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Madden 09: Why even Europeans will love it

For non-US gamers, American football is a daunting sport. EA's Madden-sponsored yearly videogame strips away none of the intricacy or depth, and so it's not surprising that it leaves most non-believers in a state of almost paralytic befuddlement. 'Bluegrass Miracle'? 'Zone blitz'? 'Flea flicker'? What the hell do these words mean?

It's taken EA long enough, but with Madden 09 it seems we'll finally get an American football game that doesn't alienate casual observers with its impenetrable action. Instead, we're going to be taught how to play from the inside out, every step of the way. And it does it by calculating your Madden IQ.

First up, if you know the difference between a Hail Mary and a Zone blitz then your Madden IQ will be high. The game architecture will proabably look remarkably similar, from the playbook to the pitch action (though this year's edition boasts slightly nicer visuals, plus the chance to play snow-covered winter games).

If you're a total newbie, though, your Madden IQ is going to be low - and the game will find this out by putting you through some early tests. By kicking off your play with a VR-style simulator, Madden 09 gives you a series of challenges to sound out your ability - like sprinting toward the end zone and having to jink past opponents, or throwing a successful pass.

We've not seen all the VR tests, but we're told that they will cover everything from in-game action to picking plays. What's great is that while the game tests your knowledge it's also teaching you how to perform the actions. The end zone sprint and jink challenge, say, uses button prompts and timing-hints to teach you how to successfully perform the test itself.