Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: Q4 2006
Behind closed doors at EA's booth, you can see interactive setups of EA's 2007 sports lineup - that is, if you're as cool as we media-type people are. You can also see the PS3 Tiger Woods demo up close and personal. (I thought it was a video feed from the back room. I still do, and distrust anyone who says otherwise.) This isn't about the PS3, however.
Tucked away in a back room even further out, was a game that was still earlier in its development stages and more shrouded in secrecy than even EA's PlayStation 3 works. This was Madden NFL 2007 for the Nintendo Wii. Anyone who walks in this room has questions galore for how the game will work with Nintendo's groundbreaking controller, and pretty much all of these questions were shot down when they were asked. EA is holding lots of this game close to them, refusing to play all of their cards until the time is right.
EA is right to keep much of the game details a secret, because as it stands, with what they already have going, they stand poised to open their Madden franchise to a market they've no doubt coveted since they began this series.
The elitists. The self-professed "hardcore." The people who stay away from yearly sports games (the Tony Hawk series aside, of course) and are darned proud of it. The people who say that Madden is all about pressing random buttons, nominal roster updates, confusing plays, and rapid video game value depreciation.
In short, people like me.
We're all about to get a rude awakening.
I will tell you people now, I'm still having trouble coming to grips with the fact that, due to how this game plays, it is inevitable that I am going to buy my first Madden game ever. I will buy it with confidence, I will take it home, and I will enjoy it, and EA will have finally won.
What makes this Madden so special? What we have here is a melding of technicality and accessibility. Plays are picked via a combination of the analog nunchaku stick and a laser sight conveyed with the remote. Snapping the ball is as easy as flicking the remote towards yourself. Want to pas the ball? Pick a receiver with your right thumb - no more checking around an entire controller's layout for eligible players. Once you pick the receiver, you make an actual throwing motion with the remote. Do it soft, and you'll lob it; do it hard, and your football becomes a bullet. Want to run the ball instead? Do so with the analog stick, using one of the trigger buttons to sprint, and the stick to juke, and motions with the remote for the stiff-arm. To break through someone's potential tackle, all the player has to do is thrust both sticks forward.
Kicking the football (i.e., for a field goal) is done by choosing the general direction of your kick with the analog stick. Afterwards, swinging the remote in an upward motion (as in, kicking without the foot action) will determine the power and flight of the ball. A great thing about all of these input methods is that if your arm has a natural tendency to list to one side, the game will pick this up, making this game of football actually dependent on one's physical skill to some degree. Heck, after a while, you won't even be using the analog to aim beforehand, instead just using your hand's tilt to its advantage. It's almost like controlling the ball as it's being kicked, in full 3D space. It's absolutely surreal.
This style of interactivity streamlines the gameplay, taking a good amount of guesswork out of the game of football, as well as just making it more fun to people who find sports games mundane. The best thing is, this is all just the tip of the iceberg. The defensive part of the game wasn't even being shown yet.
We'll know more about the features of the Wii's Madden NFL 2007 closer to its ship date, but all signs point to a lot of people enjoying a game they never thought they would. Just don't let your Final Fantasy-addict friends see you playing it, you traitor, you.
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