Review by YamiYaj
Madden Truck Sticks the Competition... Wait what competition?
As I stated in my review of the game last year, I have been playing the John Madden NFL Football franchise since it's 1992 installation, and have been happy every year except for three. The N64 edition, Madden 2001, and Madden 2005. With each of those installations it was pretty evident within a few days that they weren't very good. However, Madden 2006 makes up for the disappointment of the 2005 installation, with what is, quite possibly, the best football sim ever.
A huge improvement over the pixilated graphics of Madden 2005. The view returns to the look of the previous years versions with a little bit of 2005's artwork. No longer are characters to skinny or too beefed up. Character models look like real football players. Muscles, with meat over them. New tackling animations are greatly animated, new celebrations, dives, actions, and other things are all well animated and graphically go off without a hitch. The presentation is improved as well, as they have added drive charts, key players, and new graphics that come as the result of big plays and/or touchdowns. All of this topped off with crisp layout screens as always lead to what is the best graphiced Madden ever.
The same repetitive commentary is back, however it's easily ignorable as you don't recognize it as opposed to the new commentary. In reality, it seems as if John Madden isn't even talking, just Al Michaels. No longer does the pads clacking together noise appear just because you are simply near another player or have simply touched their foot. The crowd noise seems to have slightly improved, though it's nothing compared to it's NCAA counterpart. The soundtrack is a pretty decent soundtrack for a Madden installation. Though many of the songs have nothing to do with football, they are easily turned off and replaced with music from NFL Films music.
Coming to the realization that the default controls were the worst possible configuration, and that making them mandatory was stupid, EA has corrected this. What can be called the equivalent to previous years "Config 2" has now been set as the default, with a few slight changes to suit the vision cone system. No worries, however. For those that like the default of last year, it is the 2nd configuration option. It is for this reason, that control would receive an 8 out of 10, however the clankiness of the passing system detracts from the control score. Though the innovation of the vision cone is brilliant, the controls for it are less than. Due to the short amount of time allowed to pass, switching from receiver to receiver can cause trouble, and the actual release of the ball can be complicated by unwanted pump-fakes, and/or very late releases.
Though the gameplay score receives the same score as last years, it is miles ahead. However, due to the aforementioned clunky controls with the vision cone, the score is deducted from here as well. This years obvious gameplay feature is the vision cone. And while it is a great and a realistic feature, it causes many problems in gameplay. For starters now finding an open receiver and switching to put him in your line of sight is fine and dandy. However the time it takes, and lack of offensive line intelligence are the problem. Lineman, regardless of their rating(s) are easily beatable by going to the outside of them and never recover. The Defensive End will be right next to them, but they will not touch them again after they blow past them. It seems that however, higher rated linemen may give you a second or two more protection. The run game seems to only work pending the halfback now, as opposed to working as a team, and only to the outside, IMO.
Further adding to the new stresses of gameplay is tackling. While there are a lot of beautiful tackle animations and running/catching animations, they are made annoying by the simple fact that players can now pinball of of players with ease. Direct contact now has a lessened effect in EA's attempt to gain more broken tackles for smaller runners. A lot of this revolves around the truck stick, which proves to be slightly more than a gimmick as it seems to almost always beat a hit stick, however, on multiple occurrences players have pinballed without the use of a truck stick.
Madden's final feature is precision passing. Don't let it fool you. All it is is four new catch animations. Precision passing has always existed in Madden since the 2002 installation. Furthermore as a result of the "addition" of precision passing, bullet passes speed have now been taken down a notch. While they're faster than lobs, they still allow for a defensive back or linebacker to now close more times than not.
While most of Madden's new features seem to cause more pain than pleasure there are a few that are great addition. Line blocking, though pathetically A.I.'d has been improved with the option to audible how your line will block at the line. This proves to work perfectly as things such as Zone blocking prove effective. Ever want the PC to Zone Block in a game using the bronco's while you run with a Halfback? Now you can do it. In addition to this breaking tackles, which has always been a flaw in Madden has been drastically improved. No longer are people unresponsive to the fact that they broke a tackle. They immediately keep on trucking. Same for the defense. Quick recovery from a fall or pancake serve for more realism.
Other than these new features Madden's gameplay is virtually the same, with a few animations. While they make the game more fun(or frustrating pending how long it takes you to get vision cone under control) and realistic, in the end only the vision cone is a truly big innovation.
Online Play: 7.5/10
While huge jumps have been made in fairplay, match making, and other innovations, it doesn't change the fact that ever since 2002 people have chosen winning over having fun playing a straight game. While 2004 and 2005 offered what was the closest you could get to playing real football without actually playing it in online play due to the multiple styles of play, 2006 does not. Due to the new horrible lineman A.I., people tend to use their fastest member of the front 7 and come around the end giving you 3 seconds max every play to throw. It is for the simple fact that your opponent will usually do nothing but blitz that Online play has been deducted 2.5 points. Playing the CPU seems to be the way to go this year.
I give it a 9.7 because no game is perfect. This is the realistic football sim to date, and it only leaves wonders as to what can be done with the next generation of football games. Though it has it's obvious problems, they are easily overlookable due to the pure fun enveloped in this game. No longer can you be beaten offensively by someone whom just tosses the ball to a random button each play. As we know the staple of Madden was it's gameplay, and it remains intact, however, it has now added the glitz and glammer it was missing in presentation as well. Though there feel to be many things more than ever that are gimmicky and tacked on(the truck stick, superstar mode, and precision passing) it still comes out near perfect.
Buy or Rent?
Buy! As many ESPN Fans have forced down our throats for months, EA owns the exclusive liscence to NFL games, thus Madden is the only game on the market. However, even if another game was on the market, you still should pick up Madden being a football fan. Renting this game would serve no purpose as it, unlike it's predecessor, will last more than a few weeks, but for months, if not years if you're hesitant to pick up next-generation systems.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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