Madden NFL 07 evolves in all of the right places.
Can you feel it? The commercials that you see plastered all over ESPN are announcing the unofficial summer holiday of Maddenday, where good little boys call in sick to play the newest version of their favorite sports series. On the current-gen consoles, the typical improvements, including the running back controls, make this year’s version just a little bit better than last. But on the next-gen, the difference between this year’s and last years Madden is like night and day, with EA providing an amazing amount of content over last year’s offering and rewarding the Madden faithful who were disappointed last year.
The biggest improvement the series has seen since the inclusion of the Playmaker stick in 㤌 is the Lead Blocker Controls new to 㤏. Taking control of a fullback, tight end, or lineman, players can bust through defensive linemen and linebackers to create that little daylight for their runner. After the initial hit, players can then switch directly to their running back to take control of the play instead of leaving it to the computer. The transition from blocker to running back can be a bit disjarring at first, but after a game or so players should be breaking seven-to-ten yard runs no problem, provided that the computer doesn’t stack the box with seven or eight players.
This is what Madden is known for, after all. Striving to keep the gameplay balanced, it seems that the boys at EA Tiburon have made the playcalling for the opponent even stronger than it has been in recent years. If you are stuffing the ball down their throats with repeated runs, the computer will tee off on that and bring run support. Likewise, if the running back isn’t having a great day and you fall in love with the pass, the computer adjusts. Previous games in the series have been pretty solid at this, but it appears that this year’s computer is even smarter than before. Of course, if your running back is having a great day and you can pass it deep, the play-action pass works like a charm. Deep passes work much better this year when coupled with the play-action, but it still isn’t a guarantee either.
Aside from the Lead Blocking control, players will also be able to assume even greater control over their running backs with the Highlight Stick. Sure, the truck stick from previous games helped players like The Bus pummel linebackers and defensive backs for five or seven yards each play, but littler backs like Tiki Barber or Warrick Dunn were flattened when trying the same. Instead of just trying to go over the defender, players can now juke and dodge using the Highlight Stick to avoid tackles and make the defense look stupid. This year, players can now choose their running backs based on personal preference instead of just size and speed, which adds a ton of depth to the title.
At E3 earlier this summer, EA reps showed off their Athletic Performance initiative. This initiative will bring an unprecedented level of realism to their games, and this year’s Madden is showing the first signs. Players this year will actually have to look at the ball in order to make a play on it, which leaves plenty of opportunity in the passing game that wasn’t available as readily, such as the aforementioned deep pass on play-action.
Rounding out the solid on-the-field gameplay that Tiburon has given us, they have also included a beefed-up Franchise Mode this year. Mini-camps look realistic with players and spectators relaxing on the sidelines and in the bleachers while the action takes place on the field. When a player gets injured, the gamer is now responsible for how they want to handle the injury instead of simply sitting back and waiting. During the recovery time, you can rehab your player through mini-games, with a quicker recover coming from a better performance. There is another side to the coin, however, since bringing a player back long before the necessary recoup time can mean season- or career-ending injuries in the next couple games. Most of what you do here in Madden feels like a balancing act, which is exactly the direction we wanted to see the series head.
Superstar mode has also gotten a whole lot deeper and more involved this year with a number of reinventions. Instead of controlling the entire team that surrounds your superstar this time around you control only your specific player. So if you create a Defensive End, you only have to play that position instead of worrying about what is happening with the offense. Each position has specific controls attached to the right stick to help you play that limited role. Wide-recievers can make strong moves on their routes and make sweet catches while the running-back and quarterback retain their controls from before. It may feel pedestrian to some, but this year has erased most, if not all, of the logic holes that plagued last year’s Superstar mode. If you absolutely must play both sides of the ball, there is an option available that allows you to keep the computer from posting astronomical numbers on your AI defense. If you man up and play the game as it should be, however, you can take advantage of the Influence system to make those players around you better. The ultimate goal of the Superstar Mode is to get your player to Canton and the Football Hall of Fame, but it takes both excellent play on your part and the right pieces surrounding you to accomplish that, just like real life.
Whether you wish to dominate the computer, your buddies at home, or suckers online on Xbox Live, you will be tracked and scored continuously through your Madden Gamer Level. Winning offline has become just as important as winning online, which to me is perhaps the most important addition to the overall package this year. As your Madden Gamer Level increases with every win you can unlock hidden players for use in any offline mode. Accomplishing specific goals in the various sections of the game will also net you Madden Gamer points, assuring all your good deeds go rewarded.
Madden has graced us with the greatest update of the genre since 㤌, and once you pick up this year’s version you can never go back. This, of course, is no more true than on 360, where last year’s version was a huge disappointment. Madden 㤏 is still a tad lighter than its console brother’s in the content department, such as the Madden Card and all the rewards therein, but this is easily forgiveable. This year will be the greatest Maddenday ever, Madden be praised!
• Lead Block Through the Lanes—For the first time ever, control the lead blocker on running plays. Throw the perfect block to create a running lane, then take control of the tailback and rip off the big gain.
• NFL Superstar: Hall of Fame Mode—Play your way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame by taking complete control of any position on the field. Your actions on and off the field determine your impact on the game.
• Run Like the Players Run—Use the all-new Highlight Stick to evade defenders with new jukes, cutbacks, and power moves. Smaller backs escape and break tackles, while bigger runners bowl over defenders in the open field.
• New Franchise Mode Additions—Scout collegiate prospects with the all-new NFL Draft Scouting System and during the College All-Star Game, or watch players impact their teams with the new Franchise Player Roles feature.
• Team-Specific Defensive Playbooks—For the first time, use actual plays from your favorite team’s defensive playbook to shut downthe running game, pressure the quarterback, or force key turnovers.