Crispy Gamer

The Five: Madden NFL 09

The skinny: The 20th anniversary of the pigskin staple cleans up some plaguing issues and focuses on welcoming newcomers to videogame football while giving the hardcore Madden players a buffet of features.

1. Upon booting up the game, you'll undergo the Madden Test, which is a simple virtual trainer that determines your Madden IQ. A basic set of offensive and defensive mini-drills tailors your difficulty setting to your ability. As you improve (or suck) your IQ will be altered after each game you play.

2. Let's face it. The last few iterations of Madden have gotten so complicated that newbies have a real difficulty understanding how to actually play the game. From simple on-screen control icons to an EA Backtrack replay system that shows exactly how to improve on a botched play -- this is the first Madden game to help you learn how to play the game, as you play.

3. EA has flushed the craptacular generic local radio announcer in favor of Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond. While we would like to have our favorite turducken-sucking fiend John Madden as a third chair, it's about damn time this was improved.

4. The visuals have plagued the series since it transitioned to next-gen, and EA Sports has reworked the once sloppy player animation engine. It may have taken three years, but Madden NFL 09 looks and plays more fluidly than any previous Madden to date.

5. Since Brett Favre can't pull his head out of his ass enough to decide to become unretired, the game allows you to make the decision for him. Put acne-infested, mullet-sporting Aaron Rodgers back on the bench and have Brett return home to the Packers. Or do the unthinkable -- trade him to the Vikings. Hell, after all his song and dance of late he almost deserves the punishment. Almost.

A happy anniversary: Ever since EA Sports swallowed the NFL franchise until 2038, many were concerned that they would sit on their laurels since they had no competition. However, Madden NFL 09 is finally looking to be the fully featured game Madden players came to expect on the current generation of hardware. While we still have to sink our teeth into the franchise modes, and try our hand at some online matches, Madden NFL 09 is shaping up quite well.

This preview is based on hands-on play with the final build of the game.