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The most popular sports video game of the year is available. Many critics and even devoted Madden fans have been disturbed by Madden recently because they’ve been the same old Madden. Some would even go so far as to say that there haven’t been many innovative features since Madden 2005 (which introduced the hit stick). Others believe that Electronic Arts doesn’t strive to make the best NFL game because there is no competition. Ever since EA bought the exclusive rights to the NFL, they’ve been making the same old Madden video games. Madden 2008 is an exception to that rule because it’s brilliant.

After an average of three Madden iterations that have disappointed fans, Madden 2008 will definitely please fans. Visuals are amazing on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but terrible on Nintendo Wii. Players will notice that the somewhat irritating Tony Bruno is no longer doing his wacky radio show, and the free information from the newspaper is nowhere to be seen. Gameplay is smoother than previous iterations of Madden. Players will notice that players are no longer randomly running around the field like crack-addicted Bobby Brown. There have been some minor modifications to the hit stick; in addition, high and low tackles can be executed. Pass racing is more realistic in Madden 2008 than it is in Madden 2007.

You can’t expect to take the blitz with just five offensive linemen; you need to modify your protection and blocking schemes. Quarterbacks will be more precocious because high-IQ quarterbacks like Peyton Manning will be able to see what play the defense is running. To counter this, high IQ defenders will be able to see what play the offense is running. Low IQ players like Michael Vick (Dog Killer) will not be able to read defenses. This feature is only available if either the defense or offense runs the same three or four plays each time, but it’s still a nice touch and prevents either team from running the same plays each time. Offensively, the featured suit has been renewed; more maneuvers can be performed on your way to score a touchdown. This is amazing because it reduces the contemplation of what to do next in the field. Wide receivers also have new things to do.

Spectacular Captures and Possession Captures can be used in Madden 2008. Many seasoned Madden fans will realize that each catcher plays differently. For example, Hines Ward will attempt a conservative catch because he is a possession receiver. On the contrary, Torry Holt will try an aggressive catch because he is a spectacular receiver. Another element of the receivers is the game of chess with the defenders. For example, Terrell Owens (the guy who sabotaged the Eagles in 2005-06 and helped the New York Giants win their division) will be much easier to cover than a speedy receiver like Steve Smith.

This is because Terrell Owens is an easier player to pressure at the line of scrimmage. The same rule applies for Randy Moss. Substitutions are a bigger factor in Madden 2008 than they were last season. Teams like the New Orleans Saints will have a two-back system, with Reggie Bush sharing the load with Deuce Mcallister. Superstar mode has been overhauled in Madden 2008.

Players will have more control over the rating of their created Superstar. He will compete in 40-yard dashes, weightlifting, and various other exercises to bolster his attributes. This is much more competent than the asinino DNA mode which was random. Subtle icons are displayed below each player to accentuate their field of expertise. For example, Brett Favre has a rocket under his name because he has a “rocket arm.” Overall, Madden 2008 has given the NFL’s newest fans something to be excited about. It looks like the Madden franchise is finally headed in the right direction.

Final verdict: 8.5 out of 10

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