Monday, August 21, 2006

This time, Madden is worth the wait

Let's take care of this right off the bat. Madden '07, for the XBox 360 is the greatest video football game ever created. It's better than any previous Madden. It kills the first Xbox 360 version, released hurridly last season, and it stomps on NFL 2K5 and any other video football game you played.

It's does everything well. My only quip: No John Madden or Al Michaels in the game, again. This is probably due to the fact that Madden's partner wasn't named during much of the design of the game (remember, work begins on the new title pretty much as soon as the current one releases).

So next year, I'm expecting to see Michaels, Madden and the entire NBC feel integrated into the game -- plus the pre-, halftime and postgame shows featuring the new roster of NBC talent, or the kind of things that are present on a two-year-old game from 2K Sports, NFL 2K5 for PS2 and the original XBox.

That said, there are tons of new features on Madden 07, including the ability to control your lead blocker to open a hole for you. This is a complex operation that took awhile to master. But once you do, it opens up new doors.

In Franchise mode, you can scout college prospects and real plays from your favorite teams' defensive playbook are used.

The all-new highlight stick allows you to make moves that real players would make, that are specific to the type player you're controlling, i.e., a 300-pound defensive tackle is not going to dyke a 200-pound DB with a spin move.

On PS2, you can transfer an entire season in Franchise mode to your PSP system and take it with you.

You have the ability to create a player, take him through tryouts, hire an agent, do interviews and get drafted. Then you can control only that player during games. It's a neat feature to mess around with every once in awhile, but it didn't hook me.

What hooked me, on Xbox 360, was how beautiful everything was. This is one of the best looking videogames, of any genre, I've ever seen. You may remember how the first 360 Madden was rather cartoonish, as the new NCAA game can be at times.

This one looks so much better. It plays faster. Control is better. Animations are improved. I didn't see any players running through each other. I saw video Dan Morgan leaping over video Daunte Culpepper after video Julius Peppers had twirled Culpepper around in a realistic 360 degree tackle, slamming him hard to the ground.

Realism is way up and so is the fun factor. It's not hard to start playing this at 10 p.m. and forget what you're doing, and suddenly it's 3:30 a.m. on a worknight and you've got to get up in three hours.

Online play is fast and smooth with 360. I experienced zero lag times (though I did notice players fatigued very slowly online as compared to the real life type fatique in head-to-head or me vs. the computer).

There are a lot of people who complain about this game saying EA only updates the rosters each year. To an extent they are right. This is essentially the same game engine we've played on for years. But I think it's a smart move. People know how to play this immediately. They know what to expect.

And EA's plan seems to work. This game made $250 million last year and has earned about $1.5 billion since being introduced in 1989. Essentially, this is EA releasing a "Spider Man" or "Pirates" movie every summer.

There's been plenty enough tweaks to satisfy the hard-core gamer. Ultimately for me, I want the Madden experience to be as close to watching an NFL game as possible. The gameplay is about there right now. We need announcers and highlight shows to really take us to the next level, and I want the fans involved even more. Have them chant "DE-FENSE" at home when the home team needs a stop, boo poor play or get loud at the right times.

These new crowds are eons better than what we've seen in the past, but they mostly bounce up and down.

It's about the only thing I would change. But it'll have me waiting for next year. And right now, things are pretty sweet (grade: A).

Coaches Corner

Every year, West Charlotte High football coach Pete Gilchrist, the biggest Madden-head I know, offers his expert opinion of the new game. I gave him the Xbox version two weeks ago and let him have at it.

His thoughts:

"This game is made for all levels of Madden players. The "AI" is set up to take away the go-to plays -- used by those players who find one play and run it over and over -- and for the more experienced player the "A.I" defensive response is on the money with the defenses you call.

"The game checks are set up to help you change responsibiltys within a certain defense easier. The QB vision is still a part of this game (which I hate) but after a year of this unwanted feature it is not as distracting. The plays are more realistic: precision passing is a big, welcome return to the game. The juke moves were hard to work, mainly because I'm used to the PS2 controller.

"All in all, I would give this game a B+ , mainly because the QB Vision feature is a drawback. One suggestion? Allow the Vision to improve or falter as the season goes on depending how the season is going for that QB."

Madden Challenge Starts Sept. 1

Think you're a great Madden-ite? The 2006 Madden Challenge, the only official EA tournament, kicks off Sept. 1 to try to find the best Madden player going.

This year, the tournament expands from North America to Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Hong Kong.

The winners from 26 US cities and five international tournaments move to the finals, held during the Pro Bowl week in Hawaii in February. The winner pockets a check for $100,000. The regional winners each pocket $1,000.

The challenge will be played on Xbox and Xbox 360. It hits Charlotte Oct. 28 at Concord Mills.


Anonymous said...

you gotta be kidding me.

no defense playmaker

no smart hot routes to send your wideout to the first down marker

the 360 should have everything the ps2 and xbox versions have, not LESS.

Anonymous said...

what happened to the 2ksports title that you reported on...