Some may wonder what may drive someone to buy a new game from Electronic Arts’ Madden series each year. While the series appears largely the same from year to year, apart from slightly updated graphics and team rosters, fans will tell you that Madden NFL 2006 is a must-have game compared to last year’s outing. But is it worth the hype?
Yes, somewhat. It may not completely rewrite the playbook, but it’s pretty hot in the right spots.
A New Direction For the Series
The gameplay additions to the Madden series over its last several iterations have mostly been comprised of a new move here, an old move removed there, a new gameplay mechanic here, an old gameplay mechanic removed there. That trend has come to an end in 2006. There are enough substantial improvements to Madden NFL 2006 to warrant buying the new game, and now that EA holds the official license of the NFL it’s the only “real” game in town.
Madden NFL 06 has some revolutionary “improvements” that will either make it or entirely break it for you. That’s usually nothing new, but for a game that has traditionally banked on players’ familiarity with its systems, the change is notable. In the last ten years, Madden has eked by with little revision, but the 2006 version features new gameplay elements entirely different from what you’re used to.
The Quarterback Vision & Precision Passing system has all of the earmarks of a fantastic idea; it makes the game far more realistic and immersive. When the ball is snapped, QBV & PP provides you with a field of vision that you must train on your receiver before throwing to them on your intended play. If you don’t keep the receiver within your field of vision, you can kiss any yardage goodbye, because the pass will most likely end up on the turf (or, worse yet, in a defender’s hands). In terms of realism, you can’t really beat it. A real QB doesn’t have that wonderful top-down view of the field and players like you have on your TV screen or monitor. Unfortunately, realism doesn’t necessarily translate into entertainment, and your enjoyment level of Madden NFL 2006 will likely be directly proportionate to how well you adapt to this new scheme.
The field of vision works in two ways. As the QB, you’ll need to keep your eyes on the prize, but linger too long on your receiver or select him before the snap, and the other team will pick up on exactly where you’re looking and you’ll be sacked almost instantly. The realism of the new feature extends to large or small vision lines depending on your QB, which again, makes the game that much more realistic and consequently, much harder. It has added a previously absent level of depth to the game, but unprepared players might be in for a shock. Thankfully for those who don’t like the feature, it can be turned off in the game options, alleviating the problem (for players who know where to look).
Even if you don’t love QB Vision, you may get some enjoyment out of the Truck Stick, which allows bigger players to charge their way through the opposition with a quick jab of the R Analog stick. This is an innovative move (though akin to the Hit Stick from earlier years) to be sure, but you have to know when and with which characters you’ll be able to use it. If you’re using a smaller player, it won’t work and you’ll risk a fumble, interception, loss of possession, yardage…everything. When it does work, though, you’ll definitely feel that this is one of the touches that Madden has been missing. It feels so natural that you’ll wonder why it wasn’t included years ago. It can literally make or break a game if used correctly.
Brand New Modes
Another big improvement for the series is Superstar mode, where you can create a player almost right down to his DNA (you’ll select his parents) or even import a created player from NCAA Football 06 or NFL Street 2. Superstar mode outshines the QB Vision as the number one reason to part with your cash for Madden NFL 2006. The concept is to take a player from just before the draft all the way through his pro career, ending with his retirement. Superstar mode isn’t all about playing though – you’ll have to take IQ tests, meet with potential sponsors, get your hair cut and change your appearance, and maybe even star in a movie. Training is also a very important aspect of Superstar mode, and you’ll be given the opportunity to train in a variety of different places.
In terms of play tweaking, it seems that every year EA Tiburon goes through the unenviable process of balancing the defensive and offensive lines to that special x factor that makes Madden play a little better than it did the previous year. In last year’s game, for example, the defense often knew what you were doing before you did it, making the AI far too frustrating on higher difficulties. Madden NFL 2006 sees a tweaking of the AI in the opposition, and it makes for a far more entertaining game. It doesn’t make them incompetent by any stretch; it just makes them feel far less “psychic”.
Visually, there aren’t many drastic improvements in the animations – although there are a few new catches that play out nicely – and the overall presentation is much the same as last year. Future games in the series should look great with the enhanced graphical capabilities of the 360, although we may not see the upper limits of what Tiburon can do on the hardware for a few more years.
A Great Direction for the Series
If you take the time to adjust to Madden NFL 2006’s new elements like QB Vision and the Truck Stick, you’ll find a far deeper game under the hood than you’ve ever experienced. Granted, it makes the game harder, but for many players the increased realism will be the payoff. If you want to continue to play your fantasy football game from an angle that allows you to see everything on the field at once, you can turn the feature off and play as you normally would. Superstar Mode is worth the price of admission alone, and it will be great to see this area fine-tuned and advanced upon, as it will surely be for years to come.
Madden NFL 2006 is a great football game. For the first time in years, the series has been redesigned, completely altering the gameplay at its core. Tiburon appears not to be satisfied with just creating an entertaining representation of video football, instead striving to advance realism so the experience brings players that much closer to being on the gridiron. They’ve succeeded. 2006 is a must-have for most Madden faithful.