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Madden NFL 07

It’s October 23, two months after Madden NFL 07 made its triumphant appearance on store shelves… and I just now uploaded the “complete” 2006 opening-day rosters. That may not be a major issue to some fans of the franchise, but it is indicative of the current state of football gaming on all consoles today. Since EA holds the reigns when it comes to football, there is no sense of urgency to greatly improve upon a product it now holds a monopoly on. Like the mediocre student who simply wants to pass, doing just enough to get by is the only effort being put forth.
Madden 07 is a definite upgrade over its Xbox 360 predecessor, but that isn’t saying very much. Madden 06 was the textbook definition of a “bare bones” release. The franchise mode was stripped down to it’s fundamental elements and even some gameplay features were cut out so EA Sports could release a pretty-looking game in their debut effort on the Xbox 360. Not much was added back into that marquee franchise mode in 07 to bring it back to the state it is on almost every other console. The minimal nature of the Xbox 360 version will get no complaints from me though. I actually prefer it lighter since after the initial “cool” factor of exploring the many intricacies of such a deep franchise mode, I find myself using only a fraction of what it offers and sticking to fundamental football.
Gameplay and graphics are almost identical to the 06 version of Madden. Actually, a good guess would be that the graphics model went untouched. Some gameplay issues were addressed, and some were added, but none that significantly improves 07 over its predecessor. New additions to the gameplay include the “highlight stick” (an enhancement of last year’s truck stick), a new blocking interface, revised kicking model and my favorite… the reintroduction of the replay challenge. These new features help, but really should have been part of the graduation to the next-generation console and not part of the sophomore edition.
New to the Xbox 360 is the Madden Gamer Level system. It is very similar to the Madden Card tracking system of old, but not. As you play through Madden 07, and accomplish certain pre-determined achievements, the gamer level associated with the user increases. Once the profile graduates to the next level, a hall-of-fame player and video is unlocked. The video and associated player information is great and is a nice history lesson to younger gamers about when men played the game and not the boys we currently see today. The downside is that the said Hall of Fame player pops up in the main free agent pool of the game and can, and will, be immediately signed by another team in franchise mode. The Falcons should pick up Dan Marino if they know what’s good for them.
The biggest addition to this year’s Madden release is Superstar Mode, a feature that has already debuted on the other console releases. The mode has been taken to a new level on the 360, but it still has its flaws. Since nothing about the Madden series is perfect anymore, take this mode for what it’s worth… additional entertainment away from franchise mode. Superstar mode puts the gamer in the shoes of a single NFL player from the months right before draft day until their retirement. The mode uses genetics, the newly added mini-games and an intelligence test to determine your player’s position. That position is extremely important to the entertainment value of your Superstar mode experience. Anything other than a quarterback, running back or wide receiver will result is some pretty boring gameplay, at least in my opinion, because all you do is play as the created player and watch the rest of the game. If an offensive lineman is born, all you do is protect the QB. If the initial skills challenge is a total bust, then the player will be a backup and a spectator is all you will become. Overall, the mode is put together fairly well with just a few of the typical gameplay flaws that plaque the entire release.
Finally, my least-favorite feature of Madden 07: online play. Maybe I’m old, maybe I simply suck at the game, but I find nothing more aggravating than playing a game of football online with a random gamer who I do not know. I am a huge football fan, (a FOOTBALL fan) and I want to go online and play a great game of football, but the odds of that happening are close to none. Online gamers play the game and manipulate its flaws, they do not play football. There is nothing worse than playing a snot-nosed punk, who plays with Michael Vick (actually thinking he is a good QB), takes a 20 to 30 yard sprinting drop, draws in the lineman and some linebackers, and just waits for a receiver to get open. Is this football? No, but now I’m attacking the player and not the game. This mode gets a thumbs-down from me just due to the agitation factor. Again, that may simply be because I’m an old fart playing against kids half my age. Some kind of handicapping system or a simplified system blocking cheating would be a great online option.
Is Madden NFL 07 a good game? Of course it is! Could and should it be much better at this point? Absolutely. This release is actually what I expected to see as the debut release (last year!) on the Xbox 360, certainly not the sophomore effort. EA has gotten extremely complacent in its effort due to the lack of competition on the market. Something needs to change in that respect, because it appears that EA does not plan to change on its end. I’m giving them one more year before giving up on the franchise for good. For now, a full point will be deducted due to the lack of effort. EA is getting docked two points next year if their act does not get cleaned up. But you won’t disappoint us next year will you, EA?

Overall: 7
It’s still the same old Madden, emphasis on old. The mini-games are fun, but next time focus on fixing those bugs and giving us some more meat, OK guys?

— Steve Tomassetti

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