IGN Review of Madden NFL 07
When it comes to sports games, Madden is the undisputed king of them all. Whether you celebrate the Maddenoliday every time the title is released, or you simply test your skills online with other players, there are few titles that captivate sports fans as much as the respected EA Sports football title. Having conquered current gen, portable systems and the Xbox 360, Madden NFL 07 is warming up to take the PS3 playing field. But is this the next gen version that football fans have been waiting for, or should the game go back to training camp?
The answer, surprisingly, is both yes and no. Compared to the current gen version, Madden NFL 07 for the PS3 is a much richer experience, with sharper visuals and larger hits. However, strip away the SIXAXIS controller and some retouched textures, and you essentially have the 360 version of the game that's been ported over to the PS3. No new or exclusive modes are in the PS3 game, so it's hard to witness Sony's entry into the next gen football arena without knowing that you've already seen this all once before.
One thing that PlayStation fans could usually take solace in from year to year is having the option to pick up and play Madden without feeling like they needed to relearn the entire control scheme. That has definitely come to an end with Madden's debut on the PS3, since the assigned buttons for controls is practically the exact same one from the 360 version of the game. For instance, sprinting has been taken off of the X button and been placed onto the R2 button. In its place, jukes have landed on the X button in combination with the left analog stick. Protecting the ball has also moved from the triangle button (which now is the stiff arm control) to the R1 button. Playmaker passing is now activated by pulling both the L2 and R2 buttons instead of clicking the R3 button. You may need to play a game or two before you get the hang of everything.
On the other hand, the PS3 version of Madden does take advantage of the SIXAXIS Controller, although the instruction manual and in-game screens don't clearly explain how. On the defensive side of the ball, players can get their Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher on by thrusting the controller in the ball carrier's direction. Time it just right, and you'll crush the opponent with a massive hit. The defense can also attempt to jump the snap count and get into the backfield by pushing the controller toward the offensive line. However, this motion requires precise timing for two separate reasons. Obviously, if you jump the count too early, you can be flagged for encroachment. But the other significant reason is because if you jump the count too late, the game may think you're trying to use the Hit Stick functionality and take your player out of position to make a play on the ball unintentionally. For offense, Quarterbacks can use the SIXAXIS controller to attempt to draw overeager defenders offsides with a fake snap. Instead of pressing a button, players can snap the controller up and back towards them, which may get some defenders to bite on the fake.
The motion sensitivity also gives a certain amount of re-invention to one of the largest additions to this year's game. The Run to Daylight lead blocking feature that was included in Madden 07 can now be used in concert with the motion controller to set your blocks and help your teammates get out into the open. Players initially choose the person they want to lay down the block, and then run the play like normal. By shoving the controller forward or backwards near a defender, you can perform an impact or cut block on your opponent. This doesn't mean that you won't have to rely on using the left thumbstick to put your blocker in position; it only means that you can make an impact within the play thanks to the motion of the controller. While including the motion sensitivity for offense or defense is a nice touch, it can be somewhat imprecise. Even though you can manipulate the responsiveness of the controller for games, you'll probably find yourself relying much more on the buttons and thumbsticks instead of the motion sensitivity.
Taking the Field
Apart from the control situation, there are a few ways that Madden is slightly different from the 360 build. The running style of players has been completely re-designed, which looks much closer to how the athletes play in real life. Faster backs that use a lot of quick cuts and slashes up the field, like Reggie Bush, run and perform their highlight moves completely differently than larger power backs, like LaDainian Tomlinson. Even better, some of the animations that surround broken tackles and stiff arms look stronger than ever before. For instance, I witnessed LT steamroll over a cornerback with a powerful stiff arm that made the defensive back drop like a stone. Some of the jukes, cutbacks and other moves have been re-captured as well, so you should notice some new surprises on the field.
Players will also notice some new gang tackling animations that have much more weight and power behind them. Part of this is due to the focus on the physics behind a hit: if a player gets tagged from the right side, the force of the hit will direct their body to the left. If that player gets hit from the opposite direction at the same time (or a half a second later), they're more than likely to fumble the ball than hold onto it. As a result, defensive stops may feel much more explosive and harder as ball carriers are driven to the ground, and fumbles are much more understandable than having to rely on a back simply being fatigued. Yes, in case you were wondering, the fatigue system is included in Madden 07 for the PS3, and this time it works the way it's supposed to out of the box.
As for the rest of the gameplay experience, if you've seen it on the 360, you're pretty well accustomed to the features included within the PS3 version of the game. Successfully completing games, as well as accomplishing specific benchmarks during play earns you points for your Madden Gamer Level, which, in turn, will unlock Hall of Fame players that you can use on your team. The various exercises that can be run within the Mini-Camp, such as the 40-Yard Dash, Bench Press and Lineman Challenge, can be used as both a test of your skills and a way to help your stats in the Superstar Mode. Superstar makes a return as well, tasking you to take your created athlete from his rookie season to Canton, Ohio by being one of the best players at a certain position. Once again, the game holds more to the 360 version of the title than the PS2, because you're presented with a calendar and a set of menu options rather than a visual representation of your athlete's apartment, a map of the city you live and play in, etc. Hall of Fame footage and bios are included with the game as well, and the Franchise mode makes an appearance to finish out the full experience.
Visually and aurally, Madden NFL 07 is almost identical to the 360 build in every respect. While character models on the field and the sidelines are practically the same, there are some visual improvements. You'll pick up on detail that's included in every jersey, glove or elbow pad, and helmet sheen is a bit slicker than before. Ground degradation is a bit more pronounced as well, particularly during games in inclement weather. Playing football in the middle of a rainstorm literally turns the field into a soaked, muddy pit. The pre-play cutscenes and cinematic camera angles that run before every run formation return as well, although they happen to have some frame rate hitches from play to play. In fact, there are a couple of times that the game will hesitate for a second or two, which makes it seem like it's loading something when it doesn't need to. As for sound, you'll still have to deal with the random EA Sports Network announcer, so if you're not a big fan of his play by play, you'll probably want to listen to something else during a game. At least you have the smacks from tackles, the yells of the athletes on the field and the roar of the crowd to distract you.
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