Review by NeoTS

Reviewed: 08/30/05

Football!!

I never got a chance to pick up last year's Madden, so I was really looking forward to the 06 iteration of the series. It was certainly worth that wait, although certain problems still plague the series that have been there since the beginning. Additions have been added to pump more life into a series that could have gone stagnant the very moment it entered this generation. But the developers have made sure that this product is a little different, whether it be a cool new game-play feature or a new mode altogether. This game has an enormous amount of content, enough to keep you playing until next year. And every mode is actually fun, unlike some games that throw in extra content just for the sake of having it in there. In Madden 06, you'll want to try out everything before you even begin to scratch the surface of one particular aspect of the game.

So, you've started up the game and picked your favorite team to be set as your games wallpaper. I'm a Niners fan- don't laugh, we have the best Super Bowl record. ;-) Anyway, if you're new to Madden (good grief, you've been missing out), then you'll probably want to select the mini-camp or practice mode. In Mini-camp, you can practice specific skills, like precision passing, clutch kicking or swatting the ball. In practice, you can concentrate on plays and routes, learning how the controls respond. So now you're ready for a game? Select Play Now, and you can play a game with absolutely no consequences. So now you're ready to enter the NFL. You've got to basic options. You can play in Franchise mode, which allows you to oversee every single aspect of the team you choose; from draft picks, ticket prices, advertising, the salary cap... everything you could think of. Or you can play in Superstar mode, which lets you create your own player, and let him live the life of an up and coming NFL star. You can sign an agent, get drafted, and then it's up to you. You can alter your appearance, rip on your next opponent, complain about your coaches, demand a trade or promise a trip to the playoffs. You can then lead his career as you take him from a third round draft pick to the Bengals to the best quarterback since Joe Montana. Or WR, RB, or whichever position you choose to pick. It's a really cool new addition to the game, and I'm sure I'll spend countless more hours tinkering around with it.

The game-play is the same old stuff with some new additions to spice things up. My favorite new addition is the truck stick, which makes use of the right analog stick while running the ball or going for a tackle. Just push the stick toward the guy coming toward you, and your player will deliver a smashing blow, sending the other guy on his back. This makes for some amazing runs, as you can literally smash off every defender that comes towards you if the back is strong enough. It's about time football games gave a nod to the power backs who run people over for a living. The other major addition is QB Vision and precision passing. Both feel quite awkward at first, but as you give the game more time, it'll feel much more natural and fairly more realistic than any other game in the series. QB's in the game now have a cone that represents their field of vision. Throwing to a WR that is outside your cone will result in a poorly thrown pass. If you throw to a WR in your cone, the pass will obviously be dead-on. But here's the catch: if you focus on one receiver for too long, the defense will read your eyes and they'll be there for the pick. So basically, you've got to act just like a quarterback, you've got scan the field of play before throwing the ball. Precision passing comes in handy, as it allows you to place the ball exactly where you want it to. Say our intended receiver is being tailed by two cornerbacks, and if he has to slow down to catch the ball, it's going to be an incomplete pass or interception. Just push the proper direction on the D-Pad while you throw, and you can lead him with a pass, throwing it in front of him. Alternately, you can throw it behind him to fake out a defender, you can throw it high for those over the middle passes and throw it low so the would-be tacklers will fly right over the receiver as he makes the catch. It's a great way to add realism to the game, and eliminates needless interceptions. I can safely say that every interception I've thrown in this game has been my fault.

Honestly, the graphics haven't improved a lot, but they're at such a high level that it doesn't matter. If you're playing in the rain, players rolling around in the mud will be left with dirty uniforms. As the game progresses, shadows move realistically as the day progresses- even from late afternoon to night. Some of the animations are incredible, especially when watched in slow motion during the instant replay. I swear, I don't think instant replay will ever get old. There's a couple new touchdown celebration's, like doing a somersault into the end zone. John Madden is still doing the color commentary, so it's still a problem. Half of what he says is a thinly-veiled clue at what play you should be calling or a harsh criticism of what you should have done. This can get very irritating. Other times he'll say something completely irrelevant to play, like talking about the defense knocking the ball down when I just finished with a running play. The Madden has never had the best commentary, or presentation, for that matter, but this year takes the incompetence to new heights. Hopefully these problems are addressed in the next-gen versions of Madden.

The problems don't end there, unfortunately. The offense of the opposing team gets an incredible boost towards the end of 2nd and 4th quarter. It's not nearly as bad as I remember it being, but it's still annoying to have a weak team roll on you when you've been shutting them down for the entire game. Punt returns are another problem. The AI on your team must go to sleep or something, because tacklers are all down field and within two yards of the returner and your teammates stand around and let them through, not blocking until after you catch the ball. A smart man calls for a fair catch, and an ambitious man doesn't, can't take a single step forward before he gets tackled and fumbles the ball. Punt returns aren't very fun.

But aside, from these irritations, Madden 06 is a solid game. It has a ton of game-play options that will keep the most die-hard gamer busy for months on end. Exploring every facet of this game would probably take a year. If you're the slightest fan of football, you should have fun with this one well through the regular season. I'm really not sure what to say about this game. It's all been said a thousand times over. If you need your Madden fix, then this game will satisfy your addiction. If you're only a casual fan, you could probably just as easily stick with last year's version. But whatever you do, find a mode, and stick with it! You'll have plenty of fun.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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