Precision passing, QB vision control, and truck stick on offense help bring more realism to the field
- Usual excellent franchise mode will thrill fantasy leaguers
- Online play solid and doesn’t allow for cheating or bad sportsmanship
More realistic than its has ever been
- Much-improved QB running controls
Graphics haven’t progressed much as should be expected
Presentation values, especially announcing, not impressive at all
- Is the best NFL video game around, but only because it’s the only NFL video game around (no competition make it hard to really judge how good Madden 06 is)
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9.1 / 10
the calendar flips from July to August, two very important events are
right around the corner for NFL fans and sports video gamers alike: the
NFL is about to begin its preseason in earnest with the season just a
few weeks away, and its almost time for the annual release of the latest
Madden NFL video game, which just happens to be the biggest selling
sports franchise ever.
This year, Madden’s the only game in town. Electronics Arts, which suffered a severe challenge for football game supremacy at the hands of 2K Sports and its great marketing strategy for its ESPN 2K5 last year, made sure that didn’t happen again by buying the exclusive NFL license (and also pulling the ESPN license from under the feet of 2K Sports), effectively eliminating its toughest competitor and assuring that gamers that would buy an NFL game would be buying a EA-published NFL game.
While many were worried that exclusivity would mean less innovation, EA provides another excellent football title in
Madden NFL 06. Its presentation values aren’t particularly good, nor does it go leaps and bounds ahead in the visuals, but those are just minor,
non-gameplay affecting issues. What it does bring to along for the ride are improved
gameplay, a smart and fair-balanced online mode, and a few “new” tricks (some “borrowed” from the former NFL 2K series) up its sleeve, especially precision passing and QB vision control, that make it a must-buy for serious NFL video gamers.
What EA is lauding as its biggest addition this year is the precision passing and QB vision controls. They even state that on the back of the game box, by saying
Madden NFL 06’s season is primed to become “the year of the quarterback.” These additions bring more realism to the passing game, but they’re not totally innovative, because 2K Sports sported the precision passing feature last year.
The QB vision control operates as an “eye” that shows you a vision cone for each quarterback. It’s in that cone that the QB has the most likely chance of success if he throws the ball. For Pro Bowl quarterbacks such as Donovan McNabb and Peyton Manning, the cone is large. Rookie quarterbacks like the 49ers’ Alex Smith or journeyman QBs have a much such smaller cone and therefore a less likely chance of passing success. The QB vision control works in tandem with the precision passing, which gauges how accurate (including
These two buddy features really eliminate
the effectiveness of past Madden players that would drop back 20 yards on a pass the right “touch” on the ball) your quarterback is, and again his likelihood of completing a pass.play to avoid the rush, and then chuck it down field, completing a pass that wouldn’t ever be completed in the pros. If you throw to a receiver that’s outside your QB’s cone of vision in Madden NFL 06, you still have a chance of a completion, but at a severely lower percentage rate, and more likely will see the opposition pick it off or just have it go harmlessly incomplete. You need to develop more of a passing touch to win on a regular basis, but veterans of the series will acclimate quickly and even newer players won’t be too taxed in learning how to precision pass within the QB vision cones.
Running the ball on offense hasn’t been completely forgotten, however. The big news for running game fans is the use of the truck stick, which is really just the hit stick on defense used by ball carriers on offense. When you use the truck stick correctly, you can smash into a closing defender to gain more yardage or break through a pile of defenders, or even use a back juke that make the runner perform a “ole” bullfighter move, stepping the runner back to make the defender miss a tackle in front of him.
Quarterbacks have an easier time running the ball, too. The controls are much better, using the “X” button to move the QB into and out of scramble mode. If the pocket collapses, get your QB running for open field. If you start to scramble and a receiver suddenly opens up while the quarterback is behind the line of scrimmage, you can let go of the “X” button and fire a pass towards your target (hopefully inside your vision cone).
Receivers do get open a lot because the game’s A.I. has graduated to sometimes seemingly Mensa intelligence levels. If a QB moves outside the pocket, receivers, including backs, adjust their patterns to provide a better opportunity for a pass completion. They’ll even come back to the ball, if that’s the best solution. Defensively, the
A.I. is sharper too. The defense doesn’t allow many “cheap” long-bomb completions and finds ways of providing adequate coverage all over the field, both against you and for you. It’s by far the best football
A.I. around, and at higher challenge levels (and online) really makes the game much, much more of a true NFL simulation that before.
A 30-year franchise mode returns as strong as ever, giving you complete control over your team, from drafts, signings and all personnel decisions to where you play your games, to how much tickets cost, right on down to how much you charge for concessions. The new mode is another “borrowed” from 2K Sports (in a similar variation in ESPN 2K5), the NFL Superstar mode, where you take a player you create (or have imported from NFL Street 2 or NCAA Football 06), have him get drafted, and begin an NFL career. You’ll start out in a small apartment, where you live your rookie season.
But the better you play and the closer you get to becoming a superstar of the football field, you’ll upgrade your living quarters. There’s an agent to deal with and endorsements to chase, and bigger and bigger contracts to strive for if you become a Pro Bowler. Heck, there’s even the Madden cover to try for each season. It’s a good mode that give players a self-serving interest in playing a lot (to see how big a superstar you can become) if the franchise mode is just too detailed to want to play on a consistent basis.
Online play features a stellar setup that provides a great place to test out your Madden skills against other human competition. There are no online leagues, but EA makes up for that with online tournaments. And there are plenty of gameplay options that help to eliminate cheating and bad sportsmanship. Instead of having players quit against you if you’re destroying them on the scoreboard, you can have friendly quits that don’t affect the win/loss column.
Besides that, you can concede defeat if you are losing by 22 or more points in the third quarter (17 in the fourth quarter) or offer mercy to a struggling opponent (same score rules). And there are only a limited number of times you can pause the game. A disgruntled opponent may want to pause the game, hoping you will quit in frustration, but the game allows only a certain amount of pauses, which are timed, to eliminate that. And no more playing the guy who goes for it on fourth down and 40 to go every time. The game simply doesn’t allow a player to select anything but a punt when it’s fourth down and too long to go.
Madden NFL 06 “keeps it real” online, and that’s welcome news for football simulation fans.
Graphically, Madden NFL 06 isn’t much better than it has been since Madden 2003. That’s not a damnation of the visuals, however. They are generally good as far as the players and stadiums are concerned. But just a statement that they haven’t incrementally improved much in the last few years.
Although the graphics are acceptable, the presentation values certainly seemed to have slipped. First off, the announcing team of Al Michaels and John Madden are not very good. There are way too many repetitive remarks or just out-of-place commentary. Madden, in fact, seems to have just called in his voice-over work this year. He just doesn’t seem to have any enthusiasm in his comments like he has in the past. I really miss the great announcing tandem of announcers Terry McGovern as "Dan Stevens" and Jay Styne as "Peter O'Keefe" from the 2K Sports football titles.
One area that ESPN 2K5 really outdid Madden NFL 2005 was the great use of the ESPN license by using Chris Berman and a halftime highlight show in the Xbox version of the game. It really made it seem that you were watching a real football game, not just playing it. There’s nothing like that in
Madden NFL 06. EA did just take away the ESPN license from 2K Sports, so maybe some more “borrowing” will take place in Madden NFL 07. Musically, the game does the whole rock and hip-hip routine that’s been part of the EA Sports experience the last couple of seasons. The usual fare that should keep your foot tapping and groove going on.
Give EA credit for putting out the superior product everybody feared they might not put out with the exclusive NFL license. This is definitely a great football game, even though it could reach a hall-of-fame level of excellence with better presentation values (particularly in the announcing booth and by possibly using the ESPN license it confiscated from 2K Sports and replicating the ESPN studio analysis that was part of ESPN 2K5). Superior controls and artificial intellect go a long way to making this a quality simulation of NFL football on the field. Another great franchise mode and online play with a multi-faceted selection of modes (including tournaments) give Madden enough Pro Bowl-level features to once again win over its own legion of fans and also fans of the departed NFL 2K franchise.