First of all, I want to address the reviews that are out there - specifically the ones from the major websites: IGN, Teamxbox, and Gamespot.
Those reviews are crap. Pure and utter crap. No offense to the writers of said reviews, but there is no information in any of them about the game that has not been covered in previews. 95% of those reviews talk about the “features” of the game. That is all fine and dandy, as that is some vital information for someone considering a purchase. But you know what might be more important than features? Gameplay. Madden 06 for the 360 was severely flawed in the gameplay department. Yes, it also was barebones when it came to features, but that could have been overlooked if it played a decent game of football. Player control and movement was terrible, suction blocking was worse than ever and player interaction was a joke. It looked nice enough, but after a week, the game was unplayable for a fan of real football.
Fast forward to 2007 and my first impression of Madden this year is its much improved control, gameplay and general feel. It just plays completely different from last year. And that is a very good thing. The improved gameplay was readily apparent in just my first five minutes of playing. Already this game is night and day better than last year’s weak offering. So surely that will be the center of attention in the reviews right? Lets find out.
Teamxbox scores 2007 only .3 higher than 2006 (8.3 vs 8). Not once in the review is gameplay even mentioned - again, the area the game has improved the most on. No, the entire review talked about the games’ features. The kicker is in the review’s “Gameplay impressions” section - which if you go by the by its name you’d expect to find . . . uh, gameplay impressions right? Lets see what they say:
Madden NFL 06 had no choice but to be basic, it's apparent that the team was hella-rushed to get this SKU to market. With Madden NFL 07, it's apparent that the team had time to make the game much more than a basic, bare-bones title. Tiburon has infused Madden NFL 07 with some of the finer traits of NCAA 07, included the cool Superstar Mode, and have placed much more emphasis on how gamers want to progress- both online and offline- in a sports videogame. They even gave shout-outs to former players, thus showing their strong relationship with the NFLPA. On paper, this is a Madden game that is worthy of the Xbox 360''s
I’m not entirely sure what any of that means, but they sure as hell didn’t talk about how the game plays. The rest of the “gameplay impressions” section talks about frame-rate issues (not during gameplay), stutters, fatigue and the lack of on-line leagues.
On-line leagues? What the? Yes, they would be great, but this is the damn gameplay impressions section people!
IGN’s review is not any better. Not a single mention of gameplay in the entire review. Nice job guys. But no one tops Gamespot’s asinine review. After opening up the review by talking about - what else - features, they go on to say this:
Beyond that, the changes from 06 to 07 are mostly ancillary, and fundamentally, the game plays very much as its predecessor did.
The game plays very much as its predecessor did?! Holy crap, did they even play last year’s version? Or did they not bother playing 2007? They then go on to give 2007 an 8 for gameplay, the exact same score 2006 received.
Now, there is no doubt in my mind that Madden 2006 was rated way too high. That is fine and I can forgive the websites for that. Hell, I enjoyed the game the first week I had it too. So I’m not upset that 2007 has only received scores marginally better than 2006. In fact, the scores the game has received have been fine by me, since this game still has a way to go before it is rated 9+. My problem is not with the scores, it’s with the text of the reviews. This game is vastly improved. Vastly. It is still far from perfect, but the jump in quality is great enough to be the focal point of these so-called reviews, not the stupid features.
Whew, now that I got that rant off my chest (sorry), I can move on.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that Madden 2007 is absolutely fantastic, since it is not yet where I feel football games should be by now. But it is a pretty solid and fun football sim, and the most fun I have had with a football game since 2K5.
I'm going to break up my impressions by sections and give positives and negatives for each.
(+) Much better "feel" when controlling players
(+) Inside running game (and running in general) is much improved. Mario running (when your player gets stuck behind a blocker and runs in place) has been reduced (although still present)
(+) Screen passes and draw plays seem to work this year
(+) Play Action also works very well if you establish the running game
(+) Alot of new player attributes added to help distinguish players
(+) There is decent blocking on Special Teams, resulting in some nice returns
(+) New kicking meter is a step in the right direction (cpu kickers still way too accurate)
(+) I really like the flight of the ball and the arc it has on the different throws
(-) Still no gang tackling
(-) Overall player interaction is still way behind. No real CB/WR interaction, no double-team blocks, player's weight/momentum/speed does not seem to come into play
(-) I have not seen any roll-out plays. I like those.
(-) Offensive playbooks still seem weak compared to 2K5. Your primary receiver still always lines up on the right, second receiver on the left. 2K5 had many, many different sets that had your primary receiver lining up all over the field, which allowed for some miss matches (like in the NFL).
(-) Wind does not seem to affect anything (kicks or passes)
(-) Defensive back AI for the player on default All-Pro is horrendous. They just stand around and do nothing while the ball is in the air
(-) I'm seeing way too many interceptions thrown by the cpu. I have the interception slider at zero and still get 3 picks a game.
(-) CPU clock management in two-minute drill is still questionable
(-) No huddle offense is completely broken. Even if the result of the play is an 80 yards pass completion, upon going into hurry-up, the offense is already at the line of scrimmage lining up. It does not take into account the need for all the players to march down those 80 yards to get ready. Very, very unrealistic.
(-) Sideline catches still appear to be extremely rare. I think I have seen one. I think. You would think these NFL players would be a bit more aware of where they are on the field and attempt to stay inbounds.
(-) There are WAY too many pancake blocks. Especially with blocking downfield. It looks as if almost every single block beyond the line of scrimmage results in the defender being knocked on his ass, taking him completely out of the play. Very annoying and unrealistic.
(-) No fatigue in the game (patch is supposed to be in the works)
(-) CPU kickers are still too accurate, even with kick accuracy at zero.
Wow, lots of negatives huh? Surprisingly, I still find the game fun. And like I have mentioned, a lot better than 06.
(+) Creating a player is lots of fun. You have a decent amount of options for appearance, etc.
(-) Starting out by choosing your parents, which then determines your position, is a bit silly
(+) You need to run through drills to determine attributes
(-) Those drills are far too forgiving. I ran a 4.61 with my HB and his speed and acceleration ended up being 99. How is that possible? With a 4.61 my speed should have been in the 70s, maybe 80s.
(+) You ONLY control your player in this mode now, and have no control of the play calling, depth chart, etc.
(+) Specific camera angles for each position
(-) Those camera angles are terrible and make the game practically unplayable
(-) The NFL draft is a complete joke. All you get is a pop-up telling you what team drafted you. They don't even tell you what round!!! It also appears that every superstar you create gets drafted in the 3rd
(-) My HB was rated 91 overall and I was the starting HB for the Colts. I should not have been rated 91, first of all, nor should I have the starting job on any team yet. And if I was rated 91, I should have been drafted in the 1st round
(-) Before each series you get some Influence Screen that pops up where you can distribute influence points. Very stupid and kills the immersion
(-) Have I mentioned that the camera angles make this mode practically unplayable?
(-) While your player is not on the field, your team plays the game in fast forward. Cool feature. Except it is implemented terribly. No time is taken off the clock between plays, so essentially the teams are running plays back-to-back faster than you could do with a no huddle. Determining what quarter length to play Superstar mode in to get realistic stats is impossible because of this.
(-) It sucks
(+) Menus looks very slick and polished. They contain a lot of great info if you know where to look (click the R stick!)
(-) Menus are very laggy and they stutter often when navigating them
(+) Players are announced and come out of your teams inflatable helmet before a game
(-) Players are announced and come out of your teams inflatable helmet before EVERY DAMN game!! It is always the same players too (they should at least alternate offense and defense), it is always the same animation, always the same order, always the same camera angle. How could EA not think this is stupid or that it wouldn't get old after, umm, watching it ONE time?
(+) There's more variation in the cinematics after you break the huddle and are walking to the line. Last year it was the same damn view of the QB ad nauseam.
(-) After a while, even those new cinematics get old when they are the only ones in the game.
(-) After every play the stupid camera gives you pans of the stadium, instead of focusing on the players and their emotions after a play. Look, EA, the stadiums look fantastic. We get it. The way it is now we see more of the stadium than the actual field in the course of a game.
(-) After a play ends, the camera does stay on the players for a split second. I like that . . . except that every single player is skating on the field. You see the players walking around and they are gliding across the field in the most unrealistic fashion, how EA let this slip is beyond me. It looks comical and is extremely noticeable.
(-) There are no stat overlays at all. On occasion you can see some players stats in the score ticker in the bottom of the screen, but this pretty underwhelming.
(+) The radio announcer is rooting for your team, which is a nice touch
(-) The radio announcer sucks and is boring (although he'll surprise you and say an interesting tidbit here and there)
(+) Once again, the play calling screen and the various ways to call your plays is great
(+) Stadiums look even better than last year, which is saying a lot because they looked fantastic last year
(+) The field looks more detailed and it degrades over time
(-) Field degradation might be a tad overdone
(+) Field degradation appears to be pretty accurate as far as where it degrades. Does not appear to be random, but rather, it depends on what sections see more traffic
(+) Puddles of water now form in rainy games, giving off nice reflections
(-) There is NO splashing in said puddles, totally killing their effect
(+) Rain and snow looks better this year
(+) Player models look more realistic
(-) QBs and Kickers still look completely hopped up on steroids. Seriously EA, can't you see how damn ridiculous this looks?
(-) There are still no clear visors for players
(+) Different running animations for different players really adds to the game
(+) Lots of great new break tackle animations
(+) Animation overall is much improved
(+) The lighting effects change throughout the game, casting realistic stadium shadows on the field
(-) Shadow effect might be a tad too dark, making it hard to see in some stadiums in late afternoon.
(-) No referees on the field
(-) No chain gang
(-) Crowd is stuck in a perpetual celebrating/jumping up and down animation
(-) Sideline players look terrible and don't stop clapping
(+) Coaches look great
(-) No field-goal nets behind the goal posts
(+) Stadiums have actual, working jumbotrons with up-to-date stats/info
(+) The skies look really great
(+) Stadiums have surrounding landmarks
(+) Players now have real, 3D hair that moves realistically
(-) Travis Minor for some reason has dreadlocks in the game . . . he doesn't in real life
(+) The helmets looks absolutely fantastic. There are some cutscenes that show them up close and they are almost photo-realistic in HD.
(+) Having the Hall of Fame players (with optional video clip) is pretty cool
(-) Having HOF players begin to show up in your franchise or SS game because of the stupid-ass way EA decided to implement them is not
(-) Fatigue does not work, so no substitutions of back-ups throughout the game (patch is supposed to be on the way)
(-) You cannot see how many timeouts your opponents have
(-) No in-game save feature
(-) No sim-to-end feature
(-) No co-op play
(-) No cpu vs cpu game
(-) Only one camera angle
(-) No save replay feature
(-) No formation specific audibles (ala 2K5)
(-) The play calling screen is useless for head-to-head games with your friends. The can see your damn play if they wanted to. I have no idea how the bluff system works in this game
(-) No defensive match-up (letting you choose which defender you want covering a receiver all game)
(-) No accelerated clock
(-) Very limited options on-line (cannot challenge, cannot change the weather, etc.)
(-) The game's manual is absolute crap. EA needs to realize that not everyone has been playing Madden for years (like I have) and they might need a bit more info on the game than just the controller configuration
(-) No alternate jerseys for teams (looks like we're going to have to buy these. EA can kiss my ass)
(-) EA refuses to use the ESPN license in any positive way to benefit the actual game. A sports ticker during the menus does not benefit Madden (the game) in any way
Ok, I am tired of typing, so that's all I will write for now. There is still lots to talk about, I'm sure I left out a lot that can be improved (and to be fair, I'm sure I forgot to mention some stuff the game does right). I'm eagerly waiting for the fatigue patch and the opening day roster update. I'm still working on Sliders that will give me the most realistic results (still getting too many interceptions!), but overall, I have to say, I have been enjoying the game. Madden should be way beyond where it currently is, especially since it seems 2K5 did so many great things to move the football genre forward over two years ago, but at least the game plays a decent game of football and I have been having fun with it.
Lets see how I feel about it in a few more weeks.