|Madden 07 (2006)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, Gamecube, PC
It’s amazing what one year can do for a franchise in dire need of a little retooling. Last year’s installment of the popular NFL series was an absolute disaster on current-gen systems (due mostly to the introduction of the über-crappy QB Vision, which has since been removed), and the Xbox 360 version was even worse, complete with glitchy gameplay and the absence of several game modes. Thankfully, the boys over at EA still know how to make a great football game, and while unnecessary extras like NFL Superstar (where you participate in an RPG-like journey to HOF stardom) still drag down the overall product, there are plenty of new trappings that help make “Madden 07” one of the best editions yet.
Along with updated rosters and schedules, accurate playbooks, and a brand spanking new interface, “Madden 07” also includes a new on-the-field option that’s even better than those feature in past versions: the ability to lead block, clearing a path for your RB, and then switching over to him to rip a killer run. If done properly, not only will you chew up precious minutes off the clock, but you’ll finally experience what it’s like to battle within the trenches. And though this new addition is far more useful than more recent add-ons like the hit stick (which I still overuse to this day), it takes more talent to master.
Luckily, you’ll be given the chance to test drive your skills with a designated practice mode, as well as a new Mini Games feature that pits you against another pro team in a series of competitive mini-camp events like the 40-Yard Dash, Bench press, QB Challenge, RB Challenge, Coverage Challenge and Lineman Challenge. The inclusion of the Mini Games mode is a superior replacement to the much-lauded Madden Bus Tour, and is also a great place to rack up some quick gamer points, which will in turn earn you rewards like unlocked Hall of Fame players that you can then add to your roster. These points can also be earned as you play through a normal game, or risked online with a friend (or a 12-year-old brat) in EA’s attempt to promote sports betting. Just kidding.
Other new additions include the ability to play a Franchise game online (in an attempt to make the opponent more realistic), peruse a Hall of Fame database (complete with biographies, stats, and even a few highlight reels), or bore yourself to death with the NFL Superstar mode (here’s a quick hint: it still sucks). Whatever you decide, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up applauding EA’s courageous decision to revisit the game’s roots and build their perfect vision of next-gen football from the ground up. It’s still not perfect (and it probably never will be), but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.