Madden 08 online play review

Posted August 12th, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Chargers roads

After how poorly the entire online experience turned out for NCAA Football there was a great deal of concern whether Madden 08 would be afflicted with the same issues as well as a similar lack of options. So after spending time playing and going through the online mode, how has it turned out? Click through to read all the details and full analysis.


This seems to be hit and miss and quite frankly I’m perplexed by it. Previously (pre-patch Madden 07) it was easy to surmise that it was distance based. West coast vs east coast was practically unplayable. The farther away the two players were led to a more degraded performance.

So far with Madden 08 I have played Rac (Seattle vs Orlando) in a smooth lag-free game. We had never been able to play pre-patch. I’ve played Point Blank (Seattle vs Maryland) and that was smooth as well. Yet I’ve played Fred (Seattle vs Chicagoland) in a game that felt slightly suggish and had some stuttery lag. We had always gotten smooth games even pre-patch. I’ve also gone up against Finch (Seattle vs Tennessee) and we had a very similar experience as the game with Fred.

While the lag in the two games made it feel slower and somewhat stuttery, it didn’t make it unplayable such as with NCAA. However it certainly was noticeable and bothersome. This just shouldn’t be the case anymore.

Other performance issues:

Depth chart and menu lag is still evident although it isn’t quite as bad as with NCAA. There is also a slight delay while flipping through the play call screens.


Once again Madden lacks a number of simple options that would improve the online experience.

You can’t change depth charts offline and have it transfer to your online games, which means many people will be pausing before kickoff prior to every single game to make depth chart changes. Years ago we were able to change depth charts offline and use them online and it is ridiculous that they took that away.

There is no variable weather, night games, selectable stadiums, or alternate uniforms.

Unranked games are still treated as if they never actually took place. Why can’t win-loss record and stats be tracked for unranked games and just not included into the ranking system?!?!


Some aspects of the actual game are frustrating and accented even more so when playing online.

The 7 seconds to select a play on defense simply isn’t enough time in many cases, especially because of the slight delay in flipping through as well as the next issue I’ll address.

You get defaulted into Ask Madden – Punt Block on 4th downs. If you want to choose punt return, safe, or a regular play you have to back out of it and find it all within 7 seconds which will take you to the wire on it. If you don’t make it in time, the CPU calls a regular defensive play for you even if the opposition is punting. So you won’t have a punt formation on the field to return it.

You get defaulted into Special Teams after a change of possession. Numerous times I have accidentally selected punt block on 1st down. This is somewhat due to the button response, which I believe I would be pressing A to get to the play call screen but then it accepts it as me choosing the play that comes up (punt block).

Sometimes you get defaulted right into a formation instead of the formation select. As with the previous point made, because of this I’ve selected a play several times on accident and not even seen my play call screen come up. I think this may actually be due to it registering a button press being made to get back to the play call screen following the end of the play as you choosing the formation. Regardless it happens a lot and has never been an issue in the past.

This isn’t online specific, but the overpowered kickoffs means you can kick out the back of the end zone consistently and never have to risk giving up a big return. Not only that, but because of the kickoff cinematic you’ll never have to kick to someone like Devin Hester if you don’t want to. Either kick out the back of the end zone or kick it to the other side of the field and the other player back there will take it instead.

I address the “Smart Weapon” and its impact on the games later in this writeup however there is one problem that has been noticed and gives an advantage to smart offensive players over the smart defensive players. Because of the 7 seconds to pick a play, if you don’t get your call made in time the CPU picks the play. The CPU tends to pick the same basic plays. So in my game with Fred, I was able to utilize the smart feature with Matt Hasselbeck four times. However in my next game I didn’t get to use it at all and in the third game I got to use it one time. But this is something to monitor because people who are slow getting play calls in on defense will be giving more opportunities for smart QBs to read their plays.

New additions:

What is new to the online aspect this year?

Challenging calls is in and comes in handy. However it doesn’t always work as it should. There was a play against Fred where after I intercepted a pass, on the return I was stripped of the ball and it was recovered by Rex Grossman who then fumbled himself and I recovered. Fred challenged the play but the challenge looked at the first fumble (mine) and not the second fumble like it should have. Still though most of the time it works pretty well and it is fun to have it for the online games now.

You can select other players on your team to control and block with like last year but now you can also run routes with your WR. When Fred took over as the WR I saw the circle under the player as teal.

You can play for trophies which is kinda neat but at the same time they don’t really mean anything unless you create a story behind them.

Gamecast shows live updates of games being played. You can view them by “Top Players”, “Recent Players”, and “Friends”. It shows the current score and quarter, what team has the ball, down and distance, and yard line. However it doesn’t specify which side of the field they are on so the yard line info is pointless and it doesn’t show the time remaining in the quarter. It also only displays ranked games. Basically I’d say this is similar to what you used to get in the EA Messenger so it isn’t anything special.

EA Sports World makes its way into Madden but not in the way it was utilized in NCAA. Unfortunately there is no saving of screenshots or highlights and uploading to the website. What it does in Madden is tracks all of your stats and accomplishments (which is similar to a list of 360 achievements only specific to your online games). It only does this for ranked games. All this info is supposedly transmitted to the website to view as well but so far the site shows all 0s. It has a section for “Session History” which is likely a list of your games and results, however it isn’t showing anything under that for me. Half the stuff is broken on the EA Sports World website anyway so I’m not sure how much people will care about this other than checking out their stats and accomplishments.

Best new element to the online:

This isn’t online specific but totally affects strategy and will change how games are played. The “Smart Weapon” is awesome. This is especially because your opponent doesn’t know when you use it. However you’ll probably only get the chance to use it once or twice a game (if at all) unless your opponent is calling the same plays over and over. At the same time it doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful. I read one of Fred’s plays which was a man 2 deep. I had called a play sending my receivers deep. Once I saw this I hot routed to a curl thinking this was a smart move in man coverage. Yet I threw an INT on the play so you still have to execute.


An EA Producer spoke about the ability to use custom teams and created stadiums online in a recent Gametrailers interview.

However there seems to be no way to do this. There is no Live Opponent which is how you used custom rosters for online games last year and there are no additional options when setting up unranked games.

Update: A way to use custom rosters & created stadiums has been discovered. It certainly isn’t the most simple process and because no one knows about it or how to do it there probably won’t be many who take advantage of it. Check this thread in the forum for the details.

Win-Loss record:

The online win-loss record from last year has carried over. Whether it will remain or be wiped clean is unknown.


What can EA do to make online play a strength of Madden instead of its main weakness?

Co-op (2 vs 2 or 3 vs 3), lag issues to be properly addressed, online leagues, spectator mode, tracking of unranked games, depth chart changes to carry over from offline, use of custom rosters & created stadiums, variable weather and night games, selectable stadiums and uniforms, fixing of play books defaulting to special teams and punt block, and longer time to select plays on defense.


The online games have been fun simply because Madden 08 is a very good game. However there are a lot of frustrating things surrounding it which makes for a mixed experience.