Madden NFL 08 hasn't really set the PC gaming world on fire, because it's mainly an updated and rehashed version of the 07 product.

That's not a bad thing - the 07 release was well-regarded. It's just that while Madden NFL 08 got an overhaul to run on newer platforms like the Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3, PC gamers were left underwhelmed by the changes. (Incidentally, for the Apple Mac, Madden NFL 08 is now a totally different gaming experience.)

Madden NFL 08 features a sharp user interface and a soundtrack of popular music hits. It's all the production value you'd expect from the glitz and glamour that today's NFL seems to demand. You have the whole roster of NFL teams, stadia and players to choose from, and you can play current or historic teams. You can also create your own teams, players, and even populate the stadiums with custom fans if you'd like, using built-in tools.

Once you're on the field, you have a few different options as to how you'll control the game. If you have a game controller you can use it; if you prefer to use the mouse and keyboard (or just the keyboard), that's your choice as well. Playing Madden NFL 08 on a laptop we opted for the keyboard route, as the mouse method rather extensively utilised right-clicking, which can be awkward on a trackpad.

Gameplay itself is fast and furious. You have an extensive playbook of built-in plays to call from (you also have options there if you want to build your own playbook of favorites), and once you're on the field playing either offence or defence, you'll be able to control key players during each play to try to make a difference.

The visual realism of Madden NFL 08 is fantastic - stadium lights glimmer off helmets, and in the cold weather, you'll see the misty breath of players on the field (water will even bead up on the "camera lens" if it's raining). You have fairly extensive control over graphic and video elements for the game; Madden NFL 08 even supports widescreen displays natively.

You can run Madden NFL 08 in a windowed mode, but we wouldn't recommend trying to run any other applications while you're playing. Anything that demands the CPU's attention is going to slow the game down - dramatically, in some cases.

If you're familiar with how Madden plays on the consoles or on PCs in years past, there are a few augmentations here that are probably worth noting, such as a new "read and react" system that lets you, as the quarterback, scan the defensive line to recognise strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to call an audible play to take advantage or bolster your defences.

An enhanced "Hit Stick" feature lets you take down your opponents more forcefully than before when you're playing defence, tripping up the legs of a receiver, for example, or shaking the ball loose to cause him to fumble. EA says AI has improved, too, but you'll still catch computer-controlled players doing some painfully stupid things. Sort of like real life. Maybe the AI is better.

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