Madden 07 represents the seventeenth edition of the Madden franchise as well as the second year that Electronic Arts has had exclusive rights to develop NFL games. Madden 07 also represents the second edition available for the Xbox 360 and EA has a lot to make up for the version that they released last year. For those of you with a short memory, Madden 06 for the Xbox 360 was the "decontented" version that EA rushed out the door to make the launch of the 360. In the rush to get the game out they shipped a version that lacked a may of the features that were present in the Xbox and PS2 of the game as well as including some of easiest set of Xbox Accomplishments of any game to date.
The two new features that make this year’s version of Madden more than a graphical and roster update are the lead blocker control and superstar modes. As the name implies the lead blocker control allows you to take full control of a lineman or full back and handle the blocking yourself. Before the ball is snapped players can switch through the available players by pressing the left bumper. After the player is chosen you simply direct your selected player to their assigned block and deliver a block with the right thumbstick. You have the choice of delivering a high impact block by pushing up or performing a cut block by pushing down. After the block has been made, you can switch over to controlling of the running back by pressing the B button. While the system is intriguing and there are certainly some people who will appreciate the ability to see what it takes to get a guard out to the corner on a counter-trey, the feature really doesn’t add a lot of value to the game as the computer controlled blockers usually do a good job on their own.
The Superstar mode allows gamers to create their own digital player and then take them through a career in the NFL. After selecting the parents, position, appearance, and an agent gamers take their future All-start through a set of mini-games that simulate the NFL combine. There’s even an intelligence test that will further helps determine grade our your player. After all the preparation your player is drafted by an NFL team and that’s where the seams in the mode start to appear. The problem is that the game doesn’t tell players where in the draft they go or how much their starting contract is. Players can also expect to do a lot of game watching as the game only allows you to participate in the plays that your player is involved in. This can be frustrating as you spend a lot of the time watching the game go by no matter what position you choose. I get that this is more of a simulation move but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with. You also don’t have any control over the plays that are called which further pulls out of the game. Maybe for next year EA could implement a system which allows you play as multiple rookies on a team, one on offense and one on defense so that you are always controlling at least one player on the field. Sure this breaks down some of the paradigm setup by creating a player but you would get the chance to play more of the game.
While the new features are a little rough around the edges (and will likely either be eliminated or enhanced for next year’s version) the actually football game play is pure gaming goodness. Playing games in either the Franchise or Quick play modes is a treat and where you can feel the years of refinement in the gameplay. Those who have played NCAA 07 will feel right at home with the user interface and control scheme as it is identical to the college game’s setup. Almost a little too familiar as the game does feel like a slightly tweaked version of Madden’s college game play. Offensive and defensive plays are selected either by asking Coach Madden to suggest a play, by formation, by play type, or by key player. This scheme makes it easy to quickly find the play you want to run and there are more than one or two good routes to get to the play you want. Asking Madden is improved over NCAA as not only does the game give you a good list of plays to call but you usually a detailed explanation of why that play should be called which helps teach you a thing or two about the game (or at least how John Madden plays it). This is in sharp contrast to listening to Lee Corso ramble about how a play is one of his favorites.
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