Thursday, September 14, 2006

VG REVIEW: Madden '07


Electronic Arts, for Xbox 360, Play­Station 2, Xbox, GameCube and PC rated E for Everyone. $59.99 (Xbox 360), $39.99 (PC) and $49.99 (ev­erything else)

I think we’re at a point with the “Madden” series right now where it’s about as good as it’s going to get.

The core gameplay experience is more or less set in stone. The format has been honed and rehoned to the point where there’s not much more you can do with the basic setup.

So what you get from iteration to iteration is a series of tweaks and upgrades (or, if you want to be cynical, downgrades) that amount to a nice, new tablecloth on a rather old (but sturdy) table. Because there’s got to be some incentive to buy the new version, after all.

How utterly amazing, then, that the latest edition of “Madden,” “Madden 07,” includes a new feature that is not only fun, but actually improves the game.

I am speaking about the “All-New Highlight Stick,” which allows you to use the right thumbstick to pull fancy jukes, cutbacks and power shoves.

In previous incarnations, you had to rely on the controller buttons to exert these moves, and remembering which button did what could be an exercise in frustration.

Using the thumbstick is a much more intuitive and elegant solution and results in a much more enjoyable game.

Other inclusions aren’t too shabby, either. Now, for example, you have the ability to control the lead blocker during your running plays, shoving the defense aside so your running back can make the first down.

Since this aspect of the game has always been one of “Madden’s” weak points, it’s nice to see an attempt to improve the experience. It’s something that takes a bit of effort to get the hang of, but one that football fans will ultimately appreciate.

There are other additions. “NFL Superstar Mode,” in which you build a player from the ground up and take him to the Hall of Fame, is back, but has been altered a bit.

Now your actions on the field can influence other teammates, as well as raise your own character’s stats. It’s a nice feature, but it takes time to get your character off the ground and is recommended only for those with the patience to persevere.

Overall, this is a pretty solid chapter in the “Madden” franchise, one that casual fans and hardcore sports enthusiasts should be able to get behind. At least until next year’s sequel comes around.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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