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Madden puts in another impressive showing on the Wii and tangibly improves for the third year in a row. The combination of intelligent gesture controls, a variety of assists for players of different abilities and the integration of Mii's into the heart of the game is simply a recipe too good to resist.
I have been playing Madden on the Wii for three years now. Each time I pick it up though, I am reminded that American Football is not my home game. The language, rules and general ethos is something that simply escapes me. But at the same time I am equally drawn to EA's rendition of the sport on the Wii because it seems to be such a great fit for the system. And slowly but surely this is winning me over the ways and nuances of the rough tough all American pastime.
The previous Madden games on Wii have utilised the gesturing and pointing ability of the Nun-chuck and Wii-mote well. Although there have only been minor tweaks to the scheme this year, it remains as it should be - solid, exuberant and great fun. Whether it's flicking out a throw, pulling in a pressure reception or jabbing left and right to jink round a defender, there is a tangible sense of connection to the action. Maybe this is a sport that just fits well to the mechanics of the Wii's controllers or maybe the Madden team have the magic touch when it comes to the Wii, either way the result is delightful. Madden could easily be a well honed Nintendo development, which on the Wii is praise indeed.
This is ideal for the very young or novice player who is can happily play along, taking responsibility for throwing, tackling and catching.
In addition to the simplistic gesture controls there are a number of options to help players of varying ability play together. These all fall under the All Play rubric (a step on from the Family Play features of Madden 08). You can add a degree of computer assistance to whittle down your choices, or even unplug the Nun-chuck completely and play with just the Wii-mote. This is ideal for the very young or novice player who is can happily play along, taking responsibility for throwing, tackling and catching.
The ability of Madden to include anyone in the room in a game of video football makes it one of the most genuinely social games I have come across. In fact this is the first game on the Wii that has made me seriously consider investing in a third and forth controller, now that my younger kids can get in on the action.
Visually things are just as solid. Although a step or two off the televisual pace of the PS3 and 360, the Wii does a good job of rendering the on pitch action. Although not cell shaded the graphics feel as if they are trending that way. The integration of the Mii's takes another step forward this year, with friends and family popping up to referee as well as play in the games. Although this could be seen as a novelty, Mii's are used well in the game to signify who made the tackle, or tried to jink, throw or strong arm too late.
The integration of the Mii's takes another step forward this year, with friends and family popping up to referee as well as play in the games.
Other nice touches worth noting for those that have played previous iterations are the Call Your Shot mode, where you can re-draw your receivers run (pre-play) with the Wii-mote. There is a new celebration mode where you dance around with the controllers to boost one of your players (or not - if you don't have the appropriate energy or embarrassment levels). Finally there is a good five-on-five back yard mini version of the game. This is great for quick action, and to practice your technique outside of a competitive game.
On top of this we again find the returning franchise and star player main games, that task you with leading a team or individual to America Footballing success. These may not have been reinvented this year, but some sensible tweaks here and there certainly make them feel that bit more polished.
Overall, Madden 09 is a great product. We've sung the praises of many aspects above. But more impressive than any one of these is the general sense of finesse this year brings to the Wii game. Everything is now as it should be. Rather than diving off for the standard 360/PS3 playsheets you now have your own Wii specific ones. Rather than a photo of John Madden, you now have his Mii.
Being the first of their All Play range on Wii made this an important game for EA to get right. If the others in the series continue like this, we could imaging the All Play sports games to become a franchise in their own right, one that will appear on other consoles come next year.
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