I met a guy this morning standing in line behind me at the Best Buy I frequent. He had Madden 06 in hand. I asked him “Madden fan, huh?” He says “Yeah. Love it. I just bought Madden 05 last month. Just got my Xbox. Need to upgrade Madden though. Gotta stay on top. It’s going to be killer!”
Is it? Is it really? Is Madden 06 killer?
It’s killer. It’s not exactly a first degree murderer, but it’s pretty hot in the right spots.
In my opinion Madden stopped being killer a long time ago. It’s been a roster upgrade here, visual tweaks there, new move here, old move removed there, new gameplay mechanic here, old gameplay mechanic removed there. EA has successfully been selling guys like Mr. Gotta Have It, a game they didn’t really need for at least 5 years now. That’s come to the end of the line now with 2006. There are enough substantial improvements 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.
To be frank, Madden 06 has some revolutionary “improvements” that will either make it or entirely break it for you. That’s usually nothing new, but this time I mean it. In the last ten years Madden has eeked by with little revision, but 2006 features gameplay that is entirely different than what you’re used to. Quarterback Vision & Precision Passing has all of the earmarks of a fantastic idea; ergo it makes the game far more realistic. When the ball is snapped QBV & PP provides you with a field of vision that you must train on your receiver. You must focus this field of vision on your receiver before throwing 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 suck. Bigtime suck. 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 big ass TV screen or monitor. Unfortunately realism doesn’t always translate into entertainment and in this case, your enjoyment level of Madden 06 will be directly proportionate to how well you adapt to this new scheme, particularly because it makes Madden harder rather than more enjoyable. The field of vision works 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 it’ll be Monday Night sack time 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. Personally I like it but it’s not perfect by any stretch. It has added depth to the game which hasn’t been present in previous games, but players like Mr. Gotta Have It might be in for a total shocker. Thankfully for those who hate it, you can turn it off in the game options, therefore rendering this fat paragraph of text and the coolest upgrade to the series in ten years null and void.
If you don’t feel the love for QB Vision, you’re going to dig the Truck Stick which allows bigger players to Rhino charge their way through the opposition with a quick jab of the R Analog stick. This is an innovative move (sorta like the Hit Stick), to be sure, but you have to know when and whom to use it with. As I said, if you use a smaller player, it’s not going to work and you risk fumbling, interception, loss of possession, yardage…everything. When you do work the magic, you’ll definitely feel that this is one of the touches that Madden has been missing. It feels so right it should have been included years ago. It can literally make or break a game if used correctly.
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 and you better make some damn good choices) or you can import a player from NCAA 2006 or NFL Street 2 and take him from crayons to perfume. Oh wait, that’s To Sir With Love by Sidney Poitier. Superstar mode outshines the QB Vision as the number one reason to part with your cash for 2006. The concept is to take a player from just before the Draft all the way through his pro career and ending with his retirement. Superstar mode isn’t all about playing though – you’ll have to take IQ tests, meet with potential sponsers, get your haircut and change your appearance, maybe even star in a crappy movie. Training is also a very important aspect of Superstar mode and you’ll be given the opportunity to try different places.
In terms of play tweaking, it seems every year Tiburon goes through the unenviable process of balancing the defensive and offensive lines to that special nth degree which makes Madden play a little bitter than it did the previous year. In last years game for example I found that the defense often knew what you were doing before you did, and therefore the AI was far too frustrating on the higher difficulties. 2006 sees a dimming of the AI in the opposition and it makes for a far more entertaining game. It doesn’t make them stupid by any stretch, it just makes them far less “psychic”.
Visually I defy any of you to notice any drastic improvements in the animations – although there are a few new catches that I’ve witnessed – and overall presentation is much the same as last year. I can’t wait to see this series on the 360 although I have a distinct feeling we won’t be seeing exactly what Tiburon can do on the hardware at least until 2007. Maybe I’m wrong. Hope so.
If you take the time to adjust to the new QB Vision elements, you’ll find a far deeper game under the hood than you’ve ever experienced. Granted it makes the game harder, but as I already stated, realism is the payoff. If you want to continue to play your fantasy football game where you have the vision of a God, turn off the newfangled feature and play as you normally would. Superstar Mode is worth the price of admission alone and I would love to see this area finetuned and advanced upon as I’m sure it will be for years to come.
Madden 2006 is a great game of football and while most of us game journalists say that every year, this time it’s true. For the first time in years, the game has been redesigned which completely alters the gameplay at its core. Tiburon appears not to be satisfied with just creating an entertaining representation of video football but to advance the realism so that the experience brings players that much closer to what it feels like being on the gridiron. They’ve succeeded. 2006 is a must buy for most Madden faithful.