Review by junkyardfusion

Reviewed: 10/02/06

Madden 07 on original XBOX... some good, some bad.

In what could be one of the last Maddens for current generation consoles, Madden NFL 07 changes very little from the previous year's formula. Luckily, the changes are mostly positive.

Visual Presentation (5 out of 10)

The graphics for Madden football games (and EA NCAA football games) have changed very little since the engine was first introduced with Madden NFL 2001. The player models in particular look incredibly outdated, especially when compared to the player models of the now extinct NFL 2k / ESPN series. Most folks can look past the ancient look of EA's football franchises on the current gen, but this is easily my biggest peeve.

In addition to the outdated look of the player models, the graphics team have once again neglected the need for accurate uniforms. The Baltimore Ravens away uniforms are still sporting the two-stripe sock they have never worn in real life, the Giants away jersey is still totally inaccurate with wrong numbering, logo, and white shoes, etc. Some teams have glitches on their uniforms (for example, the Titans home navy blues have the team name written in Navy blue above their numbers, rendering the name invisible). How many years has it been since the Seahawks, Packers, Saints, Eagles, and Vikings boasted the traditional red colored "Riddell" lettering [instead of the team color lettering] on their helmets? How can this be overlooked, especially considering Shaun Alexander's helmet (and its dark blue "Riddell" lettering) are featured prominently on the cover of the game? Visual details make or break the atmosphere of the game.

Audio Presentation (8 out of 10)

The Al Michaels and John Madden commentary remains virtually unchanged from the past few years. The in-game music is a mix of rap, emo, and indie rock, although you can add four of your own songs by loading them onto your XBOX and adjusting the audio settings. The on field sound effects and voices work just fine.

Gameplay (8.5 out of 10)

The Madden series has always shined over competitors with gameplay, particularly the simple-minded passing game. This year, QBs can now use the sprint button without taking down the passing icons -- an incredibly useful feature for squeezing the most out of bootlegging quarterbacks like Jake Plummer and Brett Favre. Similar to last year, the QB vision passing cone is back as an option, though it is mandatory if playing the highest difficulty setting. Cornerbacks no longer have the Air Jordan jumping abilities to deflect every deep pass, so while playing on defense, you had better make sure your safeties protect the CBs with zone or double man coverage in passing situations. Most Madden veterans will have to mess with the sliders to get realistic results in the passing game.

The running game is improved from last year, boasting a "highlight stick" which works great for bursting through mismatches. For example, throw a HB Screen pass to Curtis Martin and press up on your right thumbstick to shrug off the tackle of the incoming cornerback. If using a power back, like Stephen Jackson or Mike Alstott, pressing up on the right thumbstick will result in the player plowing through the defensive player. The effectiveness of the stick depends on your "agility" statistic if using a speedy back, or your "strength" statistic if using a power back. If using a hybrid back, ala Edge, the result of the highlight stick will change between plowing over or shrugging off the defender, depending on the situation.

New this year is a "lead blocker" feature where you can take temporary control of a blocking player to force open a hole for the running game. I have never personally played in a game where my human opponent or I use this with noticeably increased effectiveness over AI blocking, but I have heard it can be useful in specific situations during online games. If your unlikely dream has always been to play in the trenches on offensive line, now is your chance.

Defensive gameplay is essentially identical to previous years. The most noticeable difference, as mentioned previously, is decreased effectiveness of cornerbacks defending the pass. On the highest difficulty, you really need to either play cornerback or safety manually, or ensure double coverage with Cover 2 Man defenses on passing downs. I personally almost always play as a safety in zone coverage (usually Cover 2 or 3) to increase the chance of my defense stopping the long pass. The pass defense isn't as porous as NCAA Football 07, but you may need to adjust AI sliders to get semi-realistic results.

Special teams gameplay is much approved over previous years. Like it's NCAA cousin, Madden 07 utilizes the right analog stick for kicks, ala Tiger Woods Golf games. This analog stick "swing" is a much needed improvement over the timed button presses of years past, particularly on the highest difficulty setting where missed kicks and out of bounds kickoffs were previously abundant. Now, the kicking game is basically automatic, just like it should be at the NFL level. Squib kicks (now a set play) and onside kicks can be rewarding, but risky, as well.

Game Modes (9.5 out of 10)

Dynasty mode this year is slightly improved, though very similar to years past. The "storyline" features, like the newspaper, email, and radio show, are back and basically the same as before. Players get attributed "roles" based on their performance and statistics. These roles impact the statistics of your own team or the opponents on the field, in addition to affecting other things off the field (for example, having a player on your team with the "NFL Icon" role will not only increase your team's ability, but will make it much easier to sign coveted free agents for less money in the off-season). Rookies can now be scouted in training camp-style "workouts" where getting a trophy will increase your team's knowledge of the prospect, or you can play with them in a NCAA all star game. One welcome new feature is a second session of free agent signing to sandwich the NFL entry draft between two separate 14-day free agency periods.

EA improved the "Career" mode to "Superstar" mode, where you play as a specific player (in ANY position, including kickers and offensive lineman) and try to reach the hall of fame at the end of your career. This mode is a fun distraction if you choose a good position, but one downside is your superstar points are highly dependant on other players on your team (for example, if you play as a offensive player other than QB, and your quarterback throws an interception unrelated to your superstar's play, you will be penalized). I find that AI-controlled QBs in Superstar mode commonly make idiotic mistakes.

Overall (7 out of 10)

Madden NFL 07 still plays a good game of videogame football, but like most other EA Sports titles on the current generation systems, the graphics are outdated and reused from previous versions.

Can you deal with spending $50 on a Madden videogame that looks exactly like the one you played for the last six years, flaws and all? If the answer is "yes," then please feel free to indulge.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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