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PS2 Review - 'Madden NFL 06'

by Hank on Sept. 5, 2005 @ 12:20 a.m. PDT

For the first time in 10 years, the Madden NFL Football franchise has revolutionized its passing game-giving Madden NFL 06 the most groundbreaking and innovative offensive arsenal ever created. The new QB Vision Control lets you scan the field, look off defenders, and make perfect throws within your quarterback's unique field of vision. QB Precision Placement lets you put the ball exactly where you want it. Madden NFL 06 brings authentic NFL passing to video games like never before.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: EA
Developer: Tiburon EA
Release Date: August 8, 2005

Buy 'MADDEN NFL 2006':
Xbox | GameCube | GBA | NDS | PC | PSP | PlayStation 2

This year was an important one for the Madden franchise, since it marks the beginning of Electronic Arts' "exclusive NFL license," meaning no other companies will be allowed to develop or sell other football simulation games, especially their biggest competitor last year, ESPN.

Aside from the obligatory roster updates, the first and most obvious addition to Madden NFL 06 is QB Vision Control, which allows players on defense to watch the quarterback's eyes just like they do in a real game. I found this to be a welcome addition because the computer-controlled cornerbacks are no longer as dumbfounded as they were in previous versions. However, changing focus from one receiver to the next takes quite a bit of time, giving the defense an easy sack if you're not careful. Luckily, there is an option to turn off this mode. This new aspect allows the user to take control of a cornerback and try to intercept the pass, but this only means one thing when playing on the hardest difficulty (All-Madden): your quarterback will throw a lot of interceptions, especially when you're using a weaker team, such as the San Francisco 49ers. A better quarterback will have a larger scope of QB Vision Control, making it easier to throw to another receiver on the other side of the screen, as well as making it a lot less obvious who you are going to pass to.

To abuse this system, you really need to understand the QB Vision Control system, especially how to change from one receiver to the next using the default controls. This requires you to hit the R2 and the button corresponding to the receiver you want to lock onto, but you will also need to understand the new throwing system.

The new throwing system, known as Precision Passing, is actually quite strange, especially if you played last season's Madden. In Madden NFL 05, you had to step up to ensure the pass had enough power to reach your receiver, but in Madden 06, this has drastically changed, making it so your quarterback can stay in one position and throw without having to worry about stepping up. Because of my habit of stepping up, however, I always overthrew the ball. After several crushing defeats and training sessions, I eventually figured out the system. The basics are: when your quarterback throws, hit the left analog stick or d-pad up to lob the ball over your receiver's head or jump for the catch, left and right to lead them, down to throw a pass closer to the ground, and don't indicate any direction at all for a regular direct pass. Once you have this down, you can throw unstoppable catches just as the computer does on the All-Madden difficulty level.

While the offense has added a few new perks, the defense is essentially the same, although they did remove the ability to quickly double cover a wide receiver, forcing the gamer to manually choose the player to do so. An added aspect is the ability to shadow the receiver left or right, which means you can now tell your cornerback to watch for that left or right cut. Aside from this, any changes to the defense aren't all that apparent

In Madden 05, they skimped on the running, making it difficult to get the five yards per carry, but in this version, they've bought back running, and it plays a big factor in the games. It means the front line is finally blocking the defenders, and if your game revolves around running, this is definitely for you, but others may think the new system is overkill. The running is accentuated by two new features: the truck stick and back juke. The truck stick is perfect for a runner like the "Bus" Bettis, who is literally impossible to stop, but if you want him to charge forward, tap up on the right analog stick, which opens up the way for an additional few yards. The back juke gives the runner an extra move to fake out the chaser, forcing them to lose footing and break way for extra yards (the AI abuses this, especially if you use the hit stick a lot).

This year's new gameplay mode is Superstar, which means the gamer can import his/her NCAA Legends or NFL Street player and start your road to superstardom. Your character is the new Randy Moss, Tom Brady, Champ Bailey – the star of whatever position you want him to play. He is the new rookie on the block and has just begun his road to fame. If you choose to create your player instead, you must first select what the player's set of parents. The parents are used to determine your stats as a player; the IQs, hobbies, and jobs of both make you into a godly or a mediocre player. Your character starts in this small apartment where he can check his cell phone for new mail, a mirror to add appearance features such as a new helmet, a playbook to change the options and study up on your team's playbook, a calendar to keep track of important events, and lastly, the computer, which keeps information about how well your created star has been doing, in addition to other team information.

Nothing can begin unless you can find your player the perfect agent, which is the next step in Superstar mode. The quality of your agent depends on how well you answer questions in your interviews. Landing a good agent is important, but if your character can't find a good one, there will be plenty of opportunities to find a new one later. If the agent crosses your player, he can always fire the agent and find a better one, as long as a better agent is also interested in your superstar. Agents in Madden 06, agents help players land advertisements, movie roles, trades, and more. Although this gameplay mode brings some new blood to the series, the best part of the game is still in Franchise mode.

Franchise mode plays the same as last season's, with the addition of the game plan feature, which has statistical, positional, and weekly game plans. The weekly game plan lets you practice the offense and defense to expect from your opponent; gaining points is based on how well the training goes. As far as I can tell, this doesn't affect the game all that much, but the manual warns of dire consequences if you don't. It's best to just run the drills, since they are quick, and there is a limit to how many times the play can be executed. With a total of three focuses each week before a game, they won't be that much more of an effort.

Aside from this addition, Franchise mode plays the same, but there is now a total simulation feature, where you coach the team like you would in a multi-user dungeon (MUD). All you do is give commands to the team, and it will respond with the results of that choice. If this can't tide you over, there is always online play.

Online play is the same as last year but there are several enhancements, which improves the entire system. Not only have the lobby and menus expanded, but there is also a new option to upload your Franchise game data to share with friends everywhere. I have not tried this feature, but it seems like a good idea. While waiting in the lobby for a game, there are statistics that scroll by to give you current game information, much like a news ticker. The main point of online play, of course, is to build up your reputation, and get the #1 spot, and prepare for the "Madden Challenge."

Not only are the online menus nicely organized, but the entire graphics quality for Madden 06 has also improved. The player's movement, field, and every visible aspect have progressed. The crowd still looks like cardboard cutouts, but when playing a game, your attention should be on the play anyway. The graphics quality of the players on the field should be more than enough eye candy; I just love how the players, awesome spins, and helmets getting knocked off make it feel more like a realistic football game.

To make things better, the load time has been drastically reduced, so you don't have to wait too long to start the game or change sides. What the developers have done to "hide" this is to show statistics during side changes. In addition to these stats, there is a new statistics menu that shows data on which plays you've been running for which down. The entire on-screen display has completely changed, making the game identical to what you would see on Fox, ABC, or ESPN. This really makes it feel like you're watching a televised football event, so now, we're only missing an awesome halftime show, mechanical robots, and the NFL song.

Okay, so the NFL song is still not in Madden 06, but they have other stuff to make up for it. Once again, Al Michaels and Madden are commenting on the play-by-plays, which seem to get more and more uninspired each year; this is an area that EA needs to start working on. For the first time, the game is in THX, which means that all of the sound effects in the game have gotten an extra boost, the bone crunching just doesn't sound any better, and you'll hear the sloshing when it rains, snows, etc. The EA Trax tie it all together and is once again a great bunch of music, mixing in a bigger variety of R&B, rock, rap and alternative. In Madden 06, we're also allowed to modify the sounds being played during the game if we do get sick of the commentary. You can now choose Madden Classic (Michaels and Madden), On the Field (player chatter), In the Stands (crowd chatter), In the Booth, or you can customize your own.

Overall, Madden NFL 06 is a new direction for the series. With changes in button configuration and new features, the learning curve is a bit steeper. There is a way to convert back to the controls for Madden 05 controls, but the new button set can be advantageous, especially the X button for the "new" running ability. With the mix of QB Vision Control and the new running scheme, the game is actually quite enjoyable and is one step closer to being a realistic sim game. If you are a fan, you have either already picked up – or will pick up – this title and enjoy it (after several hours of practice, of course). For those who are new and preferred the some other football series, this isn't a bad place to start (not that you have a choice in the matter).

Score: 9.2/10

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