The "2005" edition of the best-selling Madden NFL sports game series hits the field with another new season's worth of refinements and additions. Attention has been paid to the defensive game in this version, with enhancements intended to give gamers more options and more control when they're playing from the other side of the football. Many of this year's new features involve the NFL players themselves, however, calling upon gamers to maintain and develop their star athletes. Players are now rewarded for their good performances throughout the season, and individuals can be affected by the ebb and flow of morale.
Madden 2005 offers "hit stick," control, which allows the right analog stick to be used to perform the kind of huge, momentum-shifting hits that fans will hear way up in the nosebleed section. Risks are involved, however, and players who miss tackles under the hit stick system's less rigid controls have only themselves to blame. Gamers can also involve themselves more deeply in defensive strategy than they could in earlier versions of Madden NFL. The new Defensive Playmaker Control system allows them to modify assignments for any player on the field, to set up blitzes, jams, and individual man-to-man coverage, right up until the moment the ball is snapped.
Madden fans who are in it for the long haul will also find new Franchise mode features in this year's game. As they progress through the seasons, they'll be able to name their team's captain, claim their top stars as franchise players, and allow other players to take free agent status. A virtual Tony Bruno presents a weekly, in-game radio show that discusses all the major events in the league, and may allude to the personalities behind the players. When a player is unhappy, he won't play his best; the gamer can choose to make adjustments or trade him away. Franchise gamers can also read sports page-style announcements and check their in-game email to keep up on all the latest information.
Once again, John Madden is joined by Al Michaels to provide color commentary and the play-by-play. Jill Arrington reports from the field. Gamers can even customize the fans in the stands of this year's game, choosing from thousands of possible combinations of clothing, headwear, face paint, and unique, team-specific accouterments. Other convincing new elements include pre-game and post-game shows, featuring confetti and fireworks, and environmental effects, with realistic lighting and weather that can change in the middle of a game. Hundreds of new animations have been added for more realistic player movements, both on the field and on the sidelines.
No name is more closely associated with NFL football than John Madden, and no PC Football game is more recognizable than the Madden franchise, which is over a decade old now, and has stretched from console to PC. For all those years, football fans have thrilled to the excellent game play and good looks of this game system, so what does 2005 have to offer, outside of the latest player stats for the previous season? Quite a bit actually.
The biggest problem with this game system in the past, and really, most video football games, is the extremely high scoring. This isn't so bad head to head, but against the AI, it was not uncommon to hit 60 or more points in games, and that just isn't pro football. One of the many reasons this is true is because human players will often go for forth down, whereas the PC rarely will, and the fact it was so easy to get the yardage, scores were incredibly lopsided. Madden tries to correct this, by decreasing the probabilities of getting a first down on forth down, as well as a number of other defensive improvements.
There are now preset defensive coverages you can use by just hitting the buttons, instead of having to bring up the defensive screen. This works great head to head, now you can look over the offensive set, and decide to blitz, or play zone, etc. You can also assign defenders to follow players, no matter the offensive set, so you can put your best corner on Moss, and you will probably need and want him there! All of these refinements means you can really defensively overwhelm the AI, and greatly improves head to head.
To really get the most out of the new defensive features, home PC owners should play this game with an dual-analog game pad. The reason being, hitting the control stick at the direction of the offensive player will propel your defender at him, and put the big hurt on the offensive player. How hard you tap the control determines just how hard you will hit the ball carrier, from a push to literally laying him out. This, if used correctly, will force fumbles and dropped passes. If you use it poorly, expect a big gain, because you can miss the ball carrier completely.
Offensively, the game plays the same, with one exception, you can now shift players in formations, without changing the play. This helps fool the defenses, and provides different looks for the defensive player to deal with. There are also optional routes to run out of the same formation, so you can further fool the defense, by, for example, having TO run what looks like a curl, but is really a quick slant! These little perks add a real feel to this game, which makes it quite different from previous Maddens.
Overall, the game looks and plays very smoothly, as one would expect from such a well defined game system. They even included a sports caster and call in show, that includes wacky callers, and NFL news pertaining to your current season. This plays at the start of each week, and can be skipped, but it isn't long, and is fun to watch.
It's hard to believe I have been playing Madden football for so many years, going back to the old Super Nintendo, to where we are now in sports video games. All fans of pro football should pick this game up, and people who want to give a football fan a great gift, you won't go wrong by giving them Madden 2005.
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