With 85 new features and improvements, Madden NFL 09 boasts that it provides the most authentic game play ever. But if EA is trying to sell gamers on the Madden franchise's realism, it needs to set the bar higher. EA, you have a ways to go before you truly capture the drama — and absurdity — of today's NFL. You want realism? Try these tongue-in-cheek modes:
Lead Brett Favre out of retirement: In the past, stars who retire in the game immediately disappear from the Madden universe. Now, for the first time, you can control the destiny of the legendary Brett Favre. Declare retirement at a heart-tugging press conference and bring ESPN analyst and unabashed fanboy Chris Berman to tears. A convincing retirement speech unlocks Berman's "Haikus for Brett," a never-before-seen exclusive tribute!
Unretire before the NFL Draft. Or better yet, really stick it to the Green Bay Packers by waiting to unretire after they draft two quarterbacks. Do you report to Packers training camp? Do you force a trade? YOU lead Brett's path of destruction!
Show what you can do in Prison League mode: Convicted dogfighting felon Michael Vick may not see NFL turf anytime soon, but why should a little prison time get in the way of some smash-mouth football? In Prison League mode, experience Vick's blazing speed, errant passes and poor decisionmaking all over again! Overcome the odds to achieve everlasting gridiron glory.
Steal opponents' signals: The all-new EA SpyCam puts you behind the camera. Follow the spleen-busting action on the field — or pan over to the sidelines and tape your opponent's defensive signals to gain that all-important extra advantage just like New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Cheat, er, film too much, though, and Commissioner Roger Goodell could threaten you with the dreaded Slap on the Wrist.
Thomas Bassinger, Times staff writer