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Madden NFL 2005

Score: 91%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Sports
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (online)
Genre: Sports (Football)

Graphics & Sound:

Let me preface this review by saying Iíve been a huge Madden fan since the debut of PlayStation 2. Each year, I write these reviews with absolute pleasure, since this is one of my favorite series of all-time. However, I must say that I was completely disappointed with the OVERALL product of Madden NFL 2005. Iíll explain this in a little bit. But first, about the game.

EA Sports touched up the graphics this year, and while you may not notice a huge difference, you can tell itís been done. Player models are cleaned up, as is the entire stadium, including coaches, players on the sidelines, and the fans in the stands. I really liked the changes in daylight when playing an afternoon game. But while I thought the graphics for the players were great, I thought some of the coaches could still use some work. Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants looks like a pasty-white zombie with a hat on. I was also hoping to see a little more reaction from the coaches than what was offered... which was basically nothing. There are also some new animations on the field, which always seem to work well.

Ok, if youíve read my reviews about the Madden series in the past (or other writers too, I wonít be offended), you know that Iím not the biggest John Madden fan when it comes to his commentary. A few years ago, when he teamed up with Al Michels, I really thought the series had a chance to move forward with the commentary, which in my opinion has always been behind other competing football series. So suffice it to say, I didnít think things could get much worse than the days of Madden and Pat Summerall. I was wrong! This yearís Madden commentary is God awful! Never mind the fact that Al, John, and (new to the group) Jill Arrington all sound like they just woke up! Never mind the fact that much of the banter from years past is included in this yearís copy (and Iím talking about the bad banter... not that there was any good banter). This yearís commentary is horrendous in the fact that they donít even follow the game. Countless number of times, Iíve heard Al and John talking about this great run play I ran (supposedly), when in actuality, I THREW the ball. And if I recovered a fumble on a punt return and scored, they talked about the special play that the returner made to score. This is just downright unacceptable. In years past, Iíve advised readers to just turn off Johnís voice. This year, just turn it ALL OFF!

The only good from this section is the soundtrack, which includes tracks from New Found Glory, Green Day, Hoobastank, and Faith No More. Oh, and the sound effects within the game are good, too.


Gameplay:

So despite the dreadful commentary, Madden NFL 2005 is still the great football game that it has been for years. This yearís focus is on the defense. Hence the cover boy, Ray Lewis. Actually, I think the only reason EA got Ray to do it was because no offensive player in the NFL wanted the "Madden Curse" placed upon them. Letís look at the facts, shall we?
  • Madden 2001: RB Eddie George, Tennessee Titans Ė Horrible statistical year, injured periodically throughout the season.
  • Madden 2002: QB Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings Ė Horrible statistical year, injured in midseason, Vikings miss the playoffs.
  • Madden 2003: RB Marshall Faulk, St. Louis Rams Ė Missed six games with an ankle injury, Rams miss the playoffs.
  • Madden 2004: QB Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons Ė Broken leg in the preseason, missed all but the last few games of the year.
  • Madden 2005: LB Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens - TBD.
So yeah, EA. Tell me again why itís about the D? Regardless, gone are the days of dropping your QB back 20 yards to pass for a five-yard completion. The D-line will catch you. Plus, running the ball is much tougher this time around. And while I may be mocking EA about this defensive stuff, Iím glad they did it. It just helps enhance the gameplay.

There are a few new additions to Madden 2005. First, there are two new mini-games to play, which are actually quite fun. Two Minute Drill lets you see how many times you can score in the final two minutes of a game. Then you play on the other side of the ball against your opponent. A similar game is Rushing Attack, where you just run for as many touchdowns as you can in a minute, followed up by a defensive switch. Both can be played either against a friend, or the computer. In the Franchise mode, the new addition is Storyline Central. Basically, this is where you find out what the news is for your team, and around the league. By reading local and national newspapers, along with emails from people inside your organization, you can find out whoís unhappy about playing time, their contract, and whoís injured. There is also the Tony Bruno show, which generically hits on topics each week throughout the season. While I think this is a nice addition to the Franchise mode, I donít think Storyline Central is any good right now. The newspapers all talk about linemen that are injured that nobody cares about. Sometimes theyíll have predictions for the game. However, Iíve read several articles saying the 7-1 team has been awful all year. Apparently, the writers got the same bug Al and John got of not following the league. Tony Bruno is pretty bland (much like everyone else in the game). He has some interviews with coaches and players, which are pretty boring, and not all that interesting. All Iím saying is if this stuff were on the real radio, people would be turning the dial.


Difficulty:

The standard levels of difficulty apply to Madden NFL 2005: Rookie, Veteran, All-Pro, and All-Madden. The upper levels are much more difficult than a year ago, especially with the A.I. If youíre known to call the same plays over and over again on offense and defense, the computer will expose you for it down the road. To combat this, go through Practice, or set up a Situation to work on some plays. Or go through Football 101, for those of you that are new to the Madden series.

Game Mechanics:

There are two new mechanic things this year in Madden NFL 2005. When on defense, you can use your right analog stick to make "big hits;" this is the Hit Stick. Donít try to use it all the time, because youíll probably end up missing the guy entirely. The Hit Stick seemed a bit awkward to me at times, but because this is an optional thing for opportune moments, I was able to deal. However, the impression I got was that the Hit Stick was supposed to cause a few more fumbles, which didnít happen for me. Also for the right analog stick, you can personally direct what a defender will do before the ball is snapped. If you want your linebacker in zone coverage to blitz, just simply press down on the analog stick, and heíll head for the backfield. I thought this was a much better tool for the right analog stick.

The other new mechanic thing on 2005 is the addition of Xbox Live. Now you can head online to take on the best around. I wasnít able to do this myself, since Iím poor and donít have the money for Xbox Live right now. However, reading about all the features available makes it sound pretty sweet.

Otherwise, the loading time is pretty short, and when has saving ever been an issue on the Xbox?

So is it worth getting Madden NFL 2005? Yes, the new defensive adjustments, along with the addition of online play, make this yearís version a must have for any football fan. So if itís a must have, why did you score it lower than in yearís past? The overall presentation was really upsetting to me. Namely, the poor commentary. I think the Storyline Central idea is something to build on for the future, but this year, I think itís more of a joke than anything.


-Red Dawg, GameVortex Communications
AKA Alex Redmann

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