Review By: Nick Arvites
|# Of Players:||1-4|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play)|
Every football season, EA rolls out the newest iteration in the top-selling Madden franchise, and every year fans of the series rush out to buy the game. Madden, as its sales clearly show, transcends gaming and appeals to a huge segment of the population. Madden NFL 07 is the latest iteration of the series, and it follows the long-standing EA trend of tweaking the existing engine in a “bend-but-don’t-break” format. That being said, I must preface this with the standard Madden warning: if you’re expecting new and exciting features, skip it.
The core Madden gameplay has remained unchanged since, well, the days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Sure, you get a few new features every few years, but the same limitations that were present at the beginning of the PS2/Xbox generation are present in what is likely the last relevant installment for the two systems. The biggest change to the engine this year is the highlight stick. Instead of the right analog stick performing a “truck” move, it instead allows different runners to do different moves. While power backs still bowl over opponents, speed backs do some impressive maneuvers to get away from defenders. You’ll see players spin, duck and lower their shoulders, and simply avoid tackles using this stick. The juke controls have changed slightly as well. The shoulder triggers perform small jukes, while the larger ones are mapped to the right analog stick. Honestly, they’re not that great. I found myself almost exclusively using the Highlight stick and maybe using a spin or stiff-arm every so often. The QB vision makes a return, and I actually love this feature. Once again, it helps prevent simply unrealistic offensive plays from happening, and it at least helps to make up for the glaring defensive problems that are once again present in Madden.
The defensive side of the ball is once again painful to play. The same problems that have plagued Madden in the modern age still appear, and some of them are just plain inexcusable. Let’s start with the line. While EA’s NCAA Football 07 implemented jumping the snap fairly well, it is still not present or viable in Madden NFL 07. The end result makes your defensive tackles paperweights and your defensive ends incapable of making anything outside of coverage sacks. I realize this is the pro game, and the quality of players is much higher than in NCAA, but when I have a player like Julius Peppers, Charles Grant, or some other sack-machine limited to only getting sacks when the QB either rolls out the wrong way or sits in the pocket for seven seconds, something is incredibly wrong. Linebackers are still grossly ineffective after the top 3 or so, and even they don’t match their real-life counterparts. They simply do not play like linebackers do, and they don’t hone on the ball like they should. Taking control of linebackers does alleviate the problem, but that leaves your secondary extremely exposed. Cornerbacks and safeties are still jokes. If you’re on defense, expect your shutdown corner to get burned on every play, and expect your safeties to never be in position to make a play on the ball. Defensive players play their zones too strict, and man defenses are generally effective about half of the time. Don’t worry though, the A.I.’s defenders still have the Madden mainstay of suddenly getting insane bursts of speed and growing Orangutan arms to bat down passes.
See, maybe if I were blitzing, I’d expect to get beat. Thing is, blitzing is about the only defense that works in Madden because it rushes throws. Don’t expect anyone to take advantage of the blitz because it rarely happens (though when it does, it’s a huge play). It amazes me how I can have a WR covered when I have both corners and safeties deep and all the linebackers blitzing on me and I try to throw to the slot receiver where the linebackers should be playing. In real life and the NFL, that’s a first-down play. In Madden, it’s a deflection or something to that effect.
You can still play “Quarter-Cheese” or some other equally despicable defensive mindset. If you’re new to this or simply not up to the terminology and Madden slang, Quarter-Cheese has traditionally involved lining up in a Quarter Defense (generally, 3 linemen, 1 linebacker, two safeties, and five corners), shifting them all into the box, and being able to stop every play you can possibly run. Oh don’t worry, some people mix it up and run the same thing out of the Dime formation too! Here’s an example: I take a power-runner and line up in a Strong I-form. My opponent lines up in Quarters. In reality, the power runner blows open a huge run because corners simply aren’t going to take down a running back that easily. In Madden, the speed and lack of a good power running game pretty much causes you to not get any yards and possibly get tackled for a loss.
While the Truck/Highlight stick has helped the Madden power-running game, it is still very much mediocre. This is almost entirely due to engine limitations. The lack of gang tackles (featured, btw, in the dead-thanks-to-EA’s-exclusive-deal NFL 2K series by Take-Two and Gameday series by 989) pretty much makes it impossible to drag runners, break through more than one runner, or do anything really that is involved in the power running game. For example, take the goal-line stand. In real life, this can be the most exciting situation in the NFL. In Madden, it’s a total joke. You don’t get a feel for a running back plowing through the line, nor do you have things as simple as a “dive-over/under-the-line” play. You STILL have the same idiotic problems of defenders pulling a ball carrier into the endzone as opposed to pushing them out.
To be perfectly honest, the core foundation of the Madden series is flawed, outdated, and is well overdue for an overhaul. If I dig in my extended gaming library, I can pull out various competing titles from years past that are still to this day superior to Madden NFL 07. The last iteration of the NFL 2K series was phenomenal. There was a realistic power-running game, gang-tackles, defenders that didn’t cheat or disappear, better play-calling, better commentary and presentation, actual celebrations that the user could do, chained running moves that actually worked well, and QB evade moves mapped to the right stick. This just speaks to the game's flawed core, and doesn’t even get into the missing elements in the other modes in Madden.
Posted: 2006-10-07 20:48:28 PST