Aside from the Superbowl perhaps, there’s only one other thing that hardcore NFL videogame fans eagerly await year in and year out. That thing is Madden NFL.

This year marks the 20th coming of the beloved virtual pigskin franchise, and suffice to say, nothing but excellence oozes out of it. Years of refinement and a brand new level of visual polish make this the Madden to end all Maddens— until next year that is.

Review your Play with Rewind Feature

In the graphics department, previous Madden games weren’t exactly what you’d call abhorring or ugly—far from that, in fact. But this year’s Madden really shows off what the video game consoles of this generation can do. Everything in the game, from the arenas and crowds to the players themselves, has been given a major facelift.

The little visual cues that really draw us into a game are all there. For instance, play one game set under snowy weather, and you’ll agree that snow has never looked this cool or this real in a video game. The way the mud sticks onto the player’s jersey when playing in the rain looks like the real thing too. Dozens more graphical eye candy can be found in the game, but you’ll have to experience them for yourself to see what I mean. Madden NFL 09 proves that it’s really the little things that immerse us into a game.

Once you see the game in full motion, you’ll be drawn in even more. The animation is as smooth as a baby’s bottom and as fluid as any you’ve ever seen. Jerky movements are very, very rare, and it’s mostly realistic-looking interceptions, touchdowns and takedowns.

As any gamer will tell you, graphics and presentation, although important matters, are only about half the equation. But as any gamer will also tell you, the Madden NFL franchise already knows that. Madden NFL 09 is very, very near gaming gridiron perfection. Its gameplay is fast, furious, and exciting without being reckless. You get the feeling that you’re totally in control of the situation, even under intense pressure. Much of that stems from the fact that the controls of this game are very intuitive and easy to learn. Trying to spin out of tackles, fumble recoveries and passing can be executed without having to ask yourself which buttons do what again. The game even has a Rewind feature that you can use to re-do and review a play, see what went wrong, and what you can do to improve.

The A.I. presents quite a challenge too, and in the higher difficulty levels, you’re going to need to diversify your attack and not just rely on the same money plays over and over again. Online play is included once you’ve mastered playing against the CPU.

To summarize everything, Madden NFL 09 is simply a must-buy for sports fans everywhere.

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Contributed by Daniel Gonzales, Product Reviewer