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9.0 / 10
Here’s all you need know to see how incredibly popular Electronic Arts’ Madden NFL franchise has become: this year, to celebrate the release of Madden NFL 07, August 22, 2006, was declared as a Maddenoliday. I mean, how many video games out there have a holiday named after them? (Yes, it’s a fabricated holiday serving as a public relations stunt, but still.) Only Madden NFL football does, now celebrating its 17th year. The longest-running and best-selling gaming series of any kind, Madden NFL football is more popular than ever.
But I have to admit, after getting a look at a rather unimpressive early look at the game at this year’s E3 in a not-quite-finished form, I was worried that Madden may be getting a little long in the tooth. After all, without any competition (as it is the only NFL-licensed video game on the market thanks to an exclusive licensing agreement), what incentive was there for the developers to squeeze more innovation out of Madden NFL football?
However, after getting on the virtual field with a final Xbox retail version of the game, my worries have been dispelled. While there’s not a ton of innovation and some developmental fumbling that still could be worked out, there is still plenty
of the great elements left around that make Madden the gaming juggernaut it is today. There’s a slightly upgraded graphical presentation, a more powerful running game, and the same awesome total control of the players on the field that’s enhanced by the all-new lead blocker controls that can really rev up your team’s running game.
Toss in the same great online play, an first-rate career mode that starts
you from college senior and lets you try and carve out a Hall of Fame career, and a ocean’s-deep franchise mode, and Madden NFL 07’s the best Madden yet.
Last year’s big addition to the gameplay was the quarterback vision control, where a “vision cone” that shows where the quarterback is looking on the field, and gives said quarterback better accuracy if he throws to a receiver in that cone, is still here. But it has been relegated to only an option this year, as a gamer can call up the cone only if he so desires. If last year’s Madden was the “year of the quarterback,” then Madden NFL 07 certainly is the “year of the running back,” because with the new
RB-specific moves and a much improved running game, churning out a ground game has never been better.
That’s thanks to a new double-move and highlight stick function that will prove deadly to defenders, particularly with some of the league’s better backs such as the game’s cover athlete, Seattle’s Shaun Alexander. But it might be too much better, as it’s sometimes too easy to eat up turf with the truck stick and new RB moves at your offensive attack’s disposal.
One other new gameplay control is the lead blocker mechanism to really get the motor running for an efficient, game clock-eating ground game. Before the snap of the ball, you can switch to another player, such as an offensive lineman, fullback or tight end, along the line in a blocking role leading the path of your running back. You’ll take control of the player and look to make a devastating block that pancakes a defensive player and opens a canyon-sized hole for the back to run through. It takes some practice to become an effective blocker, but once you do, your running game will be explosive.
I was always a fan of the John Madden-Pat Summerall announcing crew back in the day. They simply were the best. But age took its toll on Summerall’s announcing skills, and he retired before Madden moved on to the Monday Night Football (and now Sunday Night Football) booth with Al Michaels. While Madden’ game analysis skills haven’t eroded completely in his real job, it’s time for Madden’s video-game doppelganger to hang up the microphone. One area where Madden NFL hasn’t been exactly first-rate the last few years is with the monotone play-by-play from Michaels and clichéd analysis from Madden.
I make this point every year, but Sega Sports’ old 2K announcing crew of Terry McGovern as "Dan Stevens" and Jay Styne as "Peter O'Keefe" are much better announcers in-game than Madden and Michaels ever have been.
One place not needing improvement is the online play, once again giving gridiron gamers an excellent opportunity to prove their Madden superiority among the online Madden masses.
No matter what mode you play, Madden NFL 07 is a great football video game. Despite being much too easy for veteran Maddenites to score practically at will versus the game’s
A.I.-controlled opposition or human competition, Madden NFL 07’s modes are addictive. The NFL Superstar: Hall of Fame mode allows you to start as a rookie and try to craft a Hall of Fame career.
You’ll play from the perspective of whatever position you choose, so while that’s easy to do for high-profile skill positions such as the quarterback or running back, it’s a more difficult, albeit interesting perspective from a not-so-high-profile spot like an offensive lineman. While selecting a tackle spot on the line, I actually was challenged learning how to block and protect my quarterback, although after a while not playing a glamorous, touchdown-glory spot on the field gets somewhat dull.
Madden NFL 07 pumps up the franchise mode, too, with deeper college scouting and all-star game coaching made available to thoroughly evaluate wannabe-drafted players more closely than ever. Again tweaking your roster and salary cap is a challenge that every fantasy-league gamer will absolutely be engrossed in.
Visually, while not a dramatic upgrade, Madden NFL 07 is upgraded nonetheless, with the most noticeable change in better graphics appearing in the stadiums and the fields themselves. With more player-specific moves around, animations have seen a fresh coat of visual paint, too.
Despite just slightly tweaking last year’s game, Madden NFL 07 proves to have enough Pro-Bowl caliber features to prove its dominance as the best football and one of the best sports video games around.