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Is Madden 09 too noob-friendly?

Just as the leaves fall in autumn and the birds migrate south, each August will see the release of a new Madden game. Millions of dutiful fans line up to buy it every year, while the rest of the gaming world looks on and wonders what all the fuss is about. Every year, EA is forced to up the stakes to keep the fanbase happy, but the more complex the game becomes, the fewer new recruits are drafted into the ranks of happy Madden players. Even former Madden fans coming back to the franchise can see it as a daunting task to wrangle the unfathomable controls.

So EA is between a rock and a hard place: dumbing the game down will lead to mass defections, while n00bs are scared off by the barriers to entry. The developers have tried over the years to fix this problematic learning curve, but this year they’ve really nailed it. Here’s our look at the new features, with predicted responses from both casual and hardcore gamers.

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The Madden IQ Test (see video above)
This new feature kicks in when you turn on the game. A hologram of Madden himself introduces the test. Four distinct training modes test your defensive and offensive abilities in running and passing. You’re then given an IQ score of up to 800 points and assigned a My Skill level, which can be used in place of the standard difficulty settings.

Casual Player: “Finally, a tutorial that is short and at the same time creates a difficulty that’s tailored to my skill level. Plus, if I do really badly the test ends quickly so I don’t have to be reminded how much I suck.”

Hardcore Guy: “I can just skip this thing and jump into All-Madden because I’m so great. Then again, I could go through it just to prove to all my friends and competitors how good I am at Madden. My IQ score is bigger than yours! Come get some!”

My Skill and Display updates
Now that you have a skill level you can play your first game. Based on your ranking the game will not only play easier or harder, but you’ll also get a smaller playbook and more hints to ease your transition into Madden. A new display and interface for choosing plays, seeing stats, and watching replays is more intuitive as well.

Casual Player: “I have little idea of the subtle difference between a zone defense and an all out blitz, so I appreciate that the game eases me in with a few choices at a time instead of blinding me with options.”

Hardcore Guy: “I get all the plays I want because I picked the hardest difficulty setting, so I don’t care what other people see. However this change to interface, like all change, feels weird and unnatural. I’ll probably get used to it, though."

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