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'Madden NFL 07' Review (Xbox 360)


Preseason football is already in full swing and in only a few weeks the real deal will be here and suddenly Sundays will be filled with couch potatoes rooting on their favorite team as they strive for the Super Bowl. Now, with Madden NFL 07, football isn't strictly held to the weekend and Mondays, as now you can get your football fix whenever you want. But is it as good as the real thing?

Since there isn't a story to speak of, we can skip straight ahead to the actual gameplay and see whether it is all it is cracked up to be.

If you are a solo player when it comes to sports games or more specifically Madden, then you'll have quite a few game modes at hand to keep you busy. For starters, there is the traditional Franchise mode, and though not as cool or interesting as the Owner's Mode of other Madden games, it does a nice job of letting you pick your favorite team and customize them as you hopefully lead them through a dynasty several years in the making. You'll be able to keep track of all your players, make trades, see what teams are leading the league, who has the best quarterback rating, etc. If you want to know something more than likely you'll be able to discover it within the game. The Franchise mode does have a flaw though, and it is that as your Madden gamer level goes up, you'll unlock Hall of Fame players, which will appear in your free agent pool, meaning any team in the league can hire them, which means a legendary quarterback or running back from years past could suddenly be running for up to 100 + yards with ease against your team when you weren't expecting them at all.

The other major mode for the single player is the Superstar mode, which is a new feature to the Xbox 360 version, that has you living the actual life of one and only one player; instead of controlling every single aspect of a team (offense, defense, special teams, coaching decisions) that you'd usually have in a typical Madden game in the Franchise or Season modes, in this mode you only concern yourself by what position you pick. The Superstar is actually quite interesting, as it acts like a role playing game of sorts, as you first choose your parents (which denotes what position you play) and then you choose their name, place of birth, birthday, customize their look, etc. Once all of that is done, it is time to hire an agent, partake in a few interviews, and then it is time to go training for a few teams, which means you'll compete in three mini-games (varies depending on your position you are playing) and then after a few of those and the NFL Combine (all the teams get a look at you) you are off to draft day to see where you get picked and for what team you'll be playing for. Once your team is set, you'll then have to go and practice with your team (don't worry if you don't want to…I put all those days on sim so I wouldn't have to bother with them) and then play in gameday. Depending on your position, games in Superstar mode typically take about 40 some minutes, as whenever you aren't playing things are ever so slightly sped up so the boredom of watching it is never too high.

Though it is interesting to follow your one player (focusing on one actually makes you feel like that player must feel, because I constantly found myself getting frustrated with the coaching staff whenever they didn't use me properly), the setup for the Superstar mode is a little broken. For starters, by playing well you are supposed to get Influence points, which act as a moral booster so you can improve your player or either your teammates around you, but this gimmick seemed cheap, as it seemed to unfairly give you an advantage, so I chose to never use it, but it is still a chore to have to cycle through it to get to the actual playing. Another problem, and this is the main one, is that the camera system is simply horrible, because unlike the usual Madden camera that pulls itself back a good deal so you can get a lay of the land, this one is right on your character's back. Now, this closeup camera isn't too bad for some positions like the running back position, but for the quarterback it gives you a terrible view of the field, so expect to miss a lot and lot of passes.

Overall, Superstar mode is really fun when you adapt to it, but it is far from perfect. I like the idea of creating a player (I was actually surprised the game knew my name simply by what I typed in) and surprisingly Superstar mode is where I'm spending most of my time, focusing on building up "me" instead of trying to lead my favorite team to the Super Bowl (go Panthers! – my only shout out moment I promise), but as said, highly flawed, but one of the most interesting play potentials I've yet to see be incorporated into a game, and I hope future games in the Madden franchise perfects the mode.

When you are looking at the gameplay itself as a whole, it works perfectly well, but yet again the whole thing seems flawed in many way. Through playing the game, I've seen way too many fumbles for a single game, players making catches out of bounds and still being called in, players who instantly jump from one destination to the next, invisible player breath where there shouldn't be any, guys doing the running man against another until the hiccup works itself out, the single announcer saying you only gained so many yards when the screen clearly shows you actually scored more, etc. There are just so many nags about the game, and after playing only one game, I saw every camera angle, heard every comment the announcer would have, and seen every animation the characters would go through. And why, oh why, would the announcer say my team was the "good guys" – ugh, that would never happen in the real NFL.

The big innovation in terms of this version is the lead blocking controls, which allow you to control a blocker, hopefully creating a hole with them, and then being able to switch back off to your running back so you can continue the run. The mode works pretty well after you get used to it, but I found myself 90% of the time simply leaving the blocking to the computer and controlling only the actions of the running back.

If you are looking for a football game, Madden does deliver technically that, but don't go expecting anything exemplary or groundbreaking, because what is there actually seems like a few steps from the last Madden game I owned, which was Madden 2004 (which I bought to commemorate when the Panthers made it to the Super Bowl – okay, I lied about that being the only time).

And on a side note, Madden NFL 07 has one of the worst game manuals I've ever seen – eight pages of black and white. Now, this wouldn't be a problem if the game was rather simple, but with all the modes and the buttons you have to use to perform everything from a spin move to a juke, it would've been nice had the manual contained more information for those players like myself who haven't touched the franchise in a few years.

There are two central modes here to concern yourself with, and those involve straight head to head matches, or either playing the Franchise mode online, which allows you to take a real human opponent and play against them for one game during your team's schedule. So, for example, I'm playing the Panthers opening game against the Falcons (okay, I really lied) and I'm connected to Xbox Live at the time, if I want, I can easily queue up a game so that instead of playing the CPU version of the Falcons during a Franchise game, I can play against a Falcons played by a real person; it is a neat idea to be sure. The only problem with playing Madden online is that there is some lag, which is never a good thing; it wasn't too bad, but sometimes I did run into some hairy issues, and the game became practically unplayable.

For a Xbox 360 game, I was actually expecting a little more than what EA gave me. The stadiums are beautiful and look just like their real world counterparts, and the close-ups of the characters, seen mainly in pre-snap cinematics, look really well done, but once the camera moves back to its normal Madden level, things are a little less pretty. Oh sure, the fog coming from their breath on a cold December day is a nice touch, but I'd marveled more at, if during a wet and rainy day, instead of the field looking like it was wet, it actually had water puddles that reflected your image back, as if you were looking at a mirror.

Well, Madden is Madden…what can I say? If you've played any Madden game, you know to expect an equal mixture of rap and rock; a few of the songs are okay, but mostly it seems like generic stuff I could care less about (though they do have one Dashboard Confessional song on there). As for the announcer, he is boring, sounds bad (he is supposed to sound like he is coming from a radio) and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I missed Madden's voice. The sound effects are nice (the grunts and hits) but when everything else is so ho-hum, you'll probably miss out on them if you do like me and end up muting the game for a homespun CD.

I'm having fun with the game, but it is almost like a forced fun, as sometimes it seems as if I'm trying to convince myself about something when that is actually the farthest from the truth. Don't get me wrong, there is a solid football game here, but it is covered with so many flaws and hiccups that it is hard to really have a great time with the game for any extended amount of time. Diehard football fans will probably rejoice in the game, but for me, I've played better football games out there, and if it came down to actually watching a game on television or playing a game of Madden, I'd choose the television each and every time, no matter how bad the teams playing were.

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