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Madden NFL 07 Review




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Developer: EA Tiburon Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: August 22, 2006 Also On: None

In November 2005, I ended my review of Madden NFL 2006 for the Xbox 360 by saying, “Hopefully next season EA Sports can throw in some of the gameplay modes that made Madden so different while improving on a few of the annoyances.” Now, nine months later, I’m sitting in my gamer chair rocking back and forth with those new gameplay modes I wanted, but some of the annoyances return. Ultimately this makes Madden NFL 2007 another disappointing release on the next-generation console.

This year, Superstar Mode is all the rage in the Madden series. The goal here is to create a character whose skills are determined by his parents’ different abilities as well as pre-Draft, pre-season training. These training mini-games range from awful (40-yard dash is difficult to control) to mildly entertaining (player-specific drills are always fun). Your ultimate goal is to make your character a superstar and earn him a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame. It sounds a lot like NCAA Football 2006’s Race for the Heisman Mode, right? Like Race for the Heisman before it, Superstar Mode sounds great on paper, but unlike that mode, I was extremely disappointed by the on-field execution. You see, on the field, you play everything as realistically as possible from your player’s perspective. You won’t control any other player on the field (although you have the option of controlling the entire defense if you aren’t a defensive player) and you’ll see everything from a very limited third-person view, focused behind your player. I found that this camera gave such limited view that it was too difficult to perform simple plays, like screen passes with quarterbacks. Why couldn’t they do Superstar Mode just like Race for the Heisman? That would have worked just fine and would have been a lot more fun.

Franchise Mode returns and is as solid as ever. You still can’t control a lot of the things that Owner Mode (Madden 2006, Madden 2007 for current-gen) lets you control, but from the point of being a coach, you’ve got all of the basic options. Sadly, my current favorite love, Fantasy Draft, isn’t an option. Why, EA Tiburon, why?

Visually, Madden NFL 2007 is a very, very pretty game. The stadiums look absolutely flawless and the character models are more appropriately and realistically scaled than their bulky current-gen counterparts. Some of the new tackle animations are brutal, but one of the annoyances from last year returns, the constant stuttering of the frame rate. All too often, the game would make a noticeable pause for a second, making the game look very choppy.

Do yourself a favor and turn off all of the non-ambient sound. John Madden was dumped from the next-gen game again, but the radio announcer got on my nerves this year a lot more than last year. Other than the commentary, everything in this game sounds great. There is more on-field chatter than ever, the tackles redefine the meaning of pain, and the crowd reacts more realistically than I’ve ever heard. Surround sound people, prepare to enjoy.

Everything looks and sounds great, but there are some gameplay flaws that absolutely must be re-worked. First of all, the “feel” of this game, and the new control style, are both awful. They were awful last year, and they’ll be awful next year if EA Tiburon sticks to the same formula. The players don’t feel responsive or realistic at all. The controls for almost everything in this game are different than the familiar current-gen scheme, which really threw me off for the second season in a row. The way you call hot routes wasn’t awful last year, in fact it was easy to use, but it’s not as quick or deceptive as the way it’s done in other versions of Madden. The new Run for Daylight blocking mechanic doesn’t feel as smooth as it does in current-gen, but then again, nothing feels as good here as current-gen, except for perhaps the Truck/Highlight Stick, and that’s a problem. The brain-dead A.I. that plagued the Xbox 360 version of NCAA Football 2007 returns for Madden, and all too often you will see your defensive backs run away from their receiver assignment to block a tight end or some other player. Unless you manually control your receivers, all too often the ball will fly over their heads without any sort of reaction from them. And there were times where I seriously wondered if my offensive line was on the field–I felt that sacks happened far, far too often.

Madden NFL 2007 on Xbox 360 just doesn’t feel like Madden. It’s as stiff as a 40-year-old kicker. It’s as chuggy as Peyton Manning’s scramble. It doesn’t feel quick, smooth, or fluid like Madden is supposed to feel. If Madden is supposed to feel this painful, they should put Limpin’ Leftwich on the cover, hobbling to the sidelines. The problems don’t end there. I encountered so many unexplainable flaws in this game that it’s hard for me to believe it was finished completely. Is it a bug, or just a new rule that I haven’t heard about, for the game to automatically cut off your control when you’re winning in the end of the fourth quarter? Sure, it’s unsportsmanlike to run up the score, but I’ll be damned if I’ll sit and watch the play clock tick down all 35 seconds to be a good sport in a video game. I think it’s just a bug, because it happened pretty randomly in my play time. And the bug to stomp out all bugs, the frequent crashes from Madden NFL 2006, were improved upon, but still happen in Madden NFL 2007. At least five times before finishing this review my game crashed, forcing me to re-play games and re-live my frustrations.

I love this series. I look forward to the annual Madden game more than most games throughout the year. Madden NFL 2007 looked like it would be the bright spot for Xbox 360 sports games, but it ends up swimming around in the same frustrating waters that it did last fall. Madden NFL 2006 got away with some of its flaws, simply because it was a launch title. Madden NFL 2007, which came out nine months later, can’t escape the same flaws and some of the other new ones caused by Superstar Mode. EA Tiburon needs to re-work its million-selling baby before the 2008 series.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 4.5
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 6.7
Written by Cliff Review Guide