Review by Z warriors

"An outsider's view on Madden"

Note: This review probably won't be too helpful to fans of Madden or those who familiar with the sport, but those like me who know next to nothing about the game but still considering a purchase, read on.

Having never lived in America, I knew next to nothing about American football. But, after favourable reviews for Madden NFL 07 on the Nintendo Wii, I decided to give the game a shot. And thus far, it's been money well spent. Before I played the game, I always knew it was going to have a steep learning curve, mainly because the only previous Madden game I'd ever played was Madden '93 on the SNES, which I picked up for $5 second hand as a kid. I'd be surprised if I played the game for a total of two hours, and, a decade on, I still knew nothing about the sport. However, after spending some time with Madden 07, I was pleasantly surprised to find a game, although deep, easily accessible to a complete stranger to the sport.

Gameplay - 9/10

The most important part of most games, in particular sports titles. Upon first playing the game, I was overwhelmed by the playbook – I had absolutely no idea what any of it meant. So I decided to use the auto-select option, and let the game choose a suitable play. At first, I found the game confusing and wondered if I'll ever get the hang of it – it was easy enough to actually play the game, but I feared that I'll never be competitive at a strategic level. The plays were too many and too complicated, different coloured lines pointing in all directions, me having no idea what any of it meant. To top it off, sections called things like I-form, which multiplied my confusion. Fortunately, I soon realized that pressing the “1” button organizes the plays by type rather than formation, which made things much easier. After all, it doesn't take a genius to understand what things like “Deep Pass” and “Outside Run” means. After a few games, I got comfortable with the offensive playbook and got the hang of things, although it was much more complicated on the defensive side of things. With the plays organized by type I (sort of) understood what they meant, but still didn't know what type of defensive play to use when, so initially I relied on “Asking Madden” a lot on defense. A couple dozen games later, and although I'm now more comfortable with the defensive playbook, I still tend to “Ask Madden” from time to time.

Alright, now on to the actual gameplay. On offensive, it's very simple to play the game, complete novice or not. Just flick the Wiimote up to start the player, and if it's a running play, run forward as far as you while avoiding the defenders, moving the Wiimote left or right to stiff-arm, or the nunchuck to juke (sidestep), Z to run and A to spin. During a passing play, each receiver is assigned to a different direction on the D-pad, to choose a receiver just press their D-pad direction (or the A button for one of the receivers) and swing the Wiimote forward to throw the ball, which depending on the speed, will result in a lob or fast pass. By lifting both the nunchuck and Wiimote up you can time the receiver's catch. After that, the controls you'll control just as you would in a running play. To kick the ball, press the “A” button when it asks to kick, and swing the Wiimote upwards, and depending on what direction you face the remote, will affect the direction of the kick. It takes a little getting used, but once you get the used to it, it's pretty easy to do. There are also pre-play adjustments that can be made, but being the novice that I am, I don't mess around with these settings, as I wouldn't know how to. Most actions work well and are simple to do, except at times the player stiff-arms the wrong way (more than likely to do with my action).

Now, defense is a bit more obscure, particularly for a novice. The reason for this is the play goes so fast, that it'll seem as if you're not doing anything. Pressing A will change to the defender closest to the opposition, but it still isn't as satisfying as offense, though does improve once you get used to the game. For someone comfortable with American football, choosing a play which nullifies the offensive play, or successfully blocking a receiver's run would be satisfying, but for someone who wouldn't know much about any of this, it can seem as if you're doing nothing at times. To tackle, thrust both controllers forward, Z to run – pressing Z while thrusting the controls forward will result in a big hit, which doesn't seem to work too often (responsive, but fails to stop the defender), swing the Wiimote to stop an incoming throw, or thrust both controllers up to try and intercept. Controls on defense, again work well and the motion-sensing controls feel great, apart from the big hits, but when they do pay off, are really awarding.

I haven't messed around with difficulty settings, played the preseason of my first Franchise mode on Rookie and won every match comfortably, in the actual season upped it to Pro, where I lost my first 4 but after getting used to it won the next five.

Menus / Modes – 7/10
I can't comment much on the modes, as I've only played the mini-games (which I might add, are GREAT fun), quick play and franchise mode, but am still about half way through my first season in franchise mode, so I'll discuss mainly that in this section.

First things first, however, the loading times while using the menus are quite pathetic. Having to wait a few seconds for the game to load every time you open a different menu, and even sub-menu is extremely annoying – particularly the newspapers in Franchise mode, which take about 5 seconds each to load, by the end of which you would have likely moved your arm over the other newspaper, meaning you'll have to wait for the desired newspapers to load again.

Now, in Franchise mode, many of the options in regards to Roster management are pretty complicated for a novice. Fifa has a much more accessible layout from experience, faster and easier to understand to someone with limited knowledge of the game, but to be expected as NFL is much more tactical and choosing player positions is when there are so many “teams” and formations (meaning the defensive, offensive, special teams) is very complicated. However, things like player contracts and trades could have been made simpler, as it is the layout is pretty bland but could be improved. Others aspects, however, like emails, newspapers and the Owner's Box are all simple and easy to use, no matter how much experience you've had with Madden or NFL (barring the loading times). On the other hand, stats are immensely complicated, as I have no idea what three quarters of the abbreviations stand for. Another complaint, is that, in Franchise Mode, the emails and in particular newspaper stories are bland, and inaccurate. After beating the Cowboys, an article appeared in the local paper saying the Cardinals (my team) can be no one other than the Cowboys, despite me having won my fifth on the trot. On the whole, though, Franchise mode is great and what you'd expect of an EA sports game, some improvements could be made but the important things like Roster management all seem to be spot on (from what I can tell, anyway), not to mention good additions like the Gameplans section, which allows you to practice specific plays to counter the opposition each week.

Sound – 8/10

The game has a great soundtrack, some very good songs, and on soundtrack alone, it'd get a 10 (some bad songs, admittedly, but can be disabled, leaving the many good to great songs). However, Tony Bruno's radio show is bland, and repetitive – in consecutive weeks there was the exact same interview with some guy about technology in sports. The radio show can be disabled and replaced with the music, which I expect most would do after the first season, as it is extremely repetitive.

Lasting appeal – 10/10

With a 30 season Franchise mode, the addictive multiplayer mini-games, the mini-camp, where you can practice different drills and then compete in match day situations, card collecting, plus Superstar mode (which I haven't tried out yet, and probably won't as it seems too daunting a task), the game has heaps of replay value.

Conclusion

Overall, even though I knew nothing about the game, after a few hours of playing, (somewhere around 5, I would think), I started to get the hang of the game and am learning new things the more I play, becoming more familiar with the playbooks (though still not formations, types are much easier for a novice). For other novices out there, if you enjoy sports games or thinks you will enjoy Madden (which, BTW, is much slower and more strategy based than other sports games), than chances are you'll enjoy this game, though, if possible, I recommend a rent, to see if the game suits your style. There's certainly enough to do to justify a buy, if you do like the gameplay.

Gameplay - 9/10
Menus / Modes - 7/10
Sound - 8/10
Lasting appeal - 10/10
Overall: 9/10 (not an average)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/19/07


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