Madden NFL 07ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer – EA Tiburon Publisher - Electronic Arts Features Players 1-2 6MB to save game HDTV 480p/720p/1080i Dolby Digital 5.1 Online Multiplayer (2 Players) Content Download Leaderboards The extremely popular Madden franchise continues with its latest instalment, Madden 07. For the sake of this review I had the chance to play the Xbox 360 version. Madden NFL 07 was one of my most anticipated releases in months and the timing of the release was perfect; coinciding with the start of the NFL season. Last year many felt Madden NFL 06 for the Xbox 360 was rushed and could have been so much better than what the finished product provided. With another year under their belt I believed EA would improve the game drastically. Did they pull it off? Well sort of. The game is improved over last year’s version however there are still some issues and lots of room for improvement. Graphics The visuals in Madden 07 are certainly an upgrade over last year’s version of the franchise. Last year only a few features really stood out. This year the grass on field look incredibly realistic and the surface takes some wear and tear as the game progresses. The stadiums also look amazing and create the atmosphere as they get you pumped up about playing the game. I was also really impressed with the lighting. I liked how you could see the sunset in some of some of those late afternoon West Coast games and I thought that it was certainly a nice touch. The player animations have also been improved this year. The players are very smooth and animations look very good. The faces look a little more realistic and uglier than ever. The player movements are also becoming more increasingly realistic too. I especially like how the defensive and offensive lineman pointed at each other during an offside call. I also liked how the defensive players running towards the ball carrier would hop over the tackled players and how EA took the time to mimic some of the ball carrying styles of the Running Backs. For instance Tiki Barber holds the ball in that so familiar upright tuck, a carrying style he only started a couple of years ago when he had a bad case of fumblitus. Well this style carries over into this year’s game as do many other styles of other running backs. Overall the graphics are superb however I did have some concerns. One of my concerns is with some of the animations found in this game. Many of the players, particularly kickers and QB’s, looked ‘juiced’. For instance, Marc Bulger looks like he’s been on the Barry Bonds - Balco training program in the off-season and Jeff Wilkins looks like he joined him for the ride. I felt a little more work could be done on many of the players to make them look a little more realistic. Bottom-line, kickers should look like kickers and QB’s (with the exception of bulky ones like Culpepper) should look like QBs, not the hulking men they are portrayed to be. Another concern is some of the frame rate slow-downs. Often the game can slow down a little bit in some parts of the game. I noticed the slow downs would occur during the intro when you are panning the stadium. I also experienced some slow-downs after a TD. It was not a major concern but merely something witch bothered me and left me wondering if my Xbox 360 was going to freeze. Overall, however the game is pretty smooth. One last area of concern is the crowd as I was hoping for more here. Everyone enjoys close-ups of the Raider Nation at Oakland stadium. Instead, Madden NFL 07 provides us with the same old tired crowd that seems to be recycled from NCAA 07. Don’t get me wrong it is all about the gameplay but a little more attention paid to the crowd can go along way to further the atmosphere. Overall, the visuals are certainly an upgrade over last years Madden. The game is sharp looking, and would pretty much leave any NFL fan awestruck if they have been living under a rock and never seen any Madden video game footage. Sound As far as the sound is concerned, Madden 07 delivers. The game's sound is an excellent complement to the fantastic graphics. The following sounds really stood out for me: 1. Player ‘smack-talk’; 2. Sounds of the game incredibly realistic; 3. EA soundtrack is as good as ever; and 4. The crowd noise is more of a factor with Madden 07. Similarly to graphics, the sound is an upgrade with this year’s version of the franchise. The player smack talk is nice and I like how EA didn’t go overboard with the chatter either. It’s merely a nice little subtlety that only adds to the gameplay. The sounds of the game are also quite amazing this year. Such things as the players breathing to the hard hitting tackles are bang on. I highly recommend turning up the volume when on defence as there is nothing like hearing your linebacker pursuing the running back and lining him up with a diving tackle. The 5.1 surround sound is great. On the downside, I am not impressed with the announcers. In many ways I found them boring. I want to be able to hear Al Michaels, Joe Buck, Sam Rosen or some of the other regulars I hear every Sunday during the football season. I don’t want to hear generic and tired old boring announcers. Give me the who’s who of play-by-play broadcasters. I may be picky but given Madden 07 has exclusive NFL video game rights I have come to expect the ‘full meal deal’. I am also a little on the fence of the “long bomb cannon” sound which you hear anytime you launch the ball over 30 yards downfield to your receiver. This is something I liked at first but it’s also something I would expect from the NFL Street franchise. Madden 07 is supposed to be more simulation like than arcadish in my opinion so I think that the long bomb sounds effects could have been left out. Another area of concern which is also one of the strengths of Madden 07 is the crowd noise. On one hand I like how the home crowd cheers you on much more effectively than other versions of the franchise. However there were some instances where I would score a TD and not a peep was heard. I would also like to see crowd noise when the other team is trying to tie the game up. For example, during big plays in this type of scenario it would be nice if this type of crowd noise factored into some offsides, just like you see at practically every Seattle home game. Despite my concerns, the audio truly shines in the 360 version of Madden 07. and the NFL never sounded so good and it really adds to the intensity of the game. Gameplay Madden NFL 07 appears to have much more emphasis on the running game, and so they should. It is well known in the NFL that every successful NFL team has a good running game. In this years Madden year it is critical you have a balanced attack. Every time I found myself passing too much the AI would adjust and slowly but surely the passing game would falter. I like how you need to establish the running game in order to open up the passing the game. Overall, the gameplay for Madden 07 for the Xbox 360 is once again solid and enjoyable and it has introduced a number of new features that I found great while others I could have done without. They are as follows: - Lead Blocker Control: This year you can control the fullback (lead blocker) in efforts to make the perfect block and create a running lane for your tailback. All you have to do is click the left bumper, cycle through lead blockers and then take control of one to clear a path for the back. The blocker can strafe, sprint, and perform impact or cut blocks depending on the situation. A specific defender can be targeted with the Y button too. Once the block is thrown, you can retain complete control of the running back by pressing the B button. It’s also possible to automate the switch back to the RB in the options if you so desire. I wasn’t big on this feature but I would see how many others would love this. Personally I would do without it but it does add another dimension to the game which should always be encouraged. - All-New Highlight Stick: As I indicated above many of players, most notably the Running Backs, run like their real life counterparts and the running styles appear to match those of real NFL players. For instance, LT (Tomlinson) is more of a slashing back and S. Jackson is more of a power back. Similar to previous versions of the franchise there are plenty of new jukes, cutbacks, and power moves at your disposal. - Franchise Mode: This year you can scout collegiate prospects with the all-new NFL Draft Scouting System and the College All-Star Game, or watch players around the NFL impact their teams with the new Franchise Player Roles feature. The Franchise mode is typically where you will start when you first start a season. Games typically take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour with 5 minute quarters. I was a little disappointed I could not save halfway through a game. Also, how come there is no big Superbowl half time show or award ceremony at the end of the big game. With the exception of the field, your Superbowl game is identical to the regular season game. I found this somewhat disappointing. - Team-Specific Defensive Playbooks: For the first time, use actual plays from your favorite team's defensive playbook to shut down the running game, pressure the quarterback, or force key turnovers. I wasn’t even aware of this feature until someone pointed it out to me. I couldn’t really see any major differences from one defence to the next but then again some might really love using Dallas’ Cover 2 scheme. - Mini-Camp: Here you can create a player then build up his attributes by running him through skill-based, combine-type mini-games. In the off-season you will use mini-camps to condition players or rehab injuries to get back on the field faster. This is a good little feature which takes away some of the boredom of your traditional franchise mode. - Madden Gamer Level: Madden NFL 07 has caught on to some of the 360 achievement points fever by introducing their own Madden Gamer level. Here you can track your career accomplishments in Franchise Mode to earn Madden Gamer Points, and then wager your rewards against the computer or against live online opponents to reach the ultimate reward—the NFL Hall of Fame. I like the Madden Gamer Level and I also like how the mini-games can count towards your this level too. The Madden Gamer Level gives you incentives for doing well in games such as the bench press or 40 yard dash. If the Madden Gamer level was non-existent, I would spend maybe 2 minutes on the 40 yard dash and that would be it. - Replay Challenge: One of the most glaring omissions from Madden NFL 06 was no challenges. Last year, I often wondered how the hell EA missed that. Well, the red flag is back and you can challenge any virtually any play. This is pretty much a must for any NFL game. - Superstar mode: This is truly a great feature for those who get bored with the franchise mode. Here you will choose a player position right down to his parent’s DNA. You then form your future superstar in appearance and move him through mini-game combine training and field drills. I love this feature and at the time I am writing this review I have only scratched the surface of the feature. Multiplayer There are essentially two different play modes; Play Now or Session Match games. The online play is solid although I did hit some lag here and there. As long as there are leaderboards and I can play against someone across the country I am happy. Conclusion Madden NFL 07 certainly lived up to my expectations and is a significant leap from last years version. The graphics are superb and the sound is sharp. The Superstar and Franchise modes are engaging and add further depth to this game. The overall gameplay has also been improved and it what makes this one of the highest selling games. There is certainly lots of room for improvement but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Eventually, EA will put out the perfect NFL game; unfortunately it’s not this year. That being said, every NFL fan with a 360 will likely own Madden NFL 07 and so they should as it has finally entered the realm of Next Generation.