Madden 07

Madden 07

Written by Charles Husemann on 10/4/2006 for 360  

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.

 

Dynasty mode has a few nice improvements as well. Besides the standard GM duties that you’ve become used to over the years you now have the chance to train select players between games. Training is made up of general and position specific mini-games. The general ones are conditioning related where you have your player run a 40 or lift weights while the position specific ones are running plays against a defense. It’s not just the skilled positions that get to try out plays as you can actually have your lineman run drills. The reason for running the drills is that you earn skill points to enhance the attributes of your players. It’s a nice touch that adds a bit of an RPG element to the game but it’s certainly not required as the games can get a bit repetitive.
Graphically the game is stunning on a HD set and there are enough little details to keep people interested in the game.  One of the more amusing features is that certain players have had their signature Touchdown celebrations digitized into the game.  This means that when the digital Chad Johnson scores he will actually put the ball down and do the Riverdance celebration that he did during the Bears game last season.  I know it’s not a big deal to a lot of people (and it probably offends a lot of the football purists) but with TD celebrations being one of the big stories in the NFL last year you just knew that EA would have to include them. There are other signature celebrations in the game and half the fun of scoring (and being scored on) is seeing the dances. Player animations in the game are solid and varied. There are some improvements over NCAA and the signature moves for the running backs is solid. 
In game audio is decent and EA has done something little interesting with the play by play calling in that instead of having somebody giving you the straight play by play you get a ESPN radio broadcast for your team. It is not quite as annoying as the normal play by play from years past but I still turned it off after the tenth game or so.
The base controls for the game remain the same but feature a few new tweaks. The kicking game is imported from NCAA 07 and has players using the right thumbstick to handle the kicking duties rather than the tried and true method of using the A button to on a pendulum. It’s a decent system that takes a little bit of getting used to. The new highlight stick as the right thumbstick is used for juking players and performing signature moves for players. The controls are tight and responsive. The real problem with the game is that there feels like there’s an expectation that you’ve played previous Madden games as the documentation for the game is minimal at best and there’s a lot of learn as you go which can be frustrating at times.

Despite the inconsistencies of the new features Madden 07 is still a solid football game and something that fans of the franchise will enjoy.  If you bought last year’s half baked version for the Xbox 360 this one is certainly a big step up in terms of features and overall quality and should help you forget the product that EA pushed out last year.  As somebody who played a lot of NCAA 07 this really felt like an upgraded version of the game to me…is that a bad thing? Not necessarily but you would expect a little more differentiation between the two games.

While the new lead blocker and Superstar modess aren’t going to light the world on fire the actual football in the game is excellent. It is hard not to feel that you’re playing an updated version up NCAA07 though.

Rating: 7.8 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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