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The Nintendo Wii has become the ultimate gaming console for the casual video game fan. The Madden football series, on the other hand, has been the choice of hardcore gridiron enthusiasts for roughly two decades. In Madden NFL 09 All-Play, Electronic Arts has looked to cater to both audiences, combining the depth of a traditional football Sim with the pick-up-and-play fun of something like Wii Sports. As a longtime Madden fan, I was considerably skeptical about this "best of both worlds" approach, but after spending some quality time with the latest Nintendo Wii football offering, I can confidently say that my doubts were unfounded. This is a quality video game that will definitely appeal to all types of gamers.
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As with previous Nintendo Wii entries in this series, the thing that makes Madden 09 truly special is the control scheme. The game requires use of both the Wiimote and Nunchuck to play. Most standard movements are done using the control stick on the Nunchuck attachment, and different buttons make you switch which player you control, or can make your player dive, spin and so on. Of course, motion controls also come into play, and are used to take the snap, pass or catch the ball, throw a stiff arm, block an opposing player, things like that. Even the third time around, there's nothing quite like the experience of getting up out of your seat and playing a football video game that allows you to go through actual football movements. The controls are spot on and a whole lot of fun.
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The basic Madden options are all here, including selectable difficulty levels, the ability to change quarter length, and so forth. In terms of play modes, gamers can either choose to participate in an exhibition game or opt to tackle the deeper Franchise or NFL Superstar modes, which thankfully have not suffered in the least during the transition over to a more family-friendly focus. In fact, this time around, an NFL Superstar candidate can be imported from the Wii version of NCAA Football 09, created from scratch, or in an interesting twist, could be an actual 2008 NFL rookie. This has long been my favorite way to play in the Madden franchise, and things are no different this year. Being able to customize a player, lead him through the NFL Draft and ultimately into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is hopelessly addicting to anyone who has ever had a dream of one day playing professional football. EA Sports has delivered with the kind of depth that longtime fans of the series have come to expect.
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There are a ton of new features in Madden 09 as well, most of which will appeal to casual gamers more than the hardcore football types. For example, the 5-on-5 play mode features cute, big-headed players battling it out on a smaller field, with the first team to score a set amount of touchdowns winning the game. Party Mode is another new addition, combining 5-on-5 with a trivia contest and more 22 different two-to-four player games based on kicking, catching the ball, running routes, covering wide-outs, tackling, blocking, returning kicks and so on. In this style of play, each gamer picks his or her Mii character before playing, and the game keeps track of wins and losses as well as other statistics.
Madden 09 All-Play also, thankfully, features a deep online play mode. During play tests of this feature, it was very easy to connect to the servers and find opponents, which can be players with whom you've traded friend codes but don't have to be. Players are also represented by their Mii characters in this play mode as well, and the game also keeps detailed performance statistics and leaderboards. Updated rosters are also downloadable by connecting to the online mode, and the EA Messenger allows individuals to send emails to friends. It's not possible to go over all of the gameplay changes in great detail, so things like the ability to bluff a play call during local multiplayer and the ability to use the Wiimote like a telestrator only warrant brief mentions. That said, one of the cooler additions to the 2009 version of Madden Football is the new Call Your Shot gadget. By using Call Your Shot in-game, players can use the remote pointer to change a receiver's route. It basically allows gamers to call their own audibles, and it is absolute genius. All things considered, the game is simply loaded with content and features.
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Graphics and Sound
Sadly, the game doesn't score quite so well in terms of visual and audio quality. The game certainly looks quite good for a Wii game, but it still unsurprisingly pales in comparison to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Madden 2009. The game is certainly bright and colorful, and the fact that different modes alternate between realistic and cartoonish graphics is a nice feature. As in past Wii editions of the game, the game includes a wealthy of music, including both classic NFL Films tunes and offerings from such popular artists as The Offspring, Busta Rhymes and the All-American Rejects. Better yet, each can be toggles on or off based to individual tastes. As always, the commentary by Al Michaels and John Madden is solid, albeit sometimes repetitive, and both the crowd noises and the player chatter help add to the overall package. Perhaps it's being overly generous, but considering the Wii's hardware limitations, the graphics and sound are rated to be better than average, and thus the game earns four stars in this category.
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If their goal with Madden NFL 09 All-Play was to create a game that bridged the gap between the casual and the hardcore player, then EA Sports has succeeded beyond the shadow of a doubt. 5-on-5 and Party Mode allow for pick-up-and-play fun, while the Franchise and NFL Superstar modes offer immense depth and hours upon hours of gameplay potential. Some hardcore fans will be put off by the revised playbook and the heavy Mii integration, but on the whole the online play and the picture-perfect controls more than make up for this relatively minor gripe. There is no doubt that the most recent Wii-specific version of Madden is an outstanding piece of software that quite easily earns a five-star rating from this reviewer.