August 30, 2008
The Madden NFL series by Electronic Arts (EA) is the best-selling football game series of all time, reaching a milestone of 20 years (1989-2009). Before the latest Madden NFL release on August 12, 2008, EA launched an advertising campaign (commercials, trailers, teasers), depicting how great the gameplay would be and how fans would be satisfied. Due to its 20th year anniversary, the publicity was robust like never before, causing many loyal fans to salivate and await its arrival. But did EA bring the goods with Madden NFL 09? Absolutely not! Not only did EA not deliver the goods, but EA delivered a game filled with glitches and freezing issues.
With many problems found by consumers during the first week of its release, consumers started venting their frustration on many Internet video game forums and YouTube. Learning of the complaints, EA said it would investigate the issue and provide a patch (e.g., “patch 1”).
On August 26, 2008, EA published an article-like blog by Ian Cummings (Senior Designer, Madden NFL 2010) on its site, titled “Two Weeks of Madden NFL 09,” explaining how “patch 2” will remedy some problems. This article is facetiously interesting and will be quoted herein when necessary.
This review will comprehensively detail the most important issue (i.e., the freezing bug) in the latter, while other glitches are addressed early on.
The line of scrimmage (LOS) limit is useless during gameplay. The quarterback can scramble from the backfield while being pressured, pass the line of scrimmage and complete a pass to his receiver without any penalty. More devastating to the defense is this: the defensive back (DB) breaks coverage and leave the receiver wide open, causing the QB to complete a deep pass.
To combat this glitch, Senior Designer Cummings states:
“We addressed this by making sure the DB will no longer break on the ball when the QB crosses the line while throwing.”
This means that the QB crossing the line of scrimmage (even though it is a violation/penalty) will remain in the gameplay, while the defensive back stay with his man and not break coverage.
USELESS PLAYER RATINGS
This glitch is perhaps the most disheartening glitch during gameplay. Players’ ratings are put in the game for a reason and expected to have an impact and mean something, but they do not mean anything. EA developers added the ratings for the hell of it and for show – knowing they will be useless on the field and hoping gamers would not realize its uselessness. There have been many instances where QBs run over defenders and dishrag them around as if the defenders are Barbie Dolls. During a game against the New York Jets, QB Chad Pennington trucks DE Jason Taylor and then MLB Channing Crowder, and was later gang tackled. Such nonsense like this does not happen in real life and never would; it’s impossible, especially against DE Taylor.
To show how useless and unrealistic the players’ ratings are, three of these players will be evaluated. Because there are so many attributes, only the important ones will be mentioned: Overall, Strength, Trucking, and Tackle.
QB Chad Pennington’s (6’3”/255 LBS) ratings: Overall: 81; Strength: 49; Trucking: 40; Tackle: 14.
DE Jason Taylor’s (6’6”/260 LBS) ratings: Overall: 98; Strength: 77; Trucking 10; Tackle: 80.
MLB Channing Crowder’s (6’2”/242 LBS) ratings: Overall: 85; Strength: 77; Trucking: 10; Tackle: 89.
The disparity in Jason’s and Crowder’s trucking compared to Pennington’s is fickle and quite funny. How can a QB have a better trucking attribute than defensive players? Moreover, how could the strength of both Taylor and Crowder have no ability to render a tackle when their strengths are higher? Quarterbacks are not known for their trucking ability because they don’t truck. When QBs break the line of scrimmage, they run for yards and slide on the ground or run out-of-bounds to avoid a hit (that’s common), so for Pennington to have a trucking ability is fantasy; he doesn’t even have the strength to truck.
Although he rarely did, it would be believable if a former QB like Michael Vick trunks and abuses a defender because he has the speed, agility, power, elusiveness, and more. In fact, he was known for making players look silly on the gridiron, but Pennington and other present QBs? It won’t happen. It’s foolish.
Strangely, there are even punters/kickers who have better trucking ratings than defensive players, making this glitch even more absurd: Dolphins’ B. Fields, 45; Eagles’ S. Rocca, 74; Jaguars’ A. Podlesh, 35, etc. Never have a punter truck anybody in the NFL; it if occurred, it was rare. Basically, anyone can truck and throw aside any player in this game; the difficulty levels (even on All Madden) and ratings mean nothing. The physics is severely broken and means nothing.
The tackling ability is poor at best. There is no other way to say it, because the tackling EA implemented this year is not authentic. Everyone (especially CPU) in this game seems to have the ability to breakaway and spin away from unexplainable easy tackles like never before, even when tackled by two players simultaneously. All the players on the field appear to be on superman mode. A player such as a RB can actually get hit by a defender, fall back and lose leverage, and without even putting his hand on the ground to gain his balance, he breaks the tackle(s) and continues running. The Laws of Physics demonstrate that such occurrence can not happen. This kind of absurdity can happen with any player, from a QB to a WR, from a DB to a PR. Don’t weight, force, leverage, power, motion, and other physical mechanics matter anymore?
Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders (the best RB in NFL’s history) defied the laws of physics by doing some incredible things – and simply murdering and making his defenders look foolish: breaking 3 to 4 tackles at the same time; leaving his feet and landing on his feet; losing leverage and mysteriously rebounding; breaking heel tackles; trucking defenders; sniff-arming defenders with ease; escaping from two defenders while wrapped up; making defenders embarrassingly jump one way as he gained more yards or scored a touchdown; dragging defenders forward as he ran, etc. It wouldn’t be problematic if a few players had some of these abilities, but everyone on the field? Not only do players embody Sanders’ unique motif, but their uniform seems to be drenched with Vaseline, which makes tackling a chore.
In Madden NFL 08, the user catch was good and not so irritating. This year’s Madden version is a different story. Under user control, a WR can run down the field open and have a clean bomb, but once the ball is about to be caught, the WR jumps up and does a strange spin-catch, allowing defenders to gain ground and make a tackle. There is no way a WR can be running downfield alone at full speed and mysteriously turn around and do a spin-catch, when he could have easily continue his stride and catch the ball by turning his head around. (At times, the WR doesn’t even react to the ball, even if it’s at arm’s reach, when he is guided by the user.) Maybe this happens because the QB leads the WR poorly by throwing a bad pass, which is a common problem too, but it still shouldn’t happen because receivers don’t react in such manner when catching the ball.
The spin-catch affects the offense tremendously and seems to be an often occurrence. Spin-catches are done in real life, but the way EA executed this feature is unrealistic. When a receiver lines up and does a slant route, he does not jump and spin, showing his back when the ball is in the air, to catch it. In a slant route, a WR runs to the ball and reach out for a catch; if the ball is thrown high (beyond his ability to catch it), then he jumps for the ball with his face focused on the position of the ball in order to catch it. A receiver never turns his back, losing the sight of the football, and catches it in slant routes. It’s neither possible nor is it logical.
Moreover, there have been times when a simple screen play is done and, for some reason, the RB spins and jumps and catches the ball by turning around for no reason. There is no way to explain why uncanny stuff like this occurs, and why EA implemented a dismal/impractical spin-catch feature when the game is marketed as a “real” football simulation.
By definition, artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer to execute functions that usually require human intelligence. No one expects the AI to be perfect, because humans are not perfect. However, people don’t expect AI to lack the intelligence of common sense, and that’s what they lack in this latest installment. They don’t block nor do they care to block; they stand around and investigate the scene as if they are FBI agents; they miss easy interceptions by not putting up their hands, and more. These unresponsive issues are a headache. The user can only control one player at a time instead of his entire team, so he expects computer assistance. Sometimes they act on impulse, and most of the time they don’t. When the latter occurs, it is simply a mess.
For example, when a RB play is called, an offensive lineman (OL) could be directly in front of him as he runs and for some strange reason, the OL moves out the way and just stands there, leaving his own teammate defenseless while defenders are converging. Why would an OL abandon a block and simply stand there or aid another OL hold off a defender that is irrelevant to the play, allowing his RB to be tackled? This lack of common sense is mind-boggling, and would never happen in a real life football game. This is not AI; this is what I call PD, Pure Dumbness.
In Madden NFL 04 and 05, EA added a great feature that allowed anyone running with the ball to facilitate a lead block by pointing his hand, which was great for RBs (unlike the pointless OL Lead Blocking feature). Strangely, this feature was gone in the later installment. This is what EA is known for; developers put a feature in one year and it vanishes the following year.
The AI flaws occur in every aspect of the game. For example, on offense, a WR could be the intended target and when the ball is in the air, he doesn’t even try to catch it. He doesn’t even react to the ball. Many times, the ball hits him directly in the back. Every WR knows that when the ball is in the air, he needs to react and attempt to catch it, or knock it down if the defender is in position for an interception. Therefore, why is this realism not in the game?
Another case in point occurs on defense when the DB has a clear-cut interception and doesn’t even put his hands up to catch the ball. Because of such stupidity and lack of common sense, the ball hits him directly in the face or chest. This is what gets one’s veins boiling. At least attempt to catch the ball. If things like these occurred in the NFL with a WR or DB, he would get a tongue-lashing from his coaches and probably released the following week.
EA claims to have enhanced the AI yearly, but it is slim at best because there’s really no headway. In truth, the AI in Madden has been stuck on pure dumbness for years (even when the AI slider is at its max) and it continues in the latest installment – and developers at EA haven’t done anything to address the problem.
The offense appears to be in extreme hyperactive mode with every snap. The user barely has enough time to adjust and setup his defense because the computer hikes the ball too quickly (no more than 2 seconds majority of the time). The offense seems to be in hurry-up mode every single play. It’s an annoyance. The only time this quick-snap glitch is not problematic is when the WR goes in motion or when the QB calls an audible, for it allows the user enough time to fix his defense accordingly.
WR DIRECT SNAP
This glitch has to be one of the most ridiculous glitches ever seen in a football game. It is outright fatuous, unreal, and impossible. When one is on offense, he can exploit this glitch by snapping the ball to a wide receiver, surprising the defense and getting easy yards. Such play like this does not even occur in real life football, because it is impossible to pull off such feat. There is no way a center can snap a football between his legs to a wide receiver when positioned horizontally yards away, so for a glitch of suchlike to creep its way into the game is strangely unprofessional.
To combat this unrealistic glitch, Cummings states:
“Not only are we fixing this play (i.e. we aren’t removing it)…”
Rather than eliminating this glitch altogether, he makes a clear contradictory statement by stating it will not be removed but will be fixed, which makes one wonder if it will be altered at all.
RAIN AFFECTING UNIFORM DEGRADATION
The precipitation in the game is incredible; the graphics are amazing. However, the rain affects the degradation of both teams uniform too much, causing all players on the field to look like twins, literally. What does this cause? Confusion. In fact, when players of both teams become dirty via mud, it is nearly impossible to recognize the user team from the opposing team (when the 3rd quarter begins), whether it be on offense or on defense.
The rain having influence on teams’ uniforms occurs in real life football, so it is great. But this rain issue that has everyone on the field looking similar when they are muddy is irritating and unreal. The only way one can recognize his team is by the helmets, and even that is difficult at times. For those who think this is far-fetched, play a game in the rain and it will be telling. For EA technicians to not catch such glitch shows how pathetic their work ethic is.
Having one foot inbounds or out-of-bounds in the game is irrelevant. A QB can throw a pass to a WR and rather it being an incomplete pass, it is considered a completed catch. One foot in and one foot out is an incomplete catch, but the game does not recognize that concept. (The same nonsense occurs in Madden NFL 08.) At times, a WR can be completely out-of-bounds, come inbounds and catch the ball, and it’s completed.
One would think the Challenge Play feature would aid this problem by reversing the call, but it too seems to be broken. When an out-of-bounds catch is challenged, it fails to recognize that the play was indeed incomplete and does not change the bad call. It happens all the time and nothing can be done about this glitch. What’s the point of the Challenge Play feature when such fundamental concept is not recognized?
The NFL has a strict rule regarding uniforms. Teams must have a home uniform and away uniform. It seems that EA rejected that rule and came up with its own rules. For example, Miami Dolphins plays with the same all-white uniform in home games and road games. After playing several games, it became apparent that Miami sported only its all-white uniform, including throughout the Franchise.
Miami Dolphins’ all-white uniform is actually a default for its home and away games. It doesn’t matter which team Miami plays nor does it matter if it is a home or road game, the all-white uniform will be selected. The only way to fight this uniform issue is to select another jersey manually. Embarrassingly, developers didn’t even add Dolphins’ road uniform, its white jersey and aqua pants.
If Miami has this problem, it’s pretty evident that other teams may have the same issue as well. Yes, this may be a minor issue, but it shows that developers don’t care about details. They completely ignored the concept of home and road uniforms and did whatever they pleased.
JERKS/PAUSES IN GAMEPLAY
The gameplay is uncanny and feels unreal because it has a lack of fluency. Things are not as smooth as they should be; the movement of gameplay is somewhat slow. Majority of the time after a play, the players pause for about two seconds and quickly jerk back. Another jerky issue occurs when a player breaks away and is about to score; as he runs, he pauses shortly and then gains speed. This hitch is clearly visible because the player legs start moving faster. Naturally, one does not pause to gain speed while running; one continues at pace which allows acceleration.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the hurry-up offense (no huddle). When the no huddle is employed, the QB lags behind while all of his players are set and ready. For instance, A QB can complete 40-yard pass down the field, and when the no huddle is used, all of his offensive linemen make it to the line of scrimmage, while he lags behind. Offensive linemen are heavy and bulky players whose job is strenuous because they have to block defenders from getting to the QB – and they can run down the field faster and get to the line of scrimmage before the QB? It’s unrealistic and uses up time. In fact, the offensive linemen should be the ones who lag behind (and not the QB) like in real life. This no-huddle glitch has been a fixture in the Madden series for years and it has not addressed by EA developers.
The lag doesn’t only occur in gameplay but so too the play call screen when exiting the menu. To combat this glitch, Cummings state:
“We found and fixed a bug that was causing a noticeable hitch when exiting the play call screen.”
This fix sounds good, but the gameplay lag is much more important, and he fails to mention anything about it. People would much rather have a lag exiting the play screen rather than in gameplay, especially when the lagging issue at times causes the game to freeze.
Moreover, lagging happens when one is cycling through the menu, especially in Franchise mode. The Franchise feature is broken itself, which will be addressed shortly, and the long delay (while flipping through menus and stats) makes it even worse. Every stat menu takes about five seconds to appear after it is selected, which is ridiculously annoying. Although these lagging issues are clearly visible in gameplay and menus, EA developers failed to recognize them or didn’t bother to fix them before the game was released, which says a lot about their quality control.
There are other glitches that will not be mentioned because the most important issue must be addressed: the FREEZING issue.
This glitch is the biggest killer. The freezing occurs in Play Now and in every area of the game at random, but where it happens the most is in Franchise mode. It affects the Franchise mode tremendously and happens constantly, 100% of the time.
As a Dol-fan, the team of choice in Franchise was the Miami Dolphins. In Season 1, everything was going fine (including the “Training” mode) until the latter. Around week 14, the Training mode and games being played started freezing. The freezing in Training mode happens when one leaves the menu to see their players’ earned points. When one continues to the player’s two earned points, it just freezes (bringing back memories from Madden NFL 07 and 08).
Frustrating as this glitch was, the console (Xbox 360) was turned off and restarted. The Franchise was loaded and Training mode was tried again, and the same thing occurred. Again, the console was turned off and restarted. Rather than going back to Training mode, it was skipped, opting to only play the game.
From then on, only the games were being played without training any players. Subsequently, the games started to freeze up too. In fact, I played the same team three times because it was continuously freezing; one game froze in the 4th quarter, but I remained persistent with anger. With all of these difficulties, Season 1 was finally completed.
Season 2 is when things really started to act up. The game started to freeze while trades were being executed, while players were being signed, and the whole roster adjustments. After some turning off and restarting the console, my roster was finally set for pre-season. Training mode was tried again, and again it failed via freeze. Instead of wasting time trying to combat this annoying glitch, the entire pre-season was simulated. This is where it gets worse.
I enter Season 2 and play game one. The 15-minute quarter game goes well without any glitch; I return to the menu and attempt to use the Quick Save feature, and it freezes. No longer could my anger be contained. My controller nearly flew out of my hands and into the TV screen. And yes, several expletives were said, especially having difficulties prior. Trying to simulate the week thereafter with the Quick Save feature still didn’t help because it froze.
This is when troubleshooting mood took priority. Each game was simulated one by one which worked. However, every time simulation (and Quick Save) was used to advance to week 2, the game froze. This method was tried more than ten times straight and it failed. Trying to save the game the normal way also failed because it froze. In other words, there is absolutely no way to advance to the following week, because it freezes in simulation and during saving.
Trying to find some answers, Training mode was selected again and, this time, the game froze while showing the NFL facts. The Training mode can not be entered, period. The game freezes in every aspect of Franchise. After trying so many things, the conclusion was simple: there is no way to fight this issue. For example, a new Franchise was started and it too froze. Moreover, the game disc was exchanged for another new one, and the same thing continued to occur, proven that the game is, in fact, broken, poorly developed, and has a major freezing bug.
The calendar year reads 2008 and quickly moving to 2009. This is not the year of Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo when games used to freeze when someone walks by the console, when thunder strikes, when rainstorm occurs, when construction is nearby, or when one makes a subtle movement with the controller. Back then, people even had to combat freezing issues by blowing into the game cartridge, and putting it into the freezer for a few minutes. Those years are gone and game discs have taken priority, so freezing issues should not be happening constantly.
This freezing issue with the Franchise is not new at all (EA knows about it), because Madden NFL 08 and 07 had the same problem. This is what makes the issue more troubling, because EA has not addressed this ongoing glitch. How could developers not remedy an issue that was problematic in prior versions? Surprisingly, Cummings’ article-like blog says nothing promising about the freezing Franchise, nor do developers know the main culprit of the problem as the article states:
“On a side note, there is also a Franchise stability issue that we have been investigating, and we are working feverishly to get this figured out.” .
The way Cummings addresses the issue with “on a side note,” shows that EA doesn’t care too much about the problem. The article proves that because it touches on little issues (field problems, penalty sliders, etc.) and not the major ones.
The majority of gamers don’t care about field degradation or the ineffectiveness of penalty sliders. Those are trivial issues. Gamers want a pure game that plays without freezing. Knowing that the issues mentioned in his blog are not so important compared to others, Cummings states:
“There are always going to be folks that are upset if what they felt was a top issue wasn’t addressed, but I’ll state again (as I have before) that we have to keep balancing this work against Madden NFL 2010.”
He is absolutely correct because people do have the right to be upset, mainly for two reasons: First, the most important issue which is the freezing was not seriously addressed; and second, people paid $64.19 for a game that is broken, nearly $100 if they purchased the collector’s edition. Clearly, those are grounds to be upset. To bring light to this pathetic situation, he brings up Madden NFL 2010. Who cares about Madden NFL 2010 when the latest version is riddled with bugs?
His following statement is even funnier:
“The longer we keep going on patches, the less we can add to the following year’s product.”
This statement sounds as if the customers are to blame – and not EA – for requesting a patch to remedy a situation that should have been taken care of before the game’s release. In regard to add-ons to next year’s Madden, it’ll perhaps be limited, with better graphics and an updated roster. In other words, EA will most likely not fix anything and put out a similar game without any major progression.
In reality, the most important and exciting feature in Madden is the Franchise, for it allows the users to play ultimate manager by playing owner of a team of his choosing. Without Franchise, Madden would be useless and boring – and the masses would not gravitate toward the game. The Franchise feature allows people to achieve some feats with players and their team, so if freezing makes it unplayable, the game as a whole is fruitless.
What EA is doing to its loyal Madden customers is not only fraudulent, but it seems to be a purposeful act. EA doesn’t care to fix the many ongoing problems, because there is no competition. Thus, EA continues to release lackluster games. If competitors had the opportunity to produce NFL football games, some of EA’s products would never see the day of light. It would drive developers to put out better games that are free from glitches, rather than defective trash.
Back in the day, people had the options of playing various NFL football games such as the NFL 2K series, NFL GameDay series, NFL Quarterback Club series by Acclaim (defunct in 2004). When these games were around, they obviously had their problems and some were quite terrible, but so did the Madden NFL series. Had these football series stayed alive, they would have made some advancement that EA has yet taken with the Madden series, and perhaps eclipse Madden’s superiority and popularity. However, because EA signed an exclusivity deal with the NFL, which runs until 2012, no other company can produce an NFL game.
This represents monopoly at its finest. Why was the Sherman Act even passed in 1890 if this kind of violation can happen? The Department of Justice needs to step in and regulate EA, in some form, because it is breaking antitrust laws. Having to select from only one NFL game due to an exclusive license is an unfair practice. Gamers ought to have the right to have options, instead of having one option of a rehashed game.
This company is slimy. Its sliminess is evident by the harassment of Take-Two currently, a rival game company that owns 2K Games and publishes its 2K Sports titles. Take-Two also develops and publishes the famous Grand Theft Auto series. If EA does takeover Take-Two, not only will it ruin its 2K Sports games but also their other popular titles. This rapacious act is to limit competition. If that’s not an act of monopoly, then what is?
(By the way, both ESPN NFL 2K5, released July 20, 2004, and All Pro Football 2K8, released July 16, 2008 by 2K are superior than Madden NFL 09.)
Nonetheless, after evaluating this game and finding so many glitches, it makes one wonder if EA developers even checked for problems. Doesn’t this multi-billion dollar company have a quality control department? More important, what do EA’s technicians/developers do all day? Sit on their backside and play tic-tac-toe and SOS? Check their MySpace pages and chat with girls? Spend all day on their cell phones? Reminisce about what happened over the weekend? These are some serious questions that need to be asked, because the countless and blatant bugs that are in this game are unbelievable.
The NFL, NFL Players Association, and John Madden should be embarrassed for having their names and likeness involved with this game. The NFL should revoke their exclusive license from EA, for their name is being exploited.
All in all, this game is nice in regard to graphics; the same can not be said for the players. The gameplay is okay, but it needs an overhaul. However, because of so many glitches (especially the constant freezing), Madden NFL 09 is PURE REFINED GARBAGE, for it is unplayable.
EA is a multi-billion dollar company and has conned its loyal Madden supporters by constantly putting out defective products. Moreover, EA uses consumers as beta testers and later releases “patches” to remedy the problems.
The so-called patch that should be out in about 3 weeks shows how lethargic their work ethic is, and most likely will not remedy the freezing bug. If released through Xbox Live only, what will happen to those customers who have no access to the Internet? Will they be out of luck or will EA come up with a solution?
EA – and all of its employees that produced this trash of a game – ought to be ashamed for such disaster. Electronic Arts should be renamed to Electronic Faults, because majority of its games are embedded with bugs. EA is known for defecating on its customers and, once again, it has accomplished that with Madden Defective Trash 09.
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Originally published Aug. 30, 2008 via now-defunct writing Web site Helium.com