Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: August 22, 2006
Look at the back of your copy of Madden NFL 07, and you'll see a list of features that the don of football games offers. What you won't see is the biggest feature of EA's flagship game: It prints money. Literally, this yearly release is what has enabled EA to become the most dominant force in the video game industry today. It has become the prime minister of publishing by peddling this football game. Many a person has claimed that EA only changes the rosters from year to year, ignoring game mechanics in favor of a quick fix which will bring in millions. While that seems to be true in some aspects, no one can deny the fact that every year, this game improves upon itself in some way, and every year, we go crazy for Madden football.
So what does Madden NFL 07 offer up that the previous year's didn't? Well, there are a number of things here to like, but there are a few new features that really up the ante from last year's version. The first is the lead blocking feature, which allows you to control the blockers before you take control of the running back to run through the holes you've hopefully created as the blocker. This allows you to take control of someone on the offensive line, and then set up a crucial block before returning to control as your back. Failure is possible though, which will most likely result in a loss of yards. If you're successful, you'll find yourself running wild down the field and racking up some big yardage, if not scoring. It's not a necessity to use this feature, as your blockers will still try to perform to the best of their ability, but for the purists who want to make sure they are in control of everything, it's available.
Another significant upgrade that this year's Madden features is the new Superstar mode. Instead of trying to rack up endorsement deals like last year, you'll be playing for a spot in the Football Hall of Fame. Create a player from scratch, or import one from NCAA Football, and you're off. You can choose any position on the field to play, and your goal is to do the best at that position as possible. That means if you're a offensive lineman, you'll want to hit all your blocks and not let the quarterback get sacked. If you're a punter, you'll want to punt it long and pin the opposing team deep in their territory. Of course, if you're the quarterback, you'll want to throw for 50 touchdowns a season and rack up thousands of yards with no interceptions.
Along with the new and improved Superstar mode comes influence over your team. Depending on your attitude when you answer questions in interviews, your ego will change. If you've got an inflated head and think you're the best position player in the game, you'll have to prove it on the field every week, or else your teammates will lose confidence in you. They won't be as impressed as they would be if you are humble and downplay your abilities and post modest gains. As your career advances, you can allocate points to your abilities and improve your player or your team, helping you to win games that matter. You also don't need to play the entire game if you don't want to, since there is the ability to jump ahead to the segments that your athlete will participate in, such as punts or defensive plays. The AI will handle play-calling and the other aspects of the game while you focus on making your player the Hall of Famer you want him to be.
Along with these two massive changes come a host of other changes. One nice new feature is the ability of your quarterback to scramble while keeping up the passing display, to give him a bit more maneuverability under pressure. Instead of the truck stick of last year, it's now called the highlight stick, and it allows you to perform moves based on your player's abilities instead of just a generic move for everyone. There's also some button-mashing to be had when a defender locks you up. You'll need to repeatedly smash the button in order to squeeze out a few more yards when you're running the ball. Alternatively, if you lock up the running back on defense, you'll be on the other end, trying to knock him backwards with your button-mashing skills. All of these changes help make the title feel more like a real professional football game on your screen, and your involvement in each play seems to matter.
Unfortunately, for all the upgrades that the Madden series has made to the gameplay, the graphics have sort of stagnated for the past few years. Especially with the focus of the series moving to the next generation of video game systems like the Xbox 360, the graphics of the PlayStation 2 version have suffered. For the most part, we're seeing the same textures, animations, and problems that we've seen before, like stuttering frame rates, which is not to say that this is a bad-looking title by any means. It just looks a lot like what we've already seen in the past Madden offerings. Needless to say, if you're an eye-candy lover, you've probably already made the switch to the next generation, or are planning to soon.
Sound this year is also just as good as previous years, with Al Michaels and John Madden providing extensive voicing to the color commentary and game coverage. This year, Sterling Sharpe also offers his voice to provide analysis of the various teams and plays they might run. The crowds are as enthusiastic as ever, and the various sounds of bodies crashing into each other and the referee whistle sound just like they should. With all the years of refinement that the various iterations of Madden have undergone, it's no surprise that the game sounds great and just like a football experience should sound.
Of course, the highlight of Madden NFL 07 is playing against your friends, enemies, and strangers across the country. Everyone likes a little friendly competition, and even unfriendly competition can be a lot of fun, as long as you emerge victorious in the end. Online multiplayer returns and is great fun, but having people quit on you when you're winning isn't. However, playing football against someone other than the AI is a lot of fun and definitely a much greater challenge, and the multiplayer aspect offers a lot of replayability and fun to the whole equation.
It's clear that the focus has shifted to the next-generation, so if this isn't the last version of Madden we see on current-generation hardware, it will still likely be the best version. Madden has been wasting away on the current hardware for a while now, and while it is still a good football game and has a lot to offer, it doesn't rise above and really blow away the previous version. Still, with the updated roster, the Superstar mode, and the lead blocking feature, Madden NFL 07 has the goods that make for a great football game.