IGN Review of Madden NFL 07
Madden is to sports games as Ricky Williams is to the sticky icky, you just can't think of one without the other. In fact, the day Madden ships to stores probably costs the American workforce millions of dollars as thousands of people across the country call in sick to play hours upon hours of this phenomenon known as polygonal pigskin. But is it worth the hype? Last year was a resounding no as the rush to hit the 360 launch date cost the game a series of features gamers have been playing for years on their old, out of date Xbox. People were left paying more money for a game and a system that gave them less than what they already had. That's like cutting Peyton Manning then signing Jeff Garcia to a $50 million dollar deal. Not smart business.
Could EA bounce back? Gamers will be happier than Maurice Clarett at a Grey Goose sale about the turnaround. Madden NFL 07, while not perfect, is still a giant leap forward for 360 football.
Madden's in the Hall, are you?
It's one thing to score a touchdown as your favorite player, bust a cartwheel like Clinton Portis, flex to the crowd like T.O., but what if you were on the field next to them? That's the concept behind NFL Superstar Hall of Fame mode, one of the best new additions to the game in years. Create your player down to the DNA, picking the perfect parents to spawn a superstar. So if you think a doctor mom who likes spelunking and a golfing dad who plays videogames will make you a winning quarterback, here's your chance. Then again, if you don't like the parents you're given, all you have to do is hit a button and a new mom and dad appear. Cycle through sets of parents to find the perfect match (each coupling produces a different position on the field), then create your character's custom look down to the facemask, gloves, and pads. All positions except for punter and kicker are available to play, and every position is a completely different gaming experience. Become a receiver and call for the ball ala Randy Moss. Play tackle and try to pop holes for Edge. Take on corner and play bump and run, picking off passes like Champ and taking it back to the house (just don't run out of gas before you get there). Every position has a unique camera angle, and since you're only that player, you don't call the plays, you do what coach tells you, and when you're not in the lineup, you simply watch and cheer your teammates to get the job done as the game plays out before your eyes and you wait for your next opportunity to run onto the field.
But before your career begins you'll need to train your player and earn those valuable rating points by running the 40 and lifting weights at the combine, not to mention the timed IQ test that lets you know exactly where you stand in terms of brain versus brawn. There are also position specific drills you'll need to master in order to move up the draft board and justify your spot in the league. Once selected, it's off to training camp complete with practice and media time with annoying reporters. Next question.
Hire an agent, fire your agent, declare free agency, demand a trade, even guarantee a trip to the Super Bowl, but watch out, how you play and act affects your influence on the team and whether or not anyone will pay attention to the loud mouthed rookie. The better you play on the field, the more your team will rally around you and throw you the ball as you can actually spend influence points you earn through great plays to improve, not only your player, but your teammates, enhancing your chances of making it to the postseason.
As you build up your career stats, you'll also build up a Hall of Fame meter. Fill it up by the time you call it quits, and you'll be next in line to join Madden himself in Canton. And while some positions are definitely more fun than others (wide receiver and linebacker being the best), it will be interesting to see how many players try to make it to the Hall of Fame from every single spot on the field. In addition to your characters making the Hall, there are also over 140 Hall of Famers found in Madden that you will be able to unlock during gameplay, including players like Walter Payton and Earl Campbell. You'll even see these Hall of Famers pop up in Franchise mode on various teams through free agency. You think the Colts look tough this year, how about adding Barry Sanders to the backfield.
One problem I have, though, is the actual list of legends. What's the use of having 140-plus players if you scan the list and only see a couple dozen or so worth playing as. The more you look at the list, it's more about who was left off than who was included as there is no Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, or Broadway Joe, just to name a few. EA would've been better off going with legends gamers want to play as as opposed to just stockpiling names like Stan Jones and Tom Mack. No offense to the Jones or Mack families, but gamers would much rather play as guys like Lawrence Taylor or Marcus Allen any day.
Another huge addition to Madden this year is the feature that makes Mack Strong smile. It's called Run to Daylight, and for the first time in Madden, the emphasis is on blocking rather than high-stepping down the sidelines. Before running plays, you can cycle through every player on offense, from the guards and tackles to the fullback and tight end. Pick a player, then hike the ball to become that player. Flick up on the right analog stick and you can try to pancake opponents as the computer controls the halfback, following your lead. Make a good block, and the ball carrier will get a boost to his performance, enabling him to spin and juke his way free for a bigger gain. This mode becomes surprisingly addictive, especially at fullback as you try to smash into as many defenders as you can. It's never been so much fun to be Obafemi Ayanbadejo.
Add to that a new highlight stick that makes you move like Dante Hall to avoid tackles, field degradation thanks to 3D grass that actually gets torn up, and even hair physics so you can watch Troy Polamalu's wild locks flow as he knocks the wind out of a receiver, and you have a game with so much depth - forget one day, you might need to take a week off of work to appreciate all of the finer points. The highlight stick is especially valuable as bigger running backs will still truck their way over defenders, but now smaller guys like Tiki Barber will slip and slide their way through the line, and there is even a hop step if you pull back on the stick.
There are a few downers though, most notably the absence of Owner mode (a staple of the current generation that lets you take over and even relocate franchises as the cyber Jerry Jones), no fantasy draft, and the fact that the fatigue icons don't accurately portray how tired your players are. According to producers, fatigue does work in the game, causing players to fumble more when overused, but how are you supposed to know who needs a rest if the screen displaying the information never updates. Word is a patch is already on the way, until then, don't hand the ball to Willis McGahee five times in a row unless you want to watch the ball hit the turf. Another problem is the fact that, although I love franchise mode, after my Redskins won the Super Bowl there was no post-game celebration. No fireworks, no trophy presentation to B-Lloyd
nothing. How could there be a pregame but not a postgame? At least give me some Gatorade showers or something.
If you're looking for a way to spice up your franchise, try Live Opponent, a new feature giving you the ability to choose someone online to play the CPU's role in your season. Imagine the trash talk as you head into the 16th week of your undefeated dynasty and your neighbor down the hall hands you your first loss. Unfortunately, when we tested the game online, there was significant lag, and that was with only a few hundred people on the server. Not enough lag to make you stop playing, but enough to frustrate you as you see your linebacker miss a key tackle, potentially costing you a possession. The lag we experienced didn't happen every play, but it was too often to be ignored.
In terms of features, last, but certainly not least, especially to hardcore players, is a new feature called Madden Gamer Level. The more you play and the better you get, the higher the level you'll earn (to a max of 50 including Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels). This mode tracks everything you do, interceptions returned for touchdowns, the time you dropped 84 on some loser online or even beat the CPU by 56. You can even risk Madden Gamer points against friends to really up the level of tension and importance. A great way to finally prove to everyone that you're the best Madden player on your block as now you finally have the numbers to back up all your talk.
Look and Listen
In terms of graphics, the animation level is a significant upgrade over Madden 06, with players linking moves together, from spins to stiff arms, with a lot more fluidity, even throwing in distinct running styles of players like Tiki Braber and his no-fumble, goofy tuck. The game is still only moving at 30 frames per second, but even at that, it's a superior, more solid 30 frames than you saw in previous Tiburon titles, most recently NCAA Football 07.
The funny thing about the game is, the more real faces they add, the more the faces of your favorite players who they didn't add tend to stick out. Some of these dudes can get pretty ugly, too. I wonder how they like looking so rough in high-def.
Soundwise, I'm not a fan of the hometown radio announcer. There are too many dead spots where he just doesn't say anything after a big play, especially during replays. The crowd will fall silent and you end up watching an exciting play on mute, really taking away the authentic feeling from the game. Down on the field is where the real audio action takes place as you can hear players talking smack, the cleats hitting the grass as defenders chases you, and the grunts and groans of fierce tackles. There are also the real audible calls for over 20 NFL quarterbacks thanks to the sound files of NFL Films.
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