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The most recognizable franchise in video game sports returns for a 20th season of gridiron action in Madden NFL 09. The constant tweaking of the series continues as well, with the "09" entry unveiling an assortment of new features and updated graphics and animation. Chief among the new offline features is the Adaptive Difficulty Engine, which determines players' "Madden IQ" by judging their ability to run, pass, and defend. The game then offers players the chance to compete in the four standard difficulty levels, or the new custom "My Skill" difficulty level specifically tailored to their play style. The My Skill difficulty level adjusts after every game, and players can enter the Tron-esque Virtual Trainer to increase their proficiency in any particular area.
Games themselves have been given a new presentation style, featuring pre-game stadium shots that showcase the pomp of player introductions, lively sidelines full of camera crews, and broadcast-style commentary from NFL Network announcers Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth. The new Backtrack feature gives Collinsworth the chance to analyze the last play (complete with telestrator) and tell gamers where they may have gone wrong, and players can then use the Rewind feature to try the same play again. The graphics have been tweaked to improve player physiques and create more realistic weather and lighting effects, while new animations include fluid juke move deviations, missed field goal returns, bobbled catches, and user-controlled touchdown celebrations. Madden NFL 09 also provides fans of online play with their most robust set of options yet, featuring trades and statistical tracking for leagues of up to 32 teams, and a new flex-scheduling option that lets two people compete whenever they are both online. ~ Christopher Brown, All Game Guide