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X360: Madden 07

Date: September 12, 2006
Author(s): Greg King

Madden is back for its 17th installment and we are promised the richest experience yet. This time around we have the addition of Lead Blocker control, hall of fame mode, run like the players and a more feature-rich franchise mode.



Introduction

When the 360 launched late last year, there were not many games that had me excited. I did get PGR 3 but the main game that I was waiting for was Madden 2006. With ’06, the franchise made its debut on the next generation consoles, and with the hardware of the 360, it looked beautiful. It had reminded me a lot of the first time I saw Madden ’02 on the next generation console of the time, the PS2. There were a lot of things I liked about Madden ’06 but overall, it left me with a hollow feeling. Can ’07 build on the flawed but stable foundation that ’06 built for the franchise on the 360?

The game starts out with the option to pick your favorite team. This is not new to Madden, but is a a neat option regardless. This allows me to pick the Indianapolis Colts as my home team, which to all of you in the know, is the greatest team in NFL history. Yes, I am biased. Very, very biased.

From here, you have a few options. You can click on play now, which takes you to a screen that allows you to pick your team and get things rolling. This is nice when company is over and you just want to get down to business [Ed: Eww]. Also, you have the option of getting more in depth with the dynasty mode, online play and a new feature: superstar mode. Dynasty and online play modes shouldn’t require any explaining but the superstar mode is new and I will go into it a bit more.

In this mode, you start out where all athletes start out their parents. Never thought that DNA would come into play in a Madden game but is has. You can pick your parents, skin tone and hair color… effectively setting the stage for greatness. Once you decide who your player will be and what he will look like, you can train. Something else that makes this personal, is that you pick your player’s position, but only one. I assume most people will choose to be a quarterback and having to be in the middle of the game at all times, I also choose to make my superstar a QB.

Superstar mode is also unique in the sense that each position has its own unique camera angle. With this in mind, you are no longer the coach, but rather an individual on a team. If you are a halfback and the play is a fullback dive, you might find yourself on the sideline. This adds more to the game and gives you a feeling of realism that I haven’t encountered in past games. Also new to ’07 is the Madden gamer level.

This is basically a stats counter that keeps any and all stats as you play your way to Madden greatness. These stats are recorded in single player games the same as they are in an online game against friends or strangers alike. The higher your stats go, the more points your username gains and the more bragging rights you have when playing against friends and the more achievements you can obtain.

The look of Madden 2007 is tight and the graphics are sublime. In general, ’07 looks a bit better than ’06. The stadiums are realistic and if you are familiar with your favorite team’s stadium, you can pick out features. On this note, I have been a season ticket holder for the past 5 years and many times, I have paused the game during play and zoomed into my actual seat. While this does not affect most people, it is a testament to the detail spent on each stadium.

While we are speaking about detail, the player faces are more recognizable but still leave room for improvement. The fields, whether they are turf or grass, look convincing and the lighting does a good job conveying both the warmth of the sun and the look of the field under the lights. As games progress, grass gets trampled down and it stays there. This is a small detail that adds a lot to the overall feel.

Moving onto game play. Offense is good but not great. There are too many plays that have your offensive linemen allow a defender by without touching the defender at all. One way around this is to control the lead blocker and by doing so, you can run the blocking scheme and hit the defender that needs to be hit, allowing your running back to get to the area he needs to and hit the hole that will give him the most yards.

On the other side of the ball, defense is quite frustrating and I am not sure if it is the game sometimes or if I am just that bad at defense. When there is a pass, you have the option to pick the nearest defender to the person getting the ball and if you don’t hit anything, the defender will continue to be played by the computer. Should you feel confident enough to pick up on the defending duties from the computer, it is rather difficult to time the correct place to jump, swat or intercept. Again, while the controls feel clunky at times, it could just be my lack of skill at Madden.

Playing online is as always, enjoyable but frustrating. The laggy feel of past Madden titles is for the most part gone; this takes away any excuse I have as to why I get beaten so badly. The new Live Opponent feature allows you to play your dynasty season as you normally would, but instead of a computer controlled opponent, a real person takes control of the opposition. This is always nice as it give you something more to play for in a franchise game.


Gameplay, Final Thoughts

Sometimes the computer is too easy and to have someone step up and threaten your perfect franchise record can really get your heart pumping. While these features are nice, I am left uneasy at the omission of online leagues or fantasy draft leagues. I don’t think I am in the minority in having a large amount of my friends play Madden as well. We could get together and play in an online league, have a draft and compete against each other in a structured setup. This isn’t a huge deal but it is something that I think would bring a lot to the game’s online attractiveness.

We have covered the play and the graphics, but how does it sound? Once again, there are many highs but almost as many lows. The broadcasters get old after a few games, as they do in all sports games, and by the end of my first season, I just learned to tune them out. Where the sounds truly shine is during game play. You hear the players fighting each other. You hear the stomps of their feet and the trash talking that the players exchange with each other before and after each play. It’s the small things like the trash talking that both add to the realism of the game but also get hokey after time as well.

Madden ’07 is a mixed bag of good and bad. When playing any Madden game, you know what you are playing. The Madden franchise has been around for quite a long time now and with each year’s passing, the game improves on issues and sometimes looses some things as well. The game graphically looks better than any version before it. When playing on a HDTV, the game truly shines. Just as any sports game, there isn’t any person that I know that would not rather play it with their friends. I know we get together and play Madden during the football season a lot.

We play it on the way to the game in the car, we play it at home when the Colts are playing an away game and we play it during the week when we have to feed our NFL addiction. If you are like me, Madden games are a must buy for all football fans. Sports games have the advantage of being able to come out every year with little more than roster changes in new packaging. For the most part, Madden ’07 feels a lot like last years but improves on it overall.

One thing that I think would kick start EA into releasing the Madden that we all want is to do away with the ‘silly’ NFL deal that says that they are the only company that can make an officially licensed NFL game. BRING BACK THE 2K LINEUP! Competition benefits us all and is used to make EA tighten up their games. Now they don’t have to do that. The Superstar mode of ’07 is the highlight of this game but it does not make it perfect.

All in all, I am giving EA Sport’s Madden 2007 a 76%. While 07 isn’t perfect, a few pick up games with friends or online is just the play coach called during this years NFL season.

+ Graphics and player animations are superb
+ Superstar mode isn’t new, but done well
+ Nothing beats competing against friends during the NFL season
+ Online play is top notch

– Game announcers get old quickly
– Menu could be laid out a bit better
– Feels like ’06 with new rosters

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