Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Games
Release Date: November 14, 2006
Right off the bat, I should admit something: I'm not a big fan of sports. I don't rush to the TV every Sunday to watch the local football team (The Eagles, in this case), I couldn't tell you five players total in hockey, and frankly, I'll never understand baseball. With that out of the way, I will say this: Sports video games have been a real love/hate relationship for me, but for the most part, I find them enjoyable. Back in the days of the Genesis, my family and friends would purchase every new Madden game and wear them out just in time for the next installment. However, as the years dragged on, a game started to get skipped ... then two ... and frankly, I can't remember the last time someone I know really got excited about a Madden game. (Although those die-hard fans purchase the new game every year.) As for me, I grew quickly tired of the gameplay, finding the new features interesting, but the repetitive gameplay lackluster. However, when Madden '07 for the Nintendo Wii was announced, my interest was perked. The new control scheme seemed to be something that would breathe new life into my dying interest, and it succeeded exceptionally well.
From the moment you begin Madden '07, the differences are obvious. In fact, right on the main menu, there is a new "Tutorial" option, designed to show you exactly how to use the new Wii controls. As these controls are unlike anything previously seen in the Madden franchise, that should be the first stop for all new players, as it begins to explain the unique control scheme. In the long run, the Wiimote functions as your player's limbs. Snapping the Wiimote upwards passes the ball, and quickly snapping it to the side causes you to do a stiff-arm. Performing a field goal kick or a punt involves snapping the Wiimote up at the last moment to get the most power and direction, instead of a traditional power bar. While this may sound awkward at first, it is actually a significant improvement to the classic formula. Never before when playing Madden have I actually felt the power behind a kick. Likewise, the Wiimote's pointer can be used to select your player before the snap, which is a massive improvement over the usual "pound the button until you get the right guy" method; I suspect EA Sports has been intending something like this for a while.
The "Nunchuck" attachment functions as your character's body, with the analog stick moving the player and the Nunchuck's built-in motion sensing allowing you to "juke" by waving it in a certain direction. The Z button on the back of the Wiimote can be used for speed bursts or evasive maneuvers, depending on if you're on offense or defense. Tackling is done by thrusting both controllers toward the screen, which is unbelievably satisfying when done correctly. The "Big Hit" tackle can be done by pressing Z at the same moment you do a tackle, and if performing a regular tackle is satisfying, watching a quarterback fall under a Bit Hit is already one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had on the Wii.
This is not to say that everything with the new controls is perfect. Returning Madden '07 players are sure to be frustrated at having to learn the entire game over again. While the basics are the same, the controls make Madden '07 for the Wii a significantly different game, and friends of mine who attempted to play this version after the original were initially frustrated. However, once they got past the controls (and the frustration of losing), they started to get into the swing of things, the annoyance factor was quickly forgotten in the face of the incredibly fun controls.
Likewise, the controls can be a bit sketchy at times. While I mentioned above that performing a field goal is awesome, what I neglected to mention is that it can also be frustrating. Since the angle and power are determined by the Wii's motion, an occasional misstep can cause the kick to execute with minimal power or cause it to go flying off to the side. While these problems can almost be attributed to player error as much as problems with the game, it is still frustrating to miss what should have been a game-winning kick.
Beyond the new controls, Madden 07 is not overly different from its Gamecube counterpart. The popular Franchise mode returns without any significant changes from the previous years. You take your team through the hustle and bustle world of football, with everything that involves. In all honesty, it sometimes feels like the actual game in the least important part of Franchise mode, between recruiting rookies, developing your players and running the franchise, it's amazing you have time to play some football. Likewise, the Superstar mode makes its less-then-triumphant return from Madden 06 and with few of the issues fixed. While creating your own player and taking them through a career is a great concept, what actually goes on behind the scenes may have been best left there. The interviews are tedious and rarely make sense with how you perform in game, the countless menus and pointless details just seem to clutter up the time between actually doing anything fun. While it may be enjoyable for those who wish to vicariously live through their in-game avatar, it's just a bit too repetitive and dull for my tastes.
Graphically, Madden 07 is just slightly better then its Gamecube counterpart. While the graphics have been upgraded, the entire Wii experience just feels a bit dated. The textures are poor, the animations are a bit jerky at times and there is just a strong emphasis on gameplay over graphics. While this isn't a big problem for me, a number of my friends commented on how dated the game looked when compared to the next-generation versions. While it may seem an unfair comparison, those who purchase the Wii version must be certain they know what they are getting: A significantly better version of the current generation Madden.
The same can't really be said of the audio. I'm not Madden's primary audience and it shows. Rarely have I been more eager to mute a game then with Madden 07. In all honesty, the music is well chosen and fits the genre well enough… but the commentary is not anywhere as solid. Much of the commentary is recycled from previous games, and I heard a lot of familiar lines right off the bat… and I don't even play much Madden! For returning players, even the addition of some new lines won't do much to abate the constant repetition of the same lines over and over. Luckily, the actual gameplay sound effects are quality. When you hit a quarterback with a Big Hit, the combination of the sound effects and the Wiimote really add a sense of impact, despite not actually hitting anything.
Madden 07 is a curious game. I can't, in all honesty, say that it is a better choice for die-hard Madden players. Having to relearn all the controls over again is enough to frustrate those who've been playing since the Genesis days, and it does require a significantly greater amount of physical exertion then its counterparts. Likewise, it lacks online play, so those who plan to play alone will quickly outgrow the computer. However, for those who don't normally play Madden or who are looking for a good party version of Madden, I can not recommend a better version then the Wii. Of all the Madden games released since the days of the Genesis, Madden 07 for the Wii is the first that I was honestly excited to play. EA Sports didn't let me down, and when Madden 08 comes out, the Wii version is the one I'll pick up.