Madden NFL 2005
The folks at Madden NFL 2005 must have some time on their hands. Each year they spend 16-months crafting a new version of the game, looking to improve upon perfection. This year that improvement boils down to three things - defense, the media and Live. You'll still get the great true-to-sport experience of Madden but it's finally become a more balanced game.
For nearly 14 years players have spent their time playing defense waiting for their chance at chucking the ball and running it. But this year's game overhauls the defense experience, making it nearly as much fun to play as offense and more importantly it's made it as important to winning the game. The biggest change to D is the hit stick, which basically allows you to use the right thumbstick to deliver devastating tackles. If you time it right you can create a fumble, if you miss it you may fall flat on your face.
The biggest change to the game's franchise mode is Storyline Central which allows you to track players off the field through e-mails, newspaper stories and calls into a radio talk show hosted by Tony Bruno. Of course, the biggest change for us Xboxers is the fact that Madden NFL 2005 is finally Live. EA and Microsoft apparently buried the hatchet and now football fans can enjoy the best football game on the best console online service - Live.
There are some strange differences for Live play. You'll have to create an EA account, instead of just relying on your Live one. This doesn't cost anything and can be linked with the Live account, but it's still an annoyance. Doing so does allow you to track you across EA Sport's ranking, which is a very cool feature. Live play is fantastic, offering up a bunch of ways to humiliate your friends and strangers. The game has several lobbies, something found more often in online PS2 games. It's a bit unusual for Live, but really works. It allows you to go, for instance, into the beginner room where only players with 10 games or less can play. There are some other cool features as well - like allowing someone to quit from a ranked game without having it effect their rank and fairplay, which institutes a whole new set of game rules. My favorite online perk is the inclusion of a sports ticker that gives you up to the minute scores for real world games.
Madden NFL 2005 is probably the only game that I think deserves to charge more than it does. It's a game that will give you an entire year of fun in single player, multiplayer, online and off. Once again Madden has earned the right to be the top football game around.