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Friday, October 07, 2005

[Review] Madden 06

Here’s the new game same as the old game.

I’ve had little bit of time now to fully soak up the new ambience and new experiences of Madden 06. As such my review is from someone who has a little more “experience” with the game; I’ve given it time to sit and breathe like a fine wine (when it is fact a cheap Chardon’). My review is also of the Xbox variation which may differ somewhat from the PS2 and PSP versions.

This is EA Sports first Madden since they signed the exclusive deal with the NFL. They do not let you forget it. Every title page has “exclusive” written somewhere. Speaking of titles; one of my favourite parts of recent Madden games has been the player, cheerleader and fan cameos at the start-up (with the exception of those no-namers from Europe). This year is no disappointment and there is more in-game footage of the players doing their thing.

All the commentary, all of the animations and nearly all of the game play is exactly the same as 05. The controls are different though; which was a pain, but you get used to it (though my QB is still throwing the ball out of bounds every now and again). Also the defence is shittier than it was in 05. The most exciting changes (from my perspective) are the Superstar mode and a very subtle change to franchise mode. The worst change is the QB Vision.

You may have already read some of the reviews put out about this game; they all hated the QB vision cone. They were all right. It sucks. In fact, the vision cone is the only thing I haven’t tried in depth. Basically when you drop back to pass a bright yellow cone appears on the field. This is the area that your QB can see. For guys like Peyton Manning the cone covers most of the field, for others like, for example, Jets third stringer Brooks Bollinger, the cone barely covers your primary receiver.

The idea behind it is to add more realism to the game. You now have to look off your receivers. If your primary receiver (which is the default for the cone to follow) is covered you can change to another receiver by holding the right trigger and pressing the new receivers’ button (Y,X,B,Bl,Wh). For the defence this means you pretty much know where the ball is going to be thrown, however, it is still hard as fuck to get your guys there for the interception. The best tactic for QBs with smaller cones (hee hee hee) is to select your primary receiver before the play and just run if he ain’t open (hold down the A to run as a QB), you can also throw on the run in this new version.

Let’s talk about franchise mode now. The subtlest change is that when you simulate games you can choose to semi-simulate them. This means you are given the game situation and have to choose a play based on your teams strengths etc. It makes the game take no time at all. And at any time during the simulation you can choose to step into the game. So you can simulate the first half and play the second. This makes people like me – who sometimes like to play coach/manager more than player – very happy.

The other new big feature is Superstar which is basically a text adventure with chances to play football. A lot reviews didn’t like this feature either; I kinda do though. But it could be better. First you select your parents, or rather two parents are randomly selected for you and you have to choose which pairing you like; if your parents are athletes then it is better for your prospects. Then you fill out your University details; if you select a more famous football factory university then it apparently makes you better. After figuring out what you’ll look like you get interviewed and drafted. It is damn near impossible to get taken in the first round. You, of course, have no choice in where you go (there is no “Eli Manning button”). The only aspect of the team that you can control is the depth chart; this means that you can actually see some game time. Each game plays like a normal game of Madden. Your player is indicated on the field by a red circle, so you always know where you are in relation to the action.

There are practices, game plan sessions and a performance institute. When you use these your abilities increase for the next game you play. But they go away after that. However, if you play well in the season your abilities increase every 4 weeks. Play badly and they go down.

The actual game-playing part of Superstar mode is annoying. It’s fine if you’re a running back, quarterback or wide receiver (even a tight end) but if you are a defensive player it gets real hard. My amazing DB that I imported from NFL Street 2 (a very handy feature) had average skills in Madden 06, he was made into a CB when he was more of a Safety and his performance naturally depended on where the opposition threw the ball. Your on-field performance changes various things about your persona (marketability, visibility, popularity etc) which lead to movie roles and promotional deals. But if I’m not doing anything on the field then it just get frustrating. Simulating the games doesn’t help because it usually means you don’t make the play-offs (which also helps your persona). My tip is to play as a RB or QB and win all the yearly awards, go to the ProBowl and watch those promo deals roll in.

My real gripe with Superstar is the realism levels. There is a score on your persona for Appearance which you alter by using the “mirror” in your apartment. This is where you pick your helmet type, pads, gloves, eye-black, mouth guard etc. But it doesn’t have any bearing on which position you play. For example the QB I made was given a higher score when he was wearing gloves. QBs don’t wear gloves! Also the games would be better replaced with something similar to the in-game situations of the mini games. This would make it easier to have a star player, especially if your guy is a 330lb offensive lineman.

Finally, the movie, promos and interviews could do with some animations or video. At the moment they are just text and memory games, which pretty dull. Even if you are a super star there is no option to go out and buy an expensive car or date super models. What’s the point of being the rich brat if you can’t buy the bling, or being a community minded team player if you can’t donate to charity?

On the disk there is the usual advertising, sorry, I mean “previews” of the new season games. However, this year there is also a preview of Madden 06 for the nextgen Xbox 360. Being a fan of computer games I am no longer impressed when I see “preview” movies showing “groundbreaking” graphics of amazing quality. Why? Because the actual in-game graphics are, more often than not, nothing like the preview. And so it seemed with Madden 06. Turns out I was wrong.

Here is a shot from the promo video (click for larger view):
Here are some shots from inside the game:

Yes, that is Anquan Boldin
<>Go Eagles!
Cardinals Coach Dennis Green

Here are more photos for you to peruse during your workday.

From the review above it seems that there will be some changes made to the gameplay as well in the new version. The biggest change coming in the audio. Not only have 18 NFL QBs (like the Colts’ Peyton Manning) and numerous other players (like Ravens LB Ray Lewis) given their voices to their digital likenesses, but apparently there is no commentary from John Madden and Al Michaels!

Will this be the first Madden game that doesn’t have Madden in it? Probably not. I imagine that they are still recording tracks for the game. Let’s hope they get rid of all the shit music. An even harder question is: will I have to fork out for an Xbox 360?


Off Licence: Sounds like the new American football game by Midway might be fun even without the big names.

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