring. Gameplay wise, only somewhat minor additions were made, such as the ability to "Spotlight" an opposing receiver, the ability to put a defender into a zone that defends the 1st down marker, a change in the
way you kick balls, an extension to the popular 'Hit Stick' known as 'Hit Stick 2.0' which allows you to specifically trigger low tackles by pressing down, a bunch of new pre-snap motion plays, and of course the expected addition of a few new animations here and there.
One of the more prominent features added to 08 PC is the new "Player Weapon" system, although this is really not a "back of the box" grade addition in the PC version like it appears to be in the 360/PS3 versions. Player Weapons on the PC are basically just an extension to 07's Player Roles, which gave labels to players based on their strengths and weaknesses, such as "Game Manager" for efficient QB's, "Hard Hitter" for strong defenders and "Injury Prone"
for players who find their way off the field too often. The Player Weapon system introduces a lot more to the table most of which are very position specific such as "Rocket Arm" and "Power Back", but rather than replace the Player Roles of 07, they basically just mixed both systems together, creating a sometimes awkward mixture of 07 style icons and abilities with the newer Weapons. Combined, you have over 40 different categories, 2 of which a player can specialize in, and while
this is quite comprehensive and detailed, perhaps even more so than 08 on the 360 and PS3, you have to wonder if these Roles and Weapons really do anything other than offer a quick and easy way to identify a player's attribute strengths, much like the game's OVR rating does. I'll give the game the benefit of the doubt and say a weapon ready player is slightly better than an identically rated one without a weapon, but it's definitely not evident enough to disprove the possibility they are nothing more than labels.
As far as what's new in 08, that's about it really. You'll notice smaller things like a slightly modified menu GUI and of course new menu and in-game soundtracks, but ultimately, 08 PC plays an awful lot like 07 PC did. Once you get in-game, the visuals will feel the same outside of a few slight enhancements to the lighting (particularly in weather), the physics will feel the same, and the gameplay will feel the same with perhaps a slight AI enhancement when it comes to CPU passing attacks and
their new found tendency to throw smarter underneath balls. After a while, you may see a few new catch and tackle animations including a few nifty looking 2 defender gang tackles, but a few new animations sprinkled here and there are hardly game savers. There is simply nothing clearly evident at all about 08 that differentiates itself from 07. EA have always been criticized for not adding enough year to year with Madden, but 08 PC is amazingly the same even by those standards.
Madden NFL 08 PC Review page 2
If EA did opt to port the new 360/PS3 engine to the PC for 08, we'd be talking about a completely different game. Now, in fairness, Madden on the PC is not a very large seller, and for those who do buy it, chances are their PC specs aren't in the same range as your average FPS enthusiast. I know it's a stereotype that I myself defy, but people who enjoy sports gaming on the PC are generally not the type of gamers you'd expect to see spending time inside their system BIOS tweaking RAS and CAS memory
timings, or eagerly awaiting news on the next Forceware driver release while keeping an eye on the CPU market for the optimal time to upgrade to Core 2 Quad. With this in mind, the average Madden PC gamer's PC specs may not be suitable for the new engine just yet, so it's not hard to see why EA have so far refrained from porting their new engine across for Madden, or any other EA Sports PC title for that matter.
However, there is really no excuse for the neglect Madden on the PC has been subject to when it comes to its own optimization. Features like online franchises to take advantage of the PC platform's Internet capabilities are still absent despite years and years of requests from PC gamers, IP to IP multiplayer games are still limited to default game sliders, and custom team franchises are still not supported. And as far as the visuals and engine goes, well, when the PS2 engine was first ported around
Madden 2002, it reached the peak of PC hardware at the time, but outside of a few 3D model tweaks over the years and uniform updates to reflect the NFL, little else has been done since, and we're talking Madden 08 here people. Graphics are not everything in sports gaming, but when a game can run at max quality with hardware from the Pentium 3 era, something is just not right.
There is one very welcome visual enhancement to 08 PC however, and that is the inclusion of widescreen resolutions, which is actually quite
a big deal for those who run WS on their PC as football is one of those games where more visual real estate has a direct influence on the gameplay. Even so, it's only a tiny aspect to what otherwise is a very under whelming PC gaming experience. If Capcom can port Lost Planet to PC with DX10 features a few months after the 360 release, what does it say about EA Sports' dedication to the PC platform when you consider Madden PC has gone without a real PC specific overhaul for more than half a decade?
With all this in mind though, for those gamers that want gameplay over aesthetics, the old PS2 version of Madden up until Madden 08 had still been the most authentic feeling replication of the NFL, and Madden 08 PC extends this reality for another year. The wasted potential is definitely off putting, but the game is extremely
still plays a very good game of football and if you were to ask most NFL gaming fans about Madden 07, chances are the majority will agree that the best version was the "current gen" version, and seeing as the best "current gen" version is logically the PC version, it's not hard to see why Madden 08 PC is still a really good game, and it isn't hard to understand why someone would consider it to be the best version out there for another year.
The biggest reason for this besides the solid gameplay and proven feel is the simple fact Madden 08 PC is a 'complete' experience. By this, I mean every big feature from every Madden prior is still here, whether it be the defensive hot routes, the offensive line shifts, the vision cone, or the detailed formation subs. Every single mode you can imagine is here, and everything else the "new engine" doesn't have but the "old engine" did is also still here. If you're a franchise mode buff,
then this really is the version for you because while 08 PC has basically seen no new features for this mode whatsoever (including, unfortunately, some classic bugs that still haven't been fixed such as the non-existent player fatigue in simulated games), it is still the best franchise mode out there when it comes to Madden. A lot of people have been caught up with the 360 and PS3 version of Madden, but the reality is, the old game is still seemingly too good for EA to fully replicate on the new
consoles, even with 08.
Another huge reason why Madden 08 PC is a good game and quite likely the best version for the real NFL gaming enthusiast is because of something EA don't control at all - the Madden PC editing community. EA do release roster updates themselves reasonably regularly, but as any Madden PC gamer will tell you, they are often quite inaccurate and are prone to a lot of questionable player rating decisions. Each and every year there seems to be a host of PC gamers who make their own rosters and thanks to community
input that combines fan knowledge for every team, they are usually very accurate and superior to the EA offering. On top of this, the editing community with the aid of roster and franchise file editors can provide rookie draft classes, updates to player portraits, the ability to import custom teams into franchise mode, as well as work around solutions to some of the game's bugs and inaccuracies, such as enhancing the realism in simulated statistics and mass tweaking of player ratings. There is no doubting
that if you want more control over your NFL gaming, Madden on the PC is the way to go. In many ways, Madden 08 PC is the ideal version for the savvy football gaming enthusiast wanting to combine more realism without sacrificing the fun of the Madden gameplay style.
Madden 08 PC is a tough nut to crack. On one hand, you have a game that is remarkably like 07 PC, and this is very disappointing for those PC Madden fans who had hoped EA would, if not port the 360 version over, at the very least do something to finally bring the PC version into the modern age of PC gaming. On the other hand however, you have a game that plays very, very well, and in all honesty, I would not be surprised if the "old engine" as seen in 08 PC yet again ultimately reigns supreme over
the "next gen engine" when it comes to realistic, authentic feeling NFL gameplay. The problem is, if you have 07 PC, there just isn't enough to warrant a purchase of 08 unless you are savvy enough with the series to appreciate the minor additions the game has to offer, in which case you'll likely already have a copy of the game by now anyway. Madden NFL 08 PC is quite possibly the best all-round complete Madden that EA have ever produced, but at the same time, it's somehow the
weakest improvement from the year prior in the history of the series, and once again, NFL fans on the PC are left to dream about what could have been.
Check out Football-Freaks.com for a great Madden PC editing and discussion community.[img]madden08_pc_5[/img][img]madden08_pc_6[/img]