Review by Star1080 Returns
Unnecessary features and more difficult gameplay lead to a step down for EA's Madden 06 from last year's version.
I was always a Madden fan, so when news came that EA had bought out the exclusive NFL license, it didn't phase me much. But then I realized: EA can now screw around with Madden as much as they want; they're now your only option for a football sim. And that's exactly what they did.
Madden's main new features this year involve the passing game, with all-new QB Vision Control and QB Precision Passing. QB Vision Control allows the quarterback to now throw accurate passes to those receivers in his field of vision, but he will be penalized in accuracy for throwing to receivers outside that field. I wouldn't say that this new method of gameplay is far too difficult, but it distracts too much attention away from what's going on around the quarterback. Now you don't have time to watch out for defensive linemen rushing the quarterback; you're too busy screwing around with your field of vision with the right analog stick. It was a nice thought, and makes the game a bit more realistic, but honestly, it just creates a jumble of button-pressing that the player has to do all at once now after snapping the ball. Luckily, however, if you decide that you really dislike the feature, the option is available in in-game menus to turn it off.
The next feature is the new QB Precision Passing. Based on where the quarterback is moving to as he's throwing the ball, he'll throw the ball to a receiver in a spot away from defenders (preferably). For example, when the quarterback is running to the right and throws to a receiver, he'll throw it a bit right of him, and when the quarterback is moving up in the pocket when he throws the ball, he'll throw a high pass over the receiver's shoulder if he's running a fly route. It's a nice addition, but often the results are barely noticeable.
The last major addition is the Truck Stick control for ballcarriers, which is definitely a breath of fresh air. In recent years, we've been able to spin, juke, and hurdle with the ballcarrier, but there was never any simple option to just knock defenders down. Now there is, simply by flicking the right analog stick in any direction, similar to the Hit Stick on the defensive control that was introduced last year.
Of course, there are only so many buttons on a PlayStation2 controller, and I couldn't help but noticing that with these new features, EA has taken out the Playmaker control that was introduced in Madden 2004. It used the right analog stick to control players on the field, which is now used for QB Vision Control and the Truck Stick. The change is for the worse on the passing side, and for the better on the running side of the ball. In passing, the Playmaker was especially useful when none of your receivers were open; you could simply change one's route to run to an open spot on the field. On the running side, I barely if ever used the Playmaker control to control blockers, because most of the time the blockers reacted much too late to be of any use against much faster defensive players.
Now that I've gone over the in-game changes for Madden 06, let's get to EA's new season sim feature, NFL Superstar Mode. You start off with randomly-generated parents that might have perks such as high IQs or previous sports experience. I haven't been able to tell as of yet just how much influence they have on your overall skill level, but I would imagine that their intelligence influences your own player's Awareness rating; their former sports involvement affects your own ratings, etc. You start off in a small apartment (curious habitat for a future NFL player), a week or two before the draft. You can go hire an agent, take an IQ test, talk to your mentor, Terrell Davis, and finally attend the NFL draft, which goes through all the draftees of this past year until a team at random picks you. Then you must attend training camp, preseason, etc., but you can sim all this, which you'll likely end up doing. Once you're in the pros and you gain more fame, you can hold press conferences, attend movie premieres, get endorsements, etc. It's all nice and showy, but the entire Superstar feature seems very unnecessary. You'll get tired of it after trying it out a few times.
There isn't much to talk about here, but the online mode is just as great as it has been in the past, with one new feature and one minor complaint. The new feature is your EA Locker, which you can use to store different files, including franchise saves, for your friends to retrieve and use. It's nice, but you probably won't end up using it very much. My only complaint with the online is that it requires you at signup to either pay $2 via credit, or be spammed with e-mails from EA's sponsors. EA really milks their customers for all they're worth.
The sound effects and music department are nothing new, but they may have taken a slight step downwards in their choice in music for the game. A lot of the songs seem like they have nothing to do with football (not even slightly metaphorically), and don't seem to fit with the overall aspect of the game. There's also some new commentary mixed in with some old, to make the game seem fresh and interesting in its in-game sound with Madden and Michaels. All in all, it's what you would expect from a yearly Madden release, so the game still gets a very respectable score in the sound category.
For the most part, it's the same old presentation. They've supposedly improved the graphics, but it really isn't noticeable. There are, however, new camera angles, cutscenes, and player animations to give it a bit of change from last year's version. The in-game menus are cleanly portrayed and easy to use. But even with the lack of significant change in graphics, they've really reached the peak as far as graphics are concerned, and player models and animations look intensely realistic to give the player a very convincing experience.
Since EA now holds the exclusive NFL license, if you're looking for a football sim, you should probably buy it. There's no point in renting it now to see if you like it compared to other football sims, since there now ARE no other football sims. Don't be taken aback by some of the bad things I've mentioned in the review, this year's Madden is still a truly excellent football sim that shines in its own regard, and has some of the best replay value the video game industry has to offer, with its numerous modes and online play.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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