The one and only football video game licensed by the NFL comes back in its yearly culmination in the form of Madden NFL 07. This XBOX 360 edition is the only one to feature HDTV graphics (1080i) and comes with tons of features that were lacking in last year’s release. With tons of hype, and good pre-release press, the fans were dying to get a hold of this much anticipated title. Fortunately enough, this year’s edition is nothing short of awesome.
The list of features as supplied by the manufacturer:
* Lead Blocker Control: Throw the perfect block and create a running lane with all-new lead blocking control, and then take command of the tailback and rip off a big gain.
* NFL Superstar: Hall of Fame Mode: Play your way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame by taking complete control of any position on the field. Your actions on and off the field determine your impact on the game.
* Run Like the Players: Run with the All-New Highlight Stick: Bust out player-specific running styles matching those of real NFL players (e.g., smaller backs slash to break tackles, while bigger runners bowl over defenders in the open field). All-new jukes, cutbacks, and power moves.
* Additions to Franchise Mode: Scout collegiate prospects with the all-new NFL Draft Scouting System and the College All-Star Game, or watch players around the NFL impact their teams with the new Franchise Player Roles feature
* Team-Specific Defensive Playbooks: For the first time, use actual plays from your favorite team's defensive playbook to shut down the running game, pressure the quarterback, or force key turnovers
* Online Play: Climb the leaderboard as you take on your biggest rivals from coast-to-coast in Play Now or Session Match games.
* The Season Begins in Mini-Camp: Create a player then build up his attributes by running him through skill-based, combine-type mini-games. In the off-season use Mini-Camps to condition players or rehab injuries to get back on the field faster.
* NFL Superstar: Hall of Fame Mode: Create and customize your own player and play on Sundays from any position on the field. Be an NFL Superstar both on and off the field.
* Madden Gamer Level: Track your career accomplishments in Franchise Mode to earn Madden Gamer Points, and then wager your rewards against the computer or against live online opponents to reach the ultimate reward-the NFL Hall of Fame.
* Replay Challenge: Throw the red flag and challenge any play. Overturned calls or plays "that stand" have a huge effect on the outcome of every game.
Clearly, the features are in this year’s edition in full force. The new lead blocker control adds a great dimension to the running game, and the additions to the franchise mode add a tremendous amount of depth and longevity.
Easily, hands down, without a shadow of a doubt, this year’s Madden is the most visually impressive football game ever released. The tackling animations are really what stands out as they are extremely well detailed, fluid, and most importantly – highly proper for when they occur. The environments are extremely impressive – grass fields get beat up during the course of the game, the fans are varied and have great animations themselves, and the stadium models are as always perfect. For football fans though, the key is the player modeling and the fluid nature of the animation of the game. The players look and act, and even react, like their real-life NFL alter-egos. It’s impressive to see even the custom celebrations (such as Culpepper’s arm roll) for players put into the game. It’s an amazing experience in widescreen HDTV and gets top marks.
If there’s one thing we didn’t expect to be good with this title, it’s the sound. Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of detail the in-game sound was treated, especially for 5.1 surround sound stereo. The players talk, talk back, whine, and crunch in all the right places. The play by play continues to be striped down to a radio-only like broadcast, which many players will enjoy because it’s simple, straightforward, and doesn’t try to take over the game. The music is, as always, very solid and overall, the sound for the game is top notch.
This acts, reacts, and plays like the next generation of Madden games should play. The gameplay is extremely solid and easily the best Madden to date. The players move and react much like they should during a real NFL game, and the change from the Truck Stick to the Highlight Stick finally balances play between using big running backs (Rudi Johnson) and flash-n-dash types (Warrick Dunn). The defensive AI, often critized for not being able to handle the long pass, or in the past 2 years the high-aimed touch pass, continues to improve, but players will see weaknesses in the AI at lower gamer levels (for good reason!).
The franchise mode of Madden is truly the bread and butter of the game. Loaded with things to do, gamers take over a franchise and play it through to glory. Pick up free agents, balance the salary cap, make trades, hit up the NFL combine to scout the rookie draft class, and make the right moves to put your team in the best position to win. Before each game you also have the option to “train” for the game, where you can pick three of your players to participate in three of the mini-games to give them a bonus which accumulates into adding points into attributes.
The mini-games for this year’s edition have changed. Now there is a 40-yard dash, weight lifting reps, QB challenge, lead blocker challenge, and receiver challenge which are all pretty fun and prove to be good party games to take on your friends.
Another interesting mode is the Superstar mode, where you create a player and go through the storyline of trying to make it in the NFL. Upon creation of your player, you run through a series of workouts and finally the NFL Combine. After the workouts you’re drafted onto an NFL team, and work your way into the starting lineup through workouts and good performance on and off the field. Not only are you playing in the games, but you have to answer questions the right way for your influence to allow you to earn that starting spot. Unfortunately, creating the player is fun … but playing in the games is not. You’re constantly stuck in the perspective of the player and not the default Madden camera, making it almost impossible to really play well. This mode has a ton of potential, but came up a shade short in the fun department.
ONLINE / MULTIPLAYER
One thing that separates Madden from most sports games is the huge online community following that goes with the title. You’re not only playing the mini-games and franchise mode against the CPU, but you have the chance to constantly battle the best in a very impressive ranking system (which actually remembers you from Madden 06). Simply log into XBOX Live and you can be playing in seconds against a balanced and fair opponent. There’s a lot to experience playing the game online (which offers the best competition) and EA constantly is releasing new purchases for the game in the XBOX Marketplace.
The new features, and the return of some sorely missing from last year’s XBOX 360 release makes this the best football game ever released for the console. However, most gamers will probably roll their eyes at that claim, so that being said, this title is extremely fun to play, and even non-Madden folks are finding it an enjoyable play. The superstar mode is an interesting distraction, but the additions of all the new features in the gameplay are really what sets this apart from previous editions.
Madden NFL 07 for XBOX 360 is an absolute hit. The newly added defensive controls, offensive abilities (including the highlight stick which might just be the best new feature), and other features add up to a very impressive game and a highlight showcase title for the console. EA has definitely hit the mark and delivered to football-crazy fans the game they deserve. This game comes highly recommended for purchase and is a hands-down Editor’s Choice award winner for quality of gameplay.