When people think football and gaming, there is only one game that comes to mind — and that is Madden. In the past players have been frustrated with the series’ repetitive gameplay and lack of fine tuning, and last year’s Madden NFL 06 was no exception. The game lacked most features players had become attached to such as Franchise mode and Create a Player. It also suffered from numerous bugs including frame rate problems and freeze ups.
Now with Madden NFL 07, EA Sports seems to be demonstrating a strong effort to impress gamers this year by adding refreshing new content and improving upon the gameplay of the lacklustre 06 version. Madden NFL 07 builds on past concepts and revamps them to the point of making this new Madden feel revitalized and definitely worth buying.
Let’s talk graphics
At first glance, the graphics may not look much different to other platform versions. However, regular players will notice subtle differences in the PS3 version, such as individual blades of grass on the fields, realistic lighting, improved character models, and enhanced animations.
Madden NFL 07 builds on its predecessor’s game engine providing sharper textures and global lighting to cast stadium and player shadows realistically depending on the time of day. The character models have also seen upgrades showing improved muscle tone detail, flexible moving jerseys, and facial representation of real NFL players.
When playing Madden 07 on the PS3, you’ll notice that not only have the individual player animations been enhanced, but the PS3 showcases all new gang tackling animations. This means when you grab an opposing team’s running back and he is dragging you along, you can switch to another nearby player and bring him down with a finishing blow or cause fumbles. This feature adds to the realism that past Madden games have been missing.
Let’s talk features
Madden NFL 07 returns with some familiar features everyone has come to love, plus a few new ones. Some of the returning modes include Franchise, Online, Exhibition, and Create a Character. New features consist of SIXAXIS control, Mini-games, Gamer Level and Super Star mode.
In Franchise mode, you’ll start with a team of your choice opening with summer camp training and preparing for pre-season. Choose certain players from your team to improve their skills by completing mini games at the training camp. From there you can enter the NFL draft, picking up free agents and signing college players for their team.
Once the preseason has started, your team will train before each game strengthening their weak points on offense and defense. Choose from an array of training games such as the 40 yard dash, bench press, and the running back challenge. A unique feature is the ability to have a “live opponent” for each of your Franchise games. Connecting to EA’s online service you’ll soon be bench pressing online against a real player.
The SIXAXIS controls in Madden 07 play out in many different ways. One of the first is the ability to juke, charge, and spin with the running back or receiver carrying the ball. This feels much better than using the analogs as all you have to do is shake the controller. Another gameplay element that uses the SIXAXIS is the ability to early jump the snap on the defense. This gives you the advantage when breaking through the offensive line for a QB sack or stuffing the running back.
Even though Madden uses the SIXAXIS controller for a few gameplay elements, there is still room for improvement. It would be nice to use the SIXAXIS to shake opponents off your defenseless quarterback or perhaps on a pass use the controller to guide the path of the ball.
A returning Madden feature — though not seen until now in next gen form — is the Super Star mode. This mode allows you to create a Super Star by first picking his parents IQ and life-styles. Once the player has picked his parents the Super Star is given a position best suited for his DNA, such as Quarterback. Next, choose from an array of facial types and skin tones to create the look of your Super Star, and change the shape and size of the calves, biceps/arms, shoe sizes, helmet types, etc. to create your perfect Gridiron god.
Once the Super Star is created, you must give him an agent to help him along the path to become, well, a Super Star. Enter training camp to assess their overall abilities in throwing, blocking, speed, strength, and so on. Then it’s on to the NFL draft where they will be signed to a team based on where their agent puts them. Along the way you’ll enter daily events ranging from talks with your agent, training camp, and taking interviews with news reporters. Super Star mode is a unique gameplay element taking you away from the traditional Madden way of playing football.
In Madden 07 there is a new gameplay feature called Gamer Level. The Gamer Level will keep track of everything you accomplish in Madden 07 whether its progressing through franchise mode, playing Super Star mode, or winning games online. You can also earn points to go towards your Gamer Level by completing goals in a normal game, this includes things like; completing a 60 yard pass, returning a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and running over 300 yards in a game. The max level tops out at 50, and is the point in the game in which you become tired of Madden and move to something better in life!
What about Online play?
With online being a must have for any sports game nowadays, Madden 07 is no different. Online features include Play Now, Lobbies, Madden Profile, and Offers. The Play Now feature plops you right into a game lobby with an equally skilled opponent and puts you into a game automatically. This is nice if you trust that the EA match making will be nice to you and not put you with someone 3-4 levels above you. The other option is to join a lobby. Here you can choose West Coast and East Coast or choose a lobby from Beginner, Intermediate, and Pro rooms – there is even a way to create a custom room.
While the Online service as a whole is quite decent, there are one or two points where it really fumbles the ball. Firstly, the game seems to have a crippling problem with lag where other titles do not. This makes the experience somewhat choppy and frustrating. Also, it can be difficult to actually find a game online with someone of the same skill level. This writer had to play a number of different times before he was pared with someone of the same skill level (god-like, of course).
Overall Madden NFL 07 provides a gaming experience worth it’s price tag, and since it’s the only officially licensed football game in the industry, gamers don’t – unforunately – really have an alternative choice to satify their hunger for true-to-real-life football.