|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visual Concepts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 16, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (8 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
The juggernaut, EA, has sought to secure the rights of all professional sports. This ultimate goal has been realized with my favorite sports: soccer and football. Because of this exclusivity, EA has been able to corner the market and all but kill any competition. Sure, people will say, "What about Winning Eleven?" What about Winning Eleven? That game has better control and is a bit more soccer savvy than FIFA, and yes, it has secured the rights to a few important leagues, but on the whole, the draw of your favorite footballers from Brazil, the EPL and the MLS is too great. The same can be said of American Football. EA has the seminal football franchise year in and year out.
Fortunately, the Madden games are always well-made. That's probably due to the fact that it bares big John's name. The Madden franchise is of a much higher quality and truer to the sport than FIFA is. This begs the question, what's a developer to do? How do you break in to a cornered market? The answer is creativity and awesome online play.
Because of EA's exclusivity, 2K Sports is not allowed to use current players, teams, or stadiums. However, they were able to add a level of authenticity to their game by incorporating legendary players. This is a stroke of genius. The game feels like real football because it uses real football players that we all know and love not to mention the playability of the title. Essentially, the game is a fantasy league. You will choose 11 players from a host of some of the best players to ever set foot on the gridiron. These 11 players will make up the core of your team, and then the computer will automatically fill out the other 31 spots with what could be considered journeyman role players. Let me explain to you how cool this actually is. You will be able to choose a mix of legends to create an overall team characteristic that suits your playing style. For example, if you want a hardnosed, hard-hitting defense you can choose from players like Dick; don't call him Butt Kiss, Butkus, Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary, or the Fridge. Maybe you want to add a little sweetness and speed to your offense. You can select Walter Payton, Gayle Sayers, or Willie Gault. Oh, did I mention I'm a Bears fan? The '85 squad is well represented. Of course, there are many other stars that can be selected as well. Players such as Bart Star, John Elway, Karl Mecklenburg, Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Derrick Thomas, Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Jack Tatum, Deacon Jones, Jay Novacek, and Leroy Butler, just to name a few. The legends you can choose from run the gamut from outside linebackers and lineman, to tight ends and wide receivers. You can even choose kickers and punters. The amount of stars to choose from is impressive, and will only get better as the franchise moves forward.
The game has all of the conventional modes of play, but online play is the best. You can play an exhibition or set up a season, but these modes are not where the game shines. The season mode is actually pretty weak due to its lack of depth and non-licensed status. There is no drafting of players between seasons, and the teams are fictitious, so there's not much of a point in thumping the computer. Exhibition matches are better for playing against your buddies, honing your skills, and developing a fantasy team that best suits your playing style.
This game is highly customizable. Not only can you choose the right mix of star players, but you can also adjust automatic substitutions, depth charts, and your play calling. Heck, you can even hotkey specific celebrations both offensively and defensively. I just love doing the dirty bird after a score or intimidating the QB after dropping him for a loss. Adjusting the play calling is a great feature. The ability to choose the right mix of plays makes execution on the field a breeze. You're probably asking yourself, "Why should I care about play calling and customization?" The reason is because the online play is outstanding. This game is second to none when it comes to multiplayer action. Being able to customize a fantasy team to your exacting standards is an absolute joy when you're facing stiff competition from around the nation. Conceivably, no two teams will be alike. You can put your personal stamp on your team's jersey, home city, stadium, and personnel. You will advance through the ranks and be matched to gamers across the globe who are at your level, ensuring competitive matches. The online component of this title is where the game excels. It is what sets the game apart and will prove to be the crux of its success.
If you find that you're getting drummed online, then you should warm-up against friends at home and via the fantastic practice mode. The practice field will allow you to play full scrimmages, or take the field with your offense only. You can work on your special teams' execution, and get your QB and wide outs on the same page by running your routes and perfecting your timing. You can even learn to execute your special moves by going one on one with select players. This is especially useful for getting used to the jukes, stiff arms, and hurdling moves your offensive players use.
The sounds and effects of the game are well done. Players will greet each other before the game, they will jaw with each other after the play, and they will call out the play at the line if they recognize the formation. This really adds to the realism of the setting. The announcers do good job too. 2K Sports put together a good team, but it's tough to compete with Mr. Madden. The music is decent, but a bit repetitive. They actually put a re-mix of Rush's Tom Sawyer as one of the title tracks. Now I love Rush, but I've got a feeling it may not go over well with a large demographic of today's gamers.