Until Madden NFL 11 on the Xbox 360, I had never actually played a Madden game before. This was mostly down to the fact I didn’t really know much about the rules of American Football, and I found the idea of playing a game with that lack of knowledge quite daunting. For that reason I avoided NFL games for many a year, despite the fact I regularly saw them getting good scores.
That was until 2011 when I stumbled randomly across a video on YouTube which showed a man called Skip Bayless waxing lyrical about an NFL star named Tim Tebow. What interested me was that Bayless seemed to be the lone voice in sticking up for Tebow, a man he called a “competitive force of nature” to disdain from his fellow pundits, notably one Stephen A. Smith.
Intrigued, I decided I simply had to watch more, so I spent a lazy afternoon watching video after video of Bayless bigging up Tebow whilst a revolving chair of detractors faced him week after week. The main argument of the anti-Tebow camp was that he wasn’t a very good thrower, and even with my limited knowledge of the game, I could see why that would be a problem for a quarterback.
After seeing the absolute circus surrounding young Tebow, who in his defence seemed like an affable fellow caught in a whirlwind of madness, I decided I would watch the next game he was involved in, which was a play-off game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I had it on good authority that the Steelers were a very strong side, so this would be a very daunting task for wide-eyed Timothy. Tebow would lead his team to victory in that game, getting a very good throw in the process, and I really enjoyed it, so much so that I thought it was time to finally try one of these wacky Madden games.
Thankfully, Madden NFL 11 wasn’t as overwhelming as I feared, with a well measured difficulty curve as well as a simplified playbook for NFL newcomers such as myself. This allowed me to find my feet in my own time and get comfortable with the controls as well as the rules of the game. All I can say is that it was a good idea I decided to wait until recently to try one of these games, because if I’d stuck Madden NFL 98 into my PlayStation without knowing what I was getting into, it would have been utterly BRUTAL!
You best know what you’re doing if you play this game, that’s all I’m saying. Playing a game from the 90s really drives home just how much we have our hands held these days. On the whole, games are a lot more user friendly these days, especially big mainstream releases like Madden and FIFA. Some may think that to be a bad thing, but I think the idea itself has merit.
As the famed Stan Lee once so eloquently put it, “Every comic book is someone’s first”, and that applies to more than just comics. Every game in a series is someone’s first. You may be a hardened Madden player and someone who watches the NFL religiously every season and knows it inside out. But it’s also fair to say that there will still be people who will be playing the game for the first time, so having an optional tutorial mode makes sense. The experienced player can ignore it and get stuck right in to the action, whereas a greenhorn can sit down and get their bearings.
Madden NFL 98 doesn’t bother with any of that. You’re chucked in the deep end and expected to swim or perish, and quite frankly, if this was my first time playing a Madden game, I wouldn’t have had a bloody chance. I generally pick up the latest Madden these days and I do tend to watch quite a bit of the NFL on TV, so thankfully I was able to get to grips with the interface and actually have an idea of what I was supposed to do, but if I hadn’t had that prior experience, I would have been completely lost.
But in spite of its unforgiving nature, Madden NFL 98 is a lot of fun to play. Graphically, the game looks decent for the time frame, with the player animations standing out in particular. The graphics remind me of the early fifth generation FIFA titles, in that 2D sprites are used, but the fields are 3D. The stadiums look nice, and there’s a selection of impressive weather conditions that really do have a pronounced effect on play. Playing in heavy rain, for instance, is more than just a cosmetic option, as visibility is limited and players tend to drop passes more often.
The game has up to date rosters for the 1998 NFL season and also includes classic sides from past seasons as well. The problem with this is that the classic teams aren’t licensed, which kind of defeats the purpose of them being in there in the first place. For instance, you can play as the 1994 Miami Dolphins, but what’s the point if you can’t be Dan Marino? Ace Ventura didn’t spend a whole movie getting nagged by Courtney Cox for this to happen!
Another issue I have with the game is kicking. Whereas on modern day Maddens you have a chance to aim your kick before kicking, in Madden NFL 98 you can’t aim your kick until you press the kick button, and the D-pad is ridiculously sensitive. Nudge it ever so slightly in one direction and the ball will go flying off in that direction, giving you no chance to adjust it. This not only makes basic things like kicking bonus points in heavy wind difficult but also makes accurate onside kicks nearly impossible.
With that being said, Madden NFL 98 is still a very good game. It received scores in the 85% category when it came out, and I can see why. It may be hard on newcomers, but once you get into the flow, it is a very enjoyable game, and considering I bought it for a mere £1 at Retro-Reload in Stockport, I more than got my money’s worth!
I’ll post some game footage below.
Thanks for reading
Until next time;