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Twenty Candles for Madden's: It's couch quarterback season again!

What's wrong with this picture. It's hard to believe that the Madden Football franchise has turned 20 years old with Madden 09. Back in 1989


What's wrong with this picture. It's hard to believe that the Madden Football franchise has turned 20 years old with Madden 09. Back in 1989 the first Madden game was just called John Madden Football from EA Sports. Over the years the Madden games have always dominated sales in video game football. In mid 2005 EA Sports signed an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL for use of players, teams and stadiums that will last through 2012. In acknowledgment of EA/Madden's sheer domination, other franchises like Sega's NFL 2K and the ESPN series have folded. Some companies have tried a different approach with football, but nothing has even touched the Madden football series.

With this year's Madden game there is a bit of old and new. The regular features from past games include a new and improved "franchise mode," Madden moments let you "relive" highlights from the 2007 season. You can also choose plays by formation, as in previous editions. However, in this installment you can also choose the type of plays, so you might want to bone up on those for maximum strategy.

New to the Madden franchise is the Madden IQ test, which starts the game with John Madden himself giving you instructions. Madden puts you through the paces in a cool Tron-like simulation. This is a series of tests that simulate offensive and defensive passing and rushing difficulties to hone your skills.
In terms of game play, the controls are tight. The graphics are more polished than Madden 08. Another change this year is the commentary with Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond replacing both Madden and Al Michaels. For his part, Madden contributes solely to the Madden IQ training and title screens.

Where Madden 09 seems to shine the most is the on-line play. The game play seems to be fluid with the long-awaited feature of 32-player leagues and on-line tournaments. There are so many options for the online play that it leaves Madden 08 in the dust. You can even download the old Madden 93 game and see just how far the game play has come. Because this is the 20th anniversary, there's a special collector's pack for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 that includes NFL Coach 09, which will sell for $49.99 on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in September - so this is a real value for the football nuts out there. The Nintendo Wii version will have it's own special features and be released under the new name Madden 09 All-Play and under the All-Play brand exclusive to the Wii. And just when you thought the original Xbox was dead there is a Madden 09 for it as well. Could it be the last game for that system?

To sum up: You have a play-it-safe attitude from EA Sports. They keep what works from the previous Madden games, and yet there is enough new material to make updating worth the purchase price.

Madden NFL 09 ★★★★✩
Publisher- EA Sports. Rated- E for Everyone. Platforms- Playstation 2,3 Xbox, Xbox 360 Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS. Retail- $29.99 to $59.99 (Collectors for 360 and PS3 $89.99)

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