The big man plays small ball.
There's nothing worse than running into an ex, especially when you only see the
back of their head. This happened to me recently at a restaurant; before
she turned around, I figured it was possibly someone to hit on. Then when she
turned to take my order, she became all too familiar. She still looked okay,
but my excitement quickly turned to apathy, which then turned into an uncontrollable
urge to run screaming in the opposite direction.
Madden NFL 2005 for the Nintendo DS faces the same issue. While
it manages to find a couple interesting uses for the new touch-screen functionality,
missing a slew of features that have been in Madden games since
the original Playstation was still a force. The series has
come a long way since then and it's
difficult to look back with anything other than disinterest. It might be the
best football game currently available for the DS, but that's because it's
modes offer less than what we've come to expect. The
ubiquitous Exhibition, Season, and Multiplayer (which requires one copy of the
game for every DS) are here alongside icing like the Two-minute drill
and Situation mode.
Completely missing is any sort of Franchise mode, which
has always been the meat of Madden.
A Franchise mode would have suited Madden DS exceptionally
well, since it would have allowed gamers to take their dynasty with them wherever
they went and tweak their team to their heart's content at home, in the office,
or in study-hall. The failure to include a Franchise is a major
oversight that drastically reduces the value and playability of the game.
The gameplay itself is classic Madden with a couple touch-screen
twists. You can still sprint, spin, dive, juke and stiff-arm while running with
the ball, and you can swat, dive, sprint and change players on defense; none
of that has changed. But now, you can watch the top-screen
for the typical Madden 3D view or you can watch a 2D overhead
display on the bottom screen where offensive and defensive players are denoted
by Os and Xs, respectively.
This latter view works well during passing plays because you get a better picture
of the open spaces on the field. You can even pass to receivers by tapping
their icons with the stylus. It doesn't matter
how hard you tap the touch-screen, though, because the input is completely
digital. In turn, you don't have
any control over what kind of passes you throw with the stylus and there's
usually a moment of lag between tapping and throwing...assuming you manage
to tap your receiver on the first try.
you miss your receiver and tap the turf, your quarterback won't send the ball
there, and that's a good thing. On the flip-side, you can't throw to a given
spot on the field even if you want to. Since you can clearly see your receivers' routes
and the open spaces on the field, the ability to pick a choice spot and send
the ball there would have been sweet. Too bad EA didn't make the play.
You can also use the touch-pad to call audibles and assign hot routes, even though
it's faster to simply use the buttons. If you decide that you want to take
your tight-end or tail-back off their route to block, you're out of luck, because
there is no block option in the hot-routes menu.
The kicking game has been modified for the worse. Instead of the trajectory arrow,
kickers now must stop two markers as they slide along two meters; one signifies
power, while the other aims left to right. Vertical trajectory is a foregone
conclusion, making squib kicks impossible and precision punting an imprecise
pain in the ass.
Like a player with a bad attitude, Madden DS's weak graphics
hurt the whole game. The top and bottom screens are like different sides of
the same ugly coin. The top screen, with its traditional 3D look and rendered
players, attempts way too much. The players all use the same model and the framerate
is not very smooth. It even lacks hand-off and toss animations; instead of watching
the quarterback give the ball to the running-back, the darn thing teleports in.
You don't even see the ball fly through the air, making it almost impossible
to figure out who you're supposed to be controlling
until he gets tackled.
The bottom screen, meanwhile,
is just a flat, green field. It's simple and useful, but lacks
flair. Both screens should have at least shared the same graphical quality while
providing two distinct points of view.
Madden DS doesn't sound very good, either. John Madden and
Al Michaels don't have a lot to say, which is good, but there's only one grunt
effect in the game, which is bad. This lone grunt is played loud and clear
every time two players collide for any reason. So, for example, every running
play sounds a lot like "Hurk! Hurk! Hurk...Hurk, Hurk...Hurk! Hurk!" More
Madden cards and tokens are back, so you can unlock new modes and cheats if you're
up to playing through the season multiple times. You can also play head-to-head
with a friend wirelessly if he's nearby and equipped with a copy of the game
and a DS as well. The game runs just as well when played with a friend as it
does when played alone. For some
reason, the stylus doesn't work in head-to-head mode, but that's
no big loss.
Madden NFL 2005 for the DS is, at the very least, a functional
football game. You can do many of the things you could do in normal Madden games,
just not quite as well. Unfortunately, the lack of any sort of Franchise mode
cripples the replayability, making this little more than a decent romp on the
gridiron in between rest stops.