It took me about three hours last year to come to the decision that Madden NFL 2006 was just a sub-par game. After months of self-hyping my first NFL Xbox 360 experience, I expected much more than what I received. I felt betrayed and stupid; mainly for the fact I was under the delusion that this game would be a breakthrough for the Madden series….a series that has been vastly declining in quality ever since the signing of the NFL’s exclusive right. Hence, Madden 06 spent most of its lifetime on the shelf; waiting in the dark for perhaps a chance to be played. Six months later, my annual hype began yet again as new and juicy features were surfacing for a new and supposedly better Madden game. So after many months of developing and tweaking, EA and Tiburon have come up with Madden 2007, a game that was promising to be one of the greatest additions to the Madden series.

It isn’t. Madden 2007 is a decent game; a game that any NFL enthusiast should have a look at. The game is simple and easy to manipulate; going back to the basic core of Madden gameplay. Yet many small things fracture this game severely, molding what could have been a very enjoyable experience it into a mess that fails to satisfy. This game was supposed to be a considerable leap for Madden’s tenure on the Xbox 360 but it falls exceedingly short of the high expectations it was given. Many minor yet crucial occurrences that take shape on the real NFL gridiron differ from what happened on the virtual gridiron of Madden; slowly crippling the realness of the game that it is trying to imitate. Instead of correcting these small yet important errors, Tiburon ignored them entirely for much of the shaky gameplay seen in Madden 2006 remains.

In order to breakdown Madden 2007, we need to start out from the centerpiece of the game; the play on the field. Firstly, last year’s “QB VISION” feature was reduced to a minimum this year. This was probably due to majority of players disliking the vision for the feature vastly increased the difficulty and complexion of the game; a game which many simpletons play. But for some reason, instead of just omitting the diluted feature entirely from the game, it will pop up at some of the most random times. Sometimes it can occur if one presses an extra button before the snap, sometimes it can happen when you’re looking around too much, and others when you hold down too long while snapping the ball. You just can’t tell! So because you don’t have a clue in hell when this will take place you will be immediately caught off-guard when it does; most of the time leaving you with an in-completion or failed attempt to gain some yardage.

Another thing that was very bothersome about the game was the lack of a human sized brain inside the referees’ skulls. Rarely a penalty flag will be throw and when one happens to be thrown, it frankly shouldn’t have been tossed. This happens mainly with the most crucial penalty in the game: Pass Interference. Pass Interference is a major flag in the world of football; this single call can determine a vast amount of yardage and it gives up an automatic first down to the opposing team. The rule states that any contact with a wide receiver or corner-back between the period when the ball is thrown and the next time it is touched is illegal. So when a corner-back is grinding up against the shoulder of your wide-out like it is a Cinemax movie and no flag is called, you’re head will become enraged! To add even more confusion, a majority of the PI flags that are thrown are tossed at an illegible moment; when no PI is even visible!

The game also has many tendencies to glitch at odd and unexpected moments. For example, some of the game’s infamous tackles just don’t seem “for real” as they used to. Basically, if one was to run into the back of a fellow linebacker, one will be sent flying fifteen feet in the opposite direction. I always knew that NFL players were good at what they do but I never knew they could break one of Newton’s laws of physics. Even though the game does dish out many “what the hell” moments when it comes to tackling, many tackles still don’t fail to get your blood rushing. Another glitch that is shown throughout the game is something I refer to as a “dead-duck” occurrence. This will happen when after a player is tackled and both the tackler and the player who received the tackle will lie on the ground motionless as if they are in a coma. Neither wind up being injured and both are back in the huddle a minute later showing that something is quite wrong with the structure of the game’s engine. A bunch of other glitches are clearly noticeable as well and these small minor incidents are tearing apart the realistic atmosphere that Madden 2007 is trying to present.

So once you get passed the ridiculous judgements of the officials, recurring glitches and leftover mistakes from 2006; it is time you should get used to some new additions that have been to added the central play of the game. One is the new kicking set up; the “old school” meter has been replaced with a new wind up swing which is much more refreshing. Now to boot a ball, one must pull back their analog stick then release it forward at the right moment to launch the ball as far as you desire it to go. When put it on the scale to the old meter, it is generally the same yet has an intangible effect for it’s smooth use. Another, yet much more hyped feature, was the “Run to Daylight” ability which focuses on giving some of the infamous full backs and pull guards some lovin’. RTD allows you to control one of your blockers and create some holes for your backs to run through, the first time ever in a Madden game where this could be done. The system is actually a very relieving and fun piece to use, even though it doesn’t help you gain any substantial yardage. RTD is basically a way to ram over linebackers like bowling pins and be able to pick up some yardage as a bonus. Even though this is very fun (as anything that involves knocking the teeth out of other people are) RTD is also very difficult to master as one will need very precise timing to make a play turn into positive yardage. When compared to last year’s QB VISION, RTD is definitely a more enjoyable and a less strenuous idea that should return in future games to come.

Another addition to Madden this year was the return of the Superstar mode; an option of the game that hasn’t be playable since Madden 06 on the Xbox. Superstar mode is a way to build up your own player and watch his career as he goes about the NFL. It is kind of like a mini-RPG, for it goes from getting drafted and all the way to going down into the Hall of Fame. Players get to deal with constant struggles throughout their career like injuries, trades, and the everyday life of being a star in the NFL. The Superstar mode is a showcase of all what EA and Tiburon can do when they work hard on the game. It is a fun, exciting, and luring feature that compels you to play it as soon as you turn on those green lights. The feature adds to the shortened replay value of the game; giving you something to do once you have completed both the franchise and season modes.

Last year’s graphics were obviously a problem that needed fixing’ last year. They were decent but didn’t exactly show “next-generation” qualities like such featured games as Call of Duty 2 did. So most of us expected for this department of the game to be tweaked and worked on a lot. So hence, Madden 2007 looks magnificent throughout the game. From the astounding decoration of the field’s grass to the unbelievable qualities of the player models- it just looks awesome. The blades of the grass truly shine at moments. When you begin seeing chunks of dirt flying over the field as the NFL stars plow over them; this when you know the next generation is here. This feature alone makes the game look gorgeous compared to some of the other so-called “next-gen” games. Another thing that is simply something to marvel at is the perfectly designed backgrounds of the game. The stadiums not only are to perfect scale of the arena they are trying to imitate, but they also could be mistaken for the real deal. They are just beautiful; looming over you and taking your gaze off the field. If you look close enough, you can even see landmarks of the city in which the stadium resides. One such landmark is the the Sears Tower; for it looms over old Soldier Field throughout the game. Madden 07 also brings it’s players to life; showing their emotions and facial features more clearly and in-depth this time around. In between plays, player closeups are done exceptionally well, allowing the ferocious gaze of an NFL player stare you down.

The sounds of the game are still sharp and crisp as usual. This year, like the last, their is no Mr. John Madden in the booth rambling on about his obsession for Thanksgiving Turkey legs and football. Instead there is some high pitched radio announcer who is just as good for the awful lines he is being pitched to say. As for the in-game sounds, the grinding and crunching of pads in Madden 07 is like music to any football fan’s ears; bringing you out of your seat in awe at points. When the hit-stick is all fired up; it is truly a site to marvel at for some of the hits are just perfectly done when it comes to the pad’s audio reaction. Voice-overs like trash talk however, have been lowered down ; making the game’s competitive atmosphere numb down a bit. Besides that, the game’s audio side will make you feel as if you are at an NFL stadium; especially if you have a good surround sound system.

Madden 07’s online capability has also been improved this time around but generally remains the same as last year. The new lobby system is efficient mainly because it is a lot less strenuous to find a game this time; yet no new features that we all have been desiring from EA for ages has surfaced. NFL 2k5’s online system allowed users to create their own private seasons, tournaments, and game tracking to come out onto the online realm. Since then, there has been no push for any of these online qualities that would make Madden’s online characteristics much more enjoyable. I could see myself and many others having our time gobbled up playing in one of those private tournaments or seasons that alone could make this game amazing. Whether or not this features will come; the basic system of playing with other people is still there and it is quite enjoyable even though it is beginning to become dated.

When it comes down to it the game can be wrapped up in one sentence. Madden 2007 is an improvement over last year’s rendition yet it keeps many of the problems that plagued the game one year ago. Too many irresponsible and tedious errors cripple the game’s credibility trying to become a game like Madden 2005 and NFL 2k5. Both of these games not only opened new doors for NFL gaming, but they also set a bar no other sporting simulations have come close to since. Yes, it is great that this year EA has decided to include such features like the Superstar mode but such things like the “create-a-stadium”and the beloved “Owners Mode” have yet to come back to the next generation. Do I wish Madden 2008 will become a success and make a huge jump from 2007? Yes. Do I think it is going to happen? No. What will happen next year is the same thing that happened just now. The game will have a few tweaks, maybe one or two new addition that don’t necessarily change the game entirely but make some kind of pointless change, and the Owners Mode or “Create a Stadium” mode will make a return and be slated as a “Fun and NEW” addition. Watch; it is going to happen. EA has been declining with the quality of this series since they bought out their competitors, promising each year will be the breakout year for the game. Madden 07 is not this breakout we all have been waiting for but for what it is, it is still a fun game in it’s own right.

Originally Written By: Steve Wysowski

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