Madden NFL 2005 Review (Xbox)
It’s that time of year again. NFL training camps are open, preseason games have started, and NFL titles are gracing our Xbox consoles. The first half of the 2005 NFL titles, “ESPN NFL 2K5”, shipped last month to (mostly) positive reviews. Releasing at only $20 and containing an impressive feature set, “ESPN NFL 2K5” has more or less taken the market by storm. Skeptics proclaimed the doom of the Madden franchise…that “ESPN” had finally toppled the behemoth. Right about that time, the copies of “Madden NFL 2005” started trickling in. Featuring improved defensive play, a new “Storyline Central” theme in Franchise mode, and numerous subtle (yet drastic) improvements, “Madden NFL 2005” is hands down the best “Madden” title I’ve ever had the joy of playing. Is it perfect? Of course not, but nothing ever is. Let’s get that out of the way now. This year’s “Madden” will not satisfy everybody. It is definitely the best “Madden” title you’ve ever played, but not the best “Madden” title you ever will play. To do this game justice (both in positive and negative aspects), I really need to review it in pieces. Since football gamers tend to be very specific about areas of games that make or break the experience for them, itemizing the various gameplay aspects seems to be the only logical way to satisfy the discerning video football enthusiast. So - on to the game.
GRAPHICS & VISUAL PRESENTATION
If you’ve played the competition this season, the term “underwhelmed” couldn’t possibly be more appropriate than it is here. The opening menu screen is the most impressive portion of the game. A mix of pulsing static images and full motion video animations, the main menu is actually one of the nicest I’ve seen in a game. The individual screens in the various modes tend to get away from that gritty, “in your face” edge that EA Sports was apparently going for, however, choosing instead to go a more classic 16-bit era look.
Once you get on the field, you will see some differences, yet many similarities that keep it feeling like “Madden”. The good about the graphics:
- Fields actually look a bit more washed-out this year, which could be considered good or bad, depending on your tastes. For me, it looks closer to a TV broadcast. I like the grass, and the fields in general, much better this year than last.
- Jersey textures are great up close. Whether it’s real or imagined, I feel as if I can see the shoulder pad logos through the mesh of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ home jerseys. Textures look great up close.
- The lighting in “Madden NFL 2005” is very, very impressive. From little things like an afternoon game, to a night game with the hazy glow around the end zone play clock, lighting plays a very important role in determining the overall feeling of any football game. “Madden” has the lighting nailed.
- Progressively dirty uniforms. This seems to be a big deal to a lot of people. Personally, I don’t care much one way or another, but I will say that the progressively dirty uniforms in “Madden” this year are the best I’ve seen. Gone (thank goodness) are the spray-painted green “NCAA” models, replaced by dirt and grass. If you pound the ground game repeatedly, you will see a lot of dirt on your uniforms by the time the game ends. Not a new feature, of course, but more believable graphically this year.
- Hit stick animations are brutal. Animations overall are well done, and very clean. You won’t see the kind of player vs player interaction that you see in “ESPN” this year, but it certainly isn’t a low point. The first time you see a defensive player wrap the knees of a ballcarrier and drop him flat on his back, you won’t be able to hold back the chuckle. Gone is the “shot in the back” animation of years past, and this reviewer couldn’t possibly be happier.
As good as the graphics are, there are some low points:
- The player models themselves have taken two steps forward, one step back this year. When running “Madden NFL 2005” side by side with last year’s version, there are some striking differences. The models last year (and every previous year, for that matter) didn’t truly have shoulder pads. The models just had arms extending from the extreme upper edge of the shoulder, and the visual result really looked “off”. This year there are defined shoulder pads atop the players, but the models have been tweaked. Normally I’d be jumping for joy right now, but the way they tweaked them is an acquired taste. The models resemble the now-defunct “NFL Fever 2004” more than last year’s “Madden”. The players don’t look bad…just different. It adds more fuel to the “’Madden’s’ player models look like cartoons” forum wars more than anything. After a game or two, you forget about them, but they are definitely different this year. Texture work on the arms and models in general is much improved this year, but I wonder how many people can get past the models themselves. You either love them or hate them, and I don’t know many gamers in the middle ground.
- Statistical overlays, halftime shows, and pretty much everything else about the in-game presentation is about as exciting as watching a bridge tournament at a retirement home. The same things you’ve seen for years are back for more. Some of the overlays or so large that they covers the bottom 40% of the screen. When you’re at the line and zooming out to see your play diagrams, you have to wait for this box of stat garbage to disappear. Not a huge deal, but a definite annoyance.
- In the “pluses” area, I noted that textures looked great up close. That’s because when it zooms back (where you see 95% of the game, mind you), you end up seeing some hardcore aliasing and blurring of textures. This is the Xbox, and after seeing the competition, EA had better make some big strides next year. The average gamer won’t tolerate a 5 year old engine for much longer (considering it hasn’t had a major overhaul since “Madden 2001”). Some of the changes they made in this year’s engine remind me of slapping a new coat of paint on a Ford Pinto. No matter how you try to detail it, it’s still a Pinto. Eventually, you’re going to see the new guy drive by in a Ferrari and wonder what you’re doing tweaking a Pinto.
- Quarterback animations took a stride forward, but in the end, look almost comedic. Watching an All-Pro quarterback like Peyton Manning turn backwards (and stay that way), then proceed to flip around in a gravity-free 180-degree turn and rip a pass 30 yards on a rope is certainly a sight you won’t forget. Also, if you go back to a replay that your QB is getting hit in (you’ll get a lot of chances to see that, but more on that later), you could actually see his throwing arm do a full 360 in its socket. I’m talking bizarre, “Exorcist”-type limb movement here folks. Granted, it’s something small, but small things like that set people off. Overall the animations aren’t horrible, but they’re definitely light years behind the competition.
If you find yourself to be greatly swayed by the quality (or lack thereof) of a game’s graphics, you probably won’t be impressed too much by “Madden”. I don’t find it as bad as some do, but it’s definitely a second-tier visual representation of the NFL in the end.
AUDIO AND AURAL PRESENTATION
This is, quite possibly, the toughest area to rate. On one hand, you have John Madden and Al Michaels doing the same play by play that you’ve heard for years. You know if you’ll love it or hate it, because you’ve heard it all before. The only notable comments I heard were hit-stick specific. John himself rambles “you know, that’s something that’s going on in this league right now. A guy will go for the big hit instead of wrapping him up”. Well…yeah, John. You gave us the hit stick as a major new improvement. Forgive us for using it. Other times you’ll hear strange quirks in the commentary, but at least it’s understandable. I fumbled a punt return that the Patriots took in for the score, and of course Al Michaels told me what a sensational punt return they just had for the lead (rather than the turnover that actually caused the score). At least it’s a believable bug, but it’s a bug nevertheless.
On the other hand, you have a fantastic crowd and atmosphere. If you aren’t a fan of the traditional commentary, you can just flip the commentary to “On the Field”, and you’ll hear player chatter and the stadium announcer. Man, does this stadium announcer get around or what? He has the time to announce every single non-televised game in “NCAA Football”, and still find time to do all the pro games in “Madden NFL 2005”. That’s a busy man there. Contrary to what I understood to be the case, flipping the audio presentation to different themes does nothing except change volume levels and make that particular commentary style available. If you use “In the Booth”, you’ll hear almost no crowd, just the Viagra twins doing their thing…or would it be Levitra? They’re the official sponsor of the NFL, right? Whoops, there I go again. My apologies, I now return you to your regularly scheduled review. “In the Stadium” lets you hear the crowd cheers and jeers, but for the most part, I just switched it to “On the Field” and let it go. I haven’t missed much commentary after the first season I completed with the traditional color commentary on.
Aside from the in-game audio, you have the Tony Bruno show. I know EA tried to make a big fuss about it, but it’s really a futile attempt to keep pace with “ESPN’s” halftime show and SportsCenter highlights. Bruno will mention about some running back who hit 100 for that week (in between the phone calls you’ll hear numerous times about what college Jerry Rice played ball for), and various other minor stats. Nothing ever leapt out at me as a real innovation. It’s good background noise, but you won’t find a lot of relevant information here. Overall, I don’t think that the sound in the game is a huge positive or negative. It’s just “there”, and not much more.
I’m going to do something new here. Considering how much emphasis people place on various portions of a football game, I’m going to break it down exactly how I see it in each major category: rushing offense, rushing defense, passing offense, passing defense, and special teams. All of this pertains to play against the CPU, since human play is tough to predict (as anybody who’s ever taken a snap online can attest to).
This is the area that I see the most people having a problem with “Madden NFL 2005”. The worst part is it’s an area that I enjoy the most. The immediate question on the minds of everyone is “is pinball running still there?” The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding yes. Yes, if you run into the immensely wide rear end of your offensive guard, you will be stuck to him like he was wearing flypaper. However, after five or ten games, you begin to understand the subtle changes EA made to the game this year. It feels almost too slow at times, because you really must wait for the play to develop. Once you see the hole, you better blast through it in half a second, because it won’t be there in another half second. What this leads to is a terribly strategic waiting game on between-the-tackle runs. Another huge addition is turning the Y button into a “protect ball” button. What this does is essentially force your runner to cover the ball, but it has secondary uses as well. Using it in the open field will give you a higher chance of breaking the tackle, but not nearly as high as just using an old-fashioned stiff arm with a bigger back. If you’re not using a bigger back, then don’t expect to break a lot of tackles in the first place…just don’t fumble.
Back on the between-the-tackles running game, you’ll really learn to appreciate the inside game after a while. Sure, it doesn’t leap out and grab you like “ESPN” did at first, but you don’t have a freeway lane to run through here, either. You have to be precise and exhibit quick vision to gain yards consistently, especially on the higher difficulty levels. Early on you’ll get blasted in the backfield quite frequently. Don’t despair. Eventually, you’ll learn what runs to burst through the line with, and which runs to be patient with. Mix up the runs, as well. Call dives all day and the CPU defense will absolutely collapse the interior of your line. Mix in a counter and suddenly they’re vulnerable. Outside rushing is better than in “Madden 2004”, as you can actually reach the corner and turn up field on occasion. Once you get into the open field, you’ll find defenders aren’t nearly as vulnerable to the “super juke”, but can still be fooled by a timely spin with a scat back. The aforementioned power backs can break some tackles, but trying to spin with them is amusing to say the least. You’ll essentially just try to rump-tackle the defender, which is a pretty funny sight. All in all, the running game is definitely the one aspect of “Madden NFL 2005” that takes the longest to appreciate. It’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was after three games (or even ten games), and the more I play the more I like it. It makes me think and examine specific offensive linemen immediately after the snap, forcing me to make a twitch decision on which hole to take. They don’t paint a wide lane with runway lights showing me the way, making a successful run more rewarding.
Another perennial problem for the “Madden” franchise, the CPU running just never got enough yards or carries to make it a formidable opponent. Thankfully, on All-Madden difficulty this year, that’s a thing of the past. I’ve had Marshall Faulk rack up 200 yards on me, and I’ve held lesser backs to 30. I would say the average gain against my defense now is right around 3.5 to 3.9 yards a carry, which is more than enough to satisfy me. In the standard game of 120 plays, the CPU backs will get anywhere from 18 to 25 carries…again, more than enough to satisfy me. On the lower difficulty levels, the CPU doesn’t seem to pose nearly as much a threat, getting shutdown rather easily. I’m sure that with a maxed CPU run blocking slider, it would make for a better ground game, but I have never been a slider fan. I am probably naively thinking that the guys who made the game tested it as-is and considered it playable and accurate. Regardless, on All-Madden defaults the ground game is definitely playable from both aspects; offense and defense. If you don’t plug the gap fast enough, the CPU will chew up 8 yards before you can blink. If you plug the gap and it was a play action pass, then prepare to switch gears in a hurry. Overall, I’m very fond of the rushing defense in general. I don’t want to give up 5.5 yards a carry to every team in the league, and I don’t. I also don’t want to shut down every team in the league (which I also don’t do). I have found a nice balance of difficulty-versus-reward in “Madden NFL 2005”. I’ve never felt cheated over overpowered in any aspect of the ground game, and I can’t say that I’ve ever felt that in any year (or any game, for that matter) before.
My, my, my…how a year can change things. I admit that I rarely played “Madden 2004” due to the absurdly easy passing offense. I barely needed to know my playbook, I could just line up and fire the ball all over the secondary with little regard for timing or play selection. Not anymore. I think my first game passing on All-Pro I completed approximately 30% of my passes, but none of them had the “NCAA”-style DB cheat to them. It was just horrible throw selection. At a defender, into double coverage, too much touch, not enough touch…you name it. I’ve gradually worked my way up to 55% or 60% games, but never much higher than that. Also, if I post a 100 QB rating day, it’s Miller Time. I open up games hot, but the CPU seems to adjust to where I’m beating them more often than not. If I start out hot, I’ll cool off at some point and everything is right in the world again. As for comments about how the passing game is largely unchanged…rubbish. It only takes a passing interest in past “Madden” games to notice the difference. Your playbooks are largely the same, but the way the defense reacts to any given play is entirely new. Throwing an out takes a different amount of touch than a flag route. A slant against a zone is a different throw than a slant against man to man. Hitting the long ball takes a lot of practice (not to mention timing and time to throw it in the first place), and you can’t go deep too often due to the rush.
Oh yes, the pass rush. Never before has an NFL game conveyed the ferocity with which the CPU defenders attack the pocket. Inside, outside, spinning, diving…you will learn to take the three step drop and fire the rock or you will go down in flames. You have roughly a second, maybe a second and a half to get rid of the ball before you get annihilated. Throw it off your back foot and watch as the ball sails (literally) up to 20 yards off-target. Six-interception games will be common for the gamer who doesn’t learn to plant his feet and throw. Almost every game seems to pan out a bit differently, as well: some teams will come out with a heavy rush and force you to make hot reads and dump offs before settling them down, while others will sit back and see what you are going to try to do before sending the house. Overall, each kickoff brings a new experience, and after 40+ games, that’s a refreshing feeling for me. With time and experience, you get the silly notion in your head that you are an NFL quarterback…knowing when to put that extra bit of touch on the ball over the middle, when to fire it in there, when to lead the receiver, or when to just get it to him and pray. Lost in the mix of all of this is the beautiful Formation Shifting feature. Want to give the defense a completely different look, even if running the same play? Squeeze the R trigger, then move any direction on the D-Pad to shift your entire package around. Sometimes it ends up with funny results (a blocking fullback with hands of stone on the perimeter, for instance), but overall it really lets you create mismatches. Bunching up receivers and watching defenders run into each other, providing you with a wide open completion, is a thing of beauty. I have a feeling a lot of guys who thought they were good at “Madden” will have to relearn the entire game. Throwing deep with safety help will quickly educate you on the finer points of NFL coverage, and trying to rocket a post route with a deep-zone linebacker will do the same. By the time you play 20 games on All-Madden in “Madden NFL 2005”, you will have a new appreciation for the passing game in the NFL, and that’s the highest compliment I can give it.
Quite possibly the best improvement to “Madden NFL 2005” is in this department. No longer do you have ten players who couldn’t find the football with both hands and a laser pointer. Oh no - now you have ten NFL-caliber players who will make intelligent plays on the football. Ratings actually matter (finally), and a shutdown corner will allow you to make some calls defensively that you would have never conceived of previously. Have a player like Chris McAlister covering the Z? Fine, he’s ok. Roll the safety coverage to the weak side, press the other receivers and dare the QB to throw it at McAlister. Chances are very good he’ll swat the ball or intercept it. A player like Charles Woodson is great at blanketing a receiver, but vulnerable to the intermediate hitch (as in real life). If they’re draped all over a receiver, a well-timed hitch route will give them just the room they need to fire it in and make the quick gain. A lesser corner will attempt to make a solid play on the ball, but might miss it half the time. A slower corner on a speed receiver like Marvin Harrison or Tory Holt is just asking to get peppered with the long ball (and the CPU will frequently light you up deep if you give it a reason to…another welcomed addition), which brings me to the long overdue defensive matchup ability. Want to assign Charles Woodson to shadow Harrison everywhere? It’s simple to do, and less cumbersome than the competition. Choose a receiver, and a popup box appears with the available corners listed. Choose a corner and you’re done. I haven’t seen any strange instances of receivers being completely uncovered (or on the opposite side of the field) either, so through all my games it’s been rock solid. Add to this a linebacker corps that will swat anything near them, as well as the ability to just play your man’s position. Ever had trouble timing that pesky “intercept” button properly? Worry no more. Now all you must do is get your man in position, and if you have auto-swat enabled, the CPU will make an intelligent play on the ball with the proper timing. Is it infallible? Of course not, but neither are NFL corners. I have yet to pull my hair out about anything in the pass defensive area, and for somebody like me, that’s a shock. If anything, the defenders might be a bit too good, but in the end, it all equalizes itself. You will make big plays in the passing game, and you will give up big plays. You’ll give up two-play drives and you’ll give up 18-play drives. It’s all possible in “Madden NFL 2005”, and once again, that’s the bottom line.
This is such a big addition that I felt it deserved its own section. Much of it has been covered, but it can’t be reiterated enough: defensive hot routes are better than sliced bread. Want to place the defensive ends in flat zones, while dropping the outside linebackers into shallow zones…then press the X receiver and double cover the Y? It takes about five seconds, and isn’t as cumbersome as the competition’s version. You can assign a specific man to blitz, play zone, a flat zone, or QB spy (and the QB spy is easy to understand…no debates on whether it works or whether America is just full of idiots who don’t understand football here). A simple press of Y and right on the D-Pad will align your defenders in man to man coverage over their assigned player. Squeezing the left trigger and then moving the right stick in any direction will fan, pinch, or stunt your defensive line post-snap without changing their pre-snap formation (which you can also do as in past years).
FEATURE SET AND OPTIONS
Franchise mode is once again the central emphasis for offline play. The new storyline central is something that I fully expected to be gimmicky and useless, but it actually turned out to be very integral to running your franchise. During preseason you get acclimated to all of the positional battles that you’re kept abreast of via newspaper clippings and emails. Probably the single coolest addition to the franchise mode, this is a game-within-a-game that lets you have a digital version of what we’ve all been doing in our dorky little minds for years. Start your long-time starter or put in the rookie? Switch running backs or not? Through the positional battles, all the major stats are tracked in a single, easy-to-view screen listing the winner and runner-up at various positions. I’ve been doing this in my head for years, creating fabricated drama in my little world each offseason. Now I no longer have to. Thank you, EA.
Another thing is trading. In my Raiders franchise, the San Diego Chargers were dealing with an unhappy Drew Brees early in the season. He was upset about being benched in favor of Philip Rivers, so they dealt him off to some other team. Had I not been reading the papers, I would have had no idea. Well, lo and behold, a couple weeks later Kerry Collins started moaning about the same thing, so I figured San Diego would be a solid choice. I surfed through both rosters and found that I could use a good blocking fullback and they needed a quarterback. I placed Collins on the trading block for a FB and a draft choice, and the Chargers jumped on it. I got rid of Collins, got a blocking fullback for the power running game, plus a 1st round draft choice in return. I’ve seen the same type of maneuvering in other franchises, but nothing as wacky as “ESPN’s” superstar trading system. I saw San Francisco give up the moon for Jon Kitna when he was unhappy (first and third round draft picks!). I thought it odd, but after more investigation it turned out that QB’s Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey both went down with season-ending injuries. I could now see why the Niners giving up almost anything to get Kitna in there. Bottom line: franchise mode is deep…I have barely begun to scratch the surface here. Restricted free agents, draft scouting, players that will email you about their status...all of this adds to the immersion. The player morale system is a new feature that has had major impact for me in various games. Before the week 3 matchup with the Buccaneers, Warren Sapp sent me an email telling me how psyched he was for facing his old team this week (now that was damn cool, let me tell you). Well, I didn’t play as Mr. Sapp at all that game. He posted 7 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 FF, and 1 FR. That is a hell of a game for anybody. I’m not sure if it was due to his email, but it sure came across like a stroke of genius. More time would be required to see if players switching teams has a major impact across the board, but given the short time EA gave me with “Madden NFL 2005”, that will have to be an experiment left to the masses.
I can’t find a thing to complain about in the franchise mode. Even stats looked close. Wherever you go, people will complain about stats. This is too high, this is too low, this is impossible…who’d have thought Marvin Harrison could catch 143 balls before it happened? Bottom line to me, stats just have to be close and believable, and they are in “Madden NFL 2005”. Just for example, I simulated a season after I started writing this paragraph, and here are the notable stat leaders:
- Peyton Manning led the league with a 94.5 rating. Not a QB over 100, but I can live with that. Considering only one QB (Steve McNair) bested 100 last year, and even then barely did it (100.4), I can certainly believe it. It’s all about believability, folks.
- Peyton also led the league in passing yardage and touchdowns (4,194 and 37). Not exactly unbelievable numbers…again.
- Jamal Lewis ripped off 1,852 yards on a 4.9 avg and 12 TD’s.
- In the lone “low” spot, Marvin Harrison and Ashley Lelie both grabbed 88 balls for 1,400 or so yards. Considering how hard it is to focus on one receiver this year (through five games my leading receiver had 29 catches), this is an acceptable sacrifice. I can’t envision getting 120 catches on All-Madden, so if the CPU guys were always catching 100+, I’d never have a Pro Bowl receiver. Once again, it’s believability. I won’t have to play like a cheesing moron to get a receiver in the Pro Bowl, forcing ball after ball into coverage and hoping he comes down with it.
- Anthony Simmons of the Seahawks recorded 142 tackles.
- Larry Chester had 14 sacks…I’m assuming the Dolphins were on “D” a lot (sorry Dol-fans, couldn’t help it).
- Aeneas Williams had 10 picks. Ty Law led the league in passes defended with 20.
- Hunter Smith led the league with a 45.3 punting average.
Notice a trend here? That’s from one randomly simulated season of play. That’s not simulating over and over to find something I can consider acceptable, that is just the norm. If somebody has something to say about “Madden’s” stat engine, then so be it. I would guess that it’s probably .01% of the population.
Rounding out the options would be the now-traditional Mini Camp mode, but the Rushing Attack was made its own entity. Now you can play against a friend in the rushing drill (even online on Xbox Live) as often as you want. It’s entertaining, but for most users I’m sure Franchise and the exquisite Owner’s Mode are where it’s at. Owner’s mode, by the way, is largely unchanged from last year. You can still move your team and change your staff/prices, and the uniform editor is as dull as ever. How you can include a feature like that, but not allow you to place logos on your helmet is beyond me. We’re not all Cleveland fans, guys. Another huge oversight is the ability to configure your controls. Why give users the ability to change their controller configurations, at least to presets, in previous years yet take it out this year? It’s almost inexcusable to some players. Most people don’t want to have controller issues flipping back and forth between “Madden” and “ESPN”. That could have been the entire point, though - I have no idea what went on there. Either way, it’s a flaw that may or may not affect you. It didn’t hurt me much, but I can imagine some users getting infuriated by it. By the time you get adjusted to it, learn the game, and start to dominate “Madden NFL 2005” offline, you get to the really fun stuff…online.
Unlike “NCAA Football 2005”, “Madden” plays beautifully on Xbox Live. Control is as crisp as offline, and you can really get into all sorts of games. I’ve had shootouts (30 points is considered a shootout now) and I’ve had shutouts. I’ve played players who tried to run all day with Vick (but got shut down), and I’ve played the 20-yard drop back players. Neither of those latter two options work very well. Throwing off your back foot will give the game away, and playing solid defense is the name of the game. The Fair Play option in ranked games has its pluses and minuses…you cannot do anything but punt or kick a field goal if on your side of the 50, and can only go for it if it’s fourth-and-two (or less) on the other side of the 50. However, it also won’t let you go for it before halftime, even if you were going to run out the clock on the final play. You can’t kick an onside kick if down by 21 in the first half, among other quibbles. Overall, it’s a huge step in the right direction, however.
Getting back to the actual games, it’s a sheer joy to play online. Fooling a person has never been so rewarding. The defenders all play very well, so if you get wide open plays or big completions, 90% of the time it’s due to good playcalling or execution. That’s exactly how it should be, in my opinion. I don’t want to call a full “Cover 2” only to watch what can only be explained as “confusion” in my secondary. These are supposed to be professional football players, and finally online play is dictated by who is calling the better plays and executing them. The leaderboards online track all the requisite win-loss information, as well as recent games, favorite playbook and formation, points for, points against, etc. It’s quite extensive and a lot of fun. EA has promised leagues in the future, with a lot of fluff in their “Premium Pass” service, but as of this writing, not much is known about it other than the press releases, which I trust about as much as my ex-wife. Online is more than solid though, which is more than I can say for “NCAA 2005”, for instance. If you’re an online football gamer, there’s nothing online that you will find that detracts from your enjoyment of the game…yet. What the future holds I cannot say, but I know right now I’ve never enjoyed online football more than the games I’ve played of “Madden NFL 2005” on Xbox Live.
And now I’ll attempt to answer the question everybody wants to know. Is it better than “ESPN NFL 2K5”? That’s a trick question the magnitude of which cannot be fathomed. For some, yes. For some, no. For me, I find the most enjoyment this year out of “Madden NFL 2005”. The majority of my online gaming time will be spent in Madden and nowhere else. The impressive leagues and individual stat tracking in “ESPN” leagues are a major selling point, and for good reason. Many users will prefer the running game in “ESPN” and the obvious presentation and graphical advantages it has. For me, though, it always comes back to which game I enjoy more. The past four seasons, it’s been “NFL2K” in its various names and on its various systems. This year, it has been replaced by “Madden”. Is “Madden” $30 better than “ESPN”? I don’t think so. Could “ESPN” have charged $50 as well? Without a doubt. The bottom line always comes down to what you’re willing to pay for the time you can spend with a game. In the case of “Madden”, it’s a hell of a lot of time.
The pinball running, even if you can circumvent it much of the time with the Y button, as well as the aging game engine knock this game 10% for me right away. The quick-to-judge reader obviously won’t read this article in its entirety and realize that I believe “Madden” is every bit as good as “ESPN”. I didn’t review both, and both are extremely good games with flaws in different areas. “ESPN” and “Madden” are both 4/5 games for me for different reasons. However, if I had to drop my money on one game this year (and only one game), then that game would be “Madden”…