Setup & Timing
Madden NFL 08's setup structure is intended for fans familiar with the series, but is easy enough to navigate for new players. There is an opening credit sequence, but it can be (mostly) bypassed. Download times are appropriate considering the amount and complexity of information being downloaded.
Menus & Navigation
Menu options are well separated and clearly labeled. There are separate download locations for the NFL "Play Now" (Vs Play) mode and for the Paper Football mini game: one is under "Multiplayer" while the other requires the host to tap on "Mini Games" and the game itself before selecting the Multiplayer option.
Ease Of Use / Play Control
Gameplay in Madden NFL 08's "Play Now" option features multiple control schemes. All of the control schemes are complex, but they pretty much need to be complex. There's a lot to do and a lot of ways to do each thing. The controls are NOT, however, unnecessarily complex. The controls for Paper Football are easy and excellent. Flick the ball - and, after a touchdown, kick the ball - with the stylus. Eveything reacts well - all the way down to the spin you put on the paper football itself based on what part of the paper football you flick.
Graphics are a little better than you might expect. The players are detailed and the action is quick. They're not the best graphics available on the DS, but considering how much action there is on-screen, it's well above what's expected. Sound is not bad but not necessary. Most of what you hear, especially in "Play Now" mode, is crowd noise and the occasional play call (and in Paper Football, it's the paper football sliding across the table). As far as features are concerned, there are dozens of options, thousands of combinations, and it would take well more than a year to try everything; Madden NFL 09 will be released by then.
This year (the 2008 sports game year), EA Sports released three core sports games. For the first time, all three have Single-Card Download playability. The first of those games to be released, Madden NFL 08, got its Single-Card Download abilities for the first time after three previous appearances without. Not only did EA offer up its debut of Paper Football (exclusive to the Nintendo DS version of Madden NFL 08), they've set it up so that full NFL games can be played with only one card. The only complaint I have is Paper Football's so-called "Ultimate Mode" which, besides being way too slow as a result of the unavoidable pop-up messages, put a ridiculous drain on time and enjoyment by making a really fun mini game (in "Classic Mode") slow and, quite frankly, sort of clunky. That aside, football isn't everybody's game - heck, sports games aren't popular with everyone - but for fans of football (American Football, anyhow), the experience EA has provided is unparalleled so far.
Link the multiplayer Paper Football option through the "Multiplayer" menu in addition to the "Mini Games" menu.
Make the Paper Football pop-up messages removable via a menu option.
Category Score: 13.5 / 15
Overall Single-Card Download Rating: 89 / 100 (a.k.a. 44.5/50)
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