reviews\ Aug 22, 2004 at 8:00 pm

Madden NFL 2005 - GC - Review

All over America, Bratwursts are defrosting, belt buckles are loosening, and girlfriends are getting dumped.  Yes, it’s that manliest time of the year, the beginning of the football season and the release of the latest installment of the top-selling Madden Football franchise from EA Sports.  Spanning four platforms, Madden 2005 should once again be the best-selling game of the year because of its brand name, fantastic gameplay, and its dedicated legion of fans.  Madden gets better every year, but some years the jump isn’t quite as high as previous years, making the only real attraction the updated rosters and a few graphical enhancements.  Aside from a few improvements, this year happens to be one of those years. 


Because of bloated scores from last year’s version, developer Tiburon Studios wanted the main focus of 2005 to be defense, defense, defense.  Spearheading the effort is coverboy and offensive nightmare Ray Lewis, who brings his ‘tough as a two-dollar steak’ attitude to Madden 2005.  With the addition of the Hit Stick, individual defensive adjustments, and bigger payoffs for defensive gambles, Madden 2005 is clearly a more well-rounded game than in the past.  With a lot of practice and patience, every gamer can be the Tony Dungy of the league. 


The Hit Stick is the best addition to the Madden franchise in a while.  As a long time proponent of defense in the game, this feature really allows defensive-minded players to be rewarded for completely shutting down a play.  In short, the Hit Stick lets defensive players pummel ball carriers (or would be ball carriers) with bone-crunching, spine-compacting, organ-rupturing hits from the Ronnie Lott era that even players’ grandmas would feel.  With a simple flick of the C-stick (any direction will do – EA was very lenient with this one), the defensive player will absolutely lay out the nearby ball carrier.  And boy oh boy does it feel good.  These hits will in turn increase the chances of a fumble, incomplete pass, injury, and humiliation.  There is of course a risk-reward system here, and a hit must be lined up pretty close to right on to be effective, otherwise it’s the defender who is humiliated. 


EA also finally updated the strip ball feature in the game.  Instead of tapping away frantically at the Z button, GameCube owners can now just hold the Z button down when meeting a ball carrier to induce a “stripping-tackle” – no, Simeon Rice won’t be taking off his jersey when he tackles – that makes an attempt at a strip while tackling, a kind of hacking at the arm to force a fumble.  There is a risk-reward system here as well, as slippery offensive players can weasel their way out of this risky takedown. 


Defensive gamers who felt stifled by the limited defensive adjustments pre-snap will love the new individual on-field adjustments.  Returning are the line shifts, linebacker shifts, and defensive back adjustments, which allowed gamers to adjust the unit’s defensive behavior, but this year’s version allows more.  By cycling through the various defensive players, gamers can control the defensive strategy for an individual player.  For example, your cornerback is constantly getting torched by Randy Moss.  You prefer a man under defense with your safeties playing a soft zone, but know the Moss is probably going to be getting this pass.  What do you do?  Pre-snap, switch over to your strong safety, press Y, then press the button that corresponds to Moss (most likely X as he plays the strong side), and press right on the directional pad.  This will put your strong safety into double coverage on Moss, and hopefully stop the hemorrhaging.  Likewise, you can also play cornerbacks individually into bump n’ run or soft coverage.  Furthermore, any player can be selected to blitz (good for surprise), play a flat zone (good for protecting against a HB screen), or spy the QB (good for scramblers like Michael Vick).  All these adjustments, along with the hit stick, are definitely a step up for the defensive side of the game, but it’s important to know that not just anyone can step in and be a defensive monster.  The defensive pluses are not automatically inherent in the game, it will take a while for gamers to learn all the possibilities, and because most of them need to be worked in before the snap, it takes quick fingers to get your adjustments in before the offense snaps the ball. 


A few other additions basically add a little bit of flair to the general aesthetic of the game, but only superficially.  Create-A-Fan mode is the pinnacle of superficiality, being little more than a time-waster.  Fans come in all shapes and sizes, and this feature permits gamers to outfit a “Super Fan.”  Give him face paint, hard hats, team specific gear.  When you’ve finished creating him, watch him go nuts in the cutscenes of your franchise mode.  That’s it.  Seriously, that’s it.  Storyline Central is a basic summary of what’s going on in Franchise Mode.  Coaches can figure out what’s going in the league by reading the newspaper, checking e-mails, and listening to the Tony Bruno Radio Show.  Though underdeveloped now, this new feature has a lot of potential.  By skimming through national and local newspapers, coaches might read articles about game recaps, Eli Manning winning the QB battle over Kurt Warner, or players complaining about not getting any playing time.  Internal affairs are dealt with through e-mail.  A player may be happy about a decision the coach made and let him know via e-mail.  Other e-mail may explain the importance of prestige and how to help it.  The Tony Bruno Radio Show is sportstalk radio that really doesn’t accomplish a whole lot.  Bruno will talk about very generic happenings around the league, and talk to callers about a team’s situation or ask trivia questions.  Most of the valuable information in Storyline Central comes from the e-mails, and even that information is marginal.  Features almost always get better with each year in Madden, so we can only hope that next year will be a great improvement for Storyline Central. 


The mini-games are back, and include Two Minute Drill, Mini-Camp, and the all-new Rushing Attack.  Two Minute Drill challenges teams to score as many times as they can in two minutes.  Points are awarded for scoring, successful plays, and stopping the clock by running out of bounds.  This year, teams can finally play head to head instead of making the computer play all the defense.  It’s a good mode for buddies who want to get their Madden kicks in but don’t have enough time for a whole game.  Mini-Camp is identical to last year’s version.  Players run through drills in almost all aspects of the game, trying to score enough points to unlock the next difficulty while earning Madden Cards along the way.  Rushing Attack takes the Ground Attack and Chase and Pursue drills from Mini-Camp and puts ‘em together for an incredibly entertaining head-to-head mini-game.  One team is rushing with a few running backs and blocking dummies and one team has a few defensive players trying to stop the offense.  It may be a simple addition to the game, but it’s loads of fun to play against a buddy.  


Graphically, a few changes have been made.  The biggest difference in the game is with the player models.  Physical size has been really revamped.  Little guys are now little guys and big men are really big men.  Priest Holmes looks like a mouse when he runs by the giant offensive line with the new changes.  In most cases, this works very well, but occasionally a graphical glitch causes the linemen to flicker, a problem that really should have been fixed before this game shipped.  Day to night effects have been added to great success.  As late afternoon games progress to evening games, stadium lights will turn on, and the orangish glow of dusk will show.  Aside from these two differences, the game looks remarkably similar to Madden 2004.


The audio portion of the game has been changed very little.  In fact, it seems as though the play-byplay hasn’t changed a lick in years.  Many of Madden’s quips are getting very tired.  The soundtrack is another mix mash of rock and hip hop, with standouts being alterna-rockers Franz Ferdinand and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will I. Am.  The stadium sounds, particularly the sound of playing in a dome, is a bit better, but nothing really stands out. 


The GameCube version is clearly the least desirable version of the Big Three consoles.  Not only is there no online option, but a lot of the presentation seems to have been left off the GC version.  There are no tutorials, less My Madden features, and skimpier presentation in the menu screens. 


Madden 2005 is once again another quality football title.  The new defensive adjustments are great, but little has changed from last year’s title.  Casual fans of the series don’t need to rush out and buy this title for the GameCube, particularly because there is no online option.  However, Madden die-hards will probably see enough in this version to warrant a purchase.  But let’s face it, if you are a Madden die-hard and only a GameCube owner, you’ve got the wrong console.   


Review Scoring Details for Madden NFL 2005 - GameCube


Gameplay: 9.5

Still the best gameplay of any football game.  The defensive adjustments are a great addition, but the game is the same at its core.


Graphics: 8.8

ESPN NFL 2K5 looks a lot better, but Madden is no slouch.  Not much new except for player models (which have their own issues) and some lighting differences. 


Sound: 8.5

If you close your eyes and just listen to the game, you’d swear you were playing Madden 2004, or even Madden 2003.  The Tony Bruno Radio Show is the only new audio in the game.  The soundtrack is once again mediocre, a few good ones and a lot of bad ones. 


Difficulty: Medium

The individual defensive assignments add another layer of strategy, upping the difficulty slightly, but little has changed between last year’s version.


Concept: 7.0

At least the other consoles get much needed sturdy online options.  Madden 2005 is conceptually the same as last year’s version, with Rushing Attack being the only great addition to the game. 


Multiplayer: 9.4

Beating friends at Madden has become the equivalent of having a nicer car, a better job, and a finer girlfriend.  Multiplayer is the only way to go.


Overall: 8.8

Madden 2005 doesn’t disappoint, but it clearly doesn’t improve a whole lot from last year’s stellar version.  It is still the best playing football game on the market however, and seems cemented in the idea of the “If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it” mentality.  The GameCube version should be the last option for multi-console owners, however, as online options are nil and some of the bonus extras have been omitted from the ‘Cube. 


For those who absolutely LOVE the Madden franchise, 2005 is absolutely worth fifty bucks, even though the changes from last year’s version aren’t game-breaking.  The addition of defensive adjustments balances the game out for hard-core enthusiasts and you’ll still be presented with excellent gameplay, updated rosters, and better graphics consistent with each new version of Madden.  But for those who don’t spend their entire Autumn running franchise after franchise, this may be a year to skip out ala Ricky Williams.  In short, Madden 2005 plays more like an expansion pack of Madden 2004 than its own unique title. 




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