Review by Galactus21

Reviewed: 08/12/05

Recycle. Reuse. Reduce.

We have all heard of the phrase to recycle, reuse, and reduce during our stint in elementary school. Ah, yes, the good ol’ Earth Day phrase. Well this concept plays an integral part in the flaws of Madden 2006. To simply put, EA recycled an existing formula, reused it, and thus reduce production cost and production value. To put it in Laymen’s term, this game is practically the same thing I played in 2002. A few graphical improvements and a few tweaks here and there and EA decides to slap a fifty-dollar price tag on it. Simply unbelievable, but that is life. I was formerly a big fan of the Madden series. I played Madden 2001 on the original Playstation and I felt it was the best football game at that time. With Madden 2002 being the version that I first played on a current generation console, I noticed the subtle differences and the big improvements, but once I got a chance to play a bit of 2003, I noticed the improvements were minor. After that I decided to switch to ESPN for a while and felt it was the most polish football series ever, but with the exclusive license deal, I was forced to purchase Madden 2006 for my football fix. Well, suffice it to say, it is practically the same game that I played in 2002.

Didn’t I play this 4 years ago?

While there are noticeable improvements to the 2006 version, there still aren’t any drastic improvements that would make me say this version is a whole lot better than the previous incarnations. For one, the graphics are improved, the character models are sharper and the animation looks good. Other than minor graphical improvements, the gameplay has also received some noticeable improvements. The CPU’s tactics are much better. They can stop the run better and give you somewhat of a challenge, but suffice it to say, these minor improvements aren’t really anything that would warrant the fifty-dollar price tag.

Like recent football games, Madden 2006 has plenty of options to choose from. From the regular season to franchise mode, Madden has plenty to offer. The franchise mode thus far is fairly deep. It expands across a good number of years, which allows you to witness the growth of certain players. Franchise mode allows you to play a 16 game season along with the preseason games. If you make the playoffs, there are additional games to be played. You can sign free agents or trade players, which allows you to improve your team or clear some room because of salary cap reasons.

Perhaps the biggest problem that I see with Madden 2006 is the fact that I own Espn NFL 2k5, which is what I consider the best football game to date. Espn in my eyes is a far superior football game, but in the end, Madden is still a solid and fun game. Madden’s core mechanics are simply geared more towards the arcade style. Espn utilizes more realism and in general is more realistic than Madden. In many instances, realism can’t be used to judge quality, but in the case of football titles, realism is an essential part of the game’s quality. For one, the game seems unbalanced. At times, the A.I would exhibit skills that are equivalent to that of the Patriots and the next minute, the A.I seems like a high school J.V team. The imbalance in the A.I makes this game less enjoyable and at times can be down right frustrating. For example, when running the football, there will be times where the running lanes are the size of the ocean, but miraculously a defender closes that gap by seemingly coming out of nowhere. I would call this aggressive and impressive A.I, but there will also be times where the same defender can’t make the same exact play. Also the jump between rookie and pro is so far differentiated that you can put up 50-60 points on rookie level and can only manage a few points or so on pro. I know some will bash me for my lack of skills, but I believe this game utilizes an imbalanced difficulty setting that throws the game off.

The second biggest problem that Madden has is its passing game. Instead of a nice and fluid passing game, you have a system where it makes things more difficult then it should be. The A.I does a horrible job at running its route. I would call a Hail Mary play, but on several occasion, they would break the route and do something else. The timing also seems way off. In Espn, the timing was perfect. You would drop back in a fluid motion and throw the ball in one synchronize motion, but here it seems when you drop back, the receivers are barely running their routes. While these occurrences only happen occasionally, it does affect the game’s overall fun factor.

What I liked about Madden’s core gameplay is the running game. While it certainly has its problems, for the most part, the running aspect is done really well. Aside from the occasional big gaps in the running lanes, the way the back cuts to the outside or how the back punches his way into the gap is done with realism and fluidity. For the most part, I actually enjoyed the running game more than Espn. The fact is, nobody in the NFL averages seven or eight yards per carry, so it was a pleasant surprise when I only averaged 4.5 yards per rush. It could be because I am still getting use to the game or it could be because the game features an impressive running game. I will give EA the benefit of the doubt and say it is because of an excellent running game.

The biggest toss up is the game’s defense. If you are like me, then you believe that defense wins championships, but in this game, every team that I have used have played miraculous defense. I went through about ten games without giving up more than ten points. While, it could be looked at as hard nose defense, but it could also be looked at as poor designing. The fact is, even when I am using the Colts, my defense would be flying around and gang tacking like the New England Patriots. This detracts from the game’s realism, which is a big factor in making or breaking a great football game.

Perhaps the best aspect about Madden is the franchise mode. There is plenty to do in this mode. You can spend years developing your team and making them championship contenders. You can manage the salary cap and help groom rookies into superstars. There is simply an abundance of things to do. You can see if you can improve upon the previous season. You can try to rush for more touchdowns than your previous season. This aspect mirrors the real life NFL and its many aspects. This is definitely one of the most attractive things about Madden 2006.

Bunch of useless features

Again with the phrase, “Recycle. Reuse. Reduce.” EA once again decided to use the same engine and slap a few new features and call it a new game. It really makes their yearly updates quite tiresome. It is like each generation of console, they find a new way to improve the franchise, and then reuse that idea until the next generation of console starts. For Madden 2006, EA introduces a new Superstar mode, which is quite useless. You get to create a rookie prodigy and turn him into a superstar. Honestly, I didn’t play this feature for too long because I found the concept rather boring. The new quarterback vision also seems useless. When I am playing the game, I simply have no use for it. If anything that field of vision produces a light that is rather distracting.

The animation in Madden is light years behind that of Espn. Unlike the before mentioned game, Madden’s animation looks subpar. The tackling and hit detection doesn’t seem to work very well. My biggest gripe is when the quarterback drops back to pass; the movement looks stiff and awkward. The game also has horrible load times. Flipping through stats, the game takes a while to load it. The character models for the most part looks solid, but suffice it to say, the game’s graphic engine is far from impressive. However, the game doesn’t look horrible.

Turducken…hmm…

Perhaps the best part about Madden is having the legendary commentary himself. Madden is the man behind the famous Turducken and not to mention his brilliance in sports analysis. The game like it has been, features Madden and his ever-loveable commentary. His counterpart, Al Michaels is also one of the better commentators out there. Together the two of them are a formidable tandem, which offers an authentic and realistic approach to Madden 2006. The music during the opening screen is bearable. One thing that I do like is when the game features a sports radio talk show, which is really quite unique.

Madden features a fairly deep franchise mode and with an assortment of features, Madden 2006 will more than provide you with hours of gameplay. However, the biggest problem is, if you owned the previous Maddens, then there aren’t any drastic improvements that would put this game well above the others. There is also a set of new features that people can find interesting. Personally, I felt the new features were useless, but I am sure others will find value in it.

Madden 2006 presents itself quite well. With John Madden running the show and calling the play by play, the game offers an authentic presentation of the game. While at times, the quality of the game’s animation and core mechanics maybe questionable, there is still a lot to like about Madden. Madden itself is a fun and fundamentally sound game. With the newest roster updates and a whole new rookie cast, players can witness their favorite teams expand and grow.

Not quite Super bowl material, but it is playoff worthy

Madden 2006 has its flaws and while it pains me to say this, Madden is the only NFL game around this year and it is better than nothing. Madden doesn’t set any precedents and it sure isn’t the best football game around, but it offers a fun experience. I wish there was another NFL game around, so the consumers can get a choice, but even with that said, Madden 2006 should still satisfy any football fan. However, if you are only a mild football fan or someone who doesn’t care about roster updates, then sticking with your previous Madden versions should be enough. In the end, Madden 2006 recycles an existing formula, reuses most of its core mechanics, and reduces its production cost. But, ultimately the lack of competition hurts the consumers because EA hasn’t had the need to improve their series. A few tweaks here and there shouldn’t warrant a fifty-dollar purchase, but if you have a football fixation, then by all means spend the money because Madden is a fun game.

Final Score: 7

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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