World of Apex

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Same old, same old

Good day, sports fans! That's right, for the 16th year running* EA has served up a dish of Madden NFL. After the inhumanity that was Madden '06 for the Xbox 360, has EA pulled their collective heads out of their collective asses to make a good football game? The short answer is, not really. The long answer is this review.

Madden '07 (Xbox 360)

Do you know those players in the NFL that have a distinctive style to them, that never changes? A running back with a non-stop smash-mouth approach, or maybe a quarterback that likes to run and gun? They're consistent, which is kind of like Madden has been the past few years. Unfortunately, a consistent player doesn't make a great player. After all, they could be consistently bad. I'm not saying Madden has been consistently bad. It's playable, it's decently realistic, the graphics are nice, but it's just not the real football simulation it's supposed to be. Madden is to football as Project Gotham Racing is to its respective genre: not too over the top and arcade styled, but nowhere realistic enough for the true fans.

Luckily, this time around EA did attempt to fix some of what they broke in Madden '06. They added create a player this time, as well as a score of other missing features from the last iteration. Some overhauled animations, slightly spiffed up graphics, and a tweaked interface round out the majority of the other fixes. However, one very big sore still remains untreated...there is no signature Madden/Summerall color commentary. How can you possibly name the game after someone who's not even in it? Alright, he IS in the "Ask Madden" play chooser thing, but that's not commentary now is it? Overall the differences between last year and this year are much more distinct than most years, if only because this time they released a full game instead of a demo.

Remember what I said about consistency? Here it is, Madden's gameplay. It's been the same for the past five or more years, with small additions here and there. It's still just as mediocre as it was last year. And the year before, and before. Computer AI is still thick up to the highest difficulty, players still clip through each other, stand around dumbly during a play and get stuck fairly often. This year's gimmick feature is the offensive version of the last gimmick the "Hit Stick." The "Highlight Stick" is a fancy way of saying you can use the right analog stick to throw out automatically chosen evasion moves on demand. That is, left on the stick will juke, spin, step or whatever is deemed cool enough at the time, to the left. The move is chosen by the computer based on context, eliminating any need for pressing those pesky buttons to pull of cool moves. Coupled with the new lead blocker controls, you should be teh juggarnaut, right? Well...the lead blocker thing isn't so great in practice. The problem is the same thick AI that controls your braindead opponents and stuck players, also takes immediate control of your ball carrier when you jump into the blocker's shoes. That means your perfectly planned burst through the hole you'll create gets turned into a double reverse for a 10 yard loss. As I said, it may be playable, but it's not the football simulation people seem to think it is.

There's just not that much to say here. Take my previous review of Madden '06, add in all of the features they cut to rush the release last year, then insert the new gimmick stick and lead blocker controls in the mix and you have this year's first and only NFL game. It's a better showing than last year, but that's not saying much.

Presentation: 5/10 - The menus are fine, but the lack of color commentary is disgraceful.

Gameplay: 7/10 - Another year, another gimmick.

Replayability: 7/10 - Well, at least it has Live.

Value: 7/10 - It's a complete game this year, amazing!

Overall/Summary: 7/10 - Same old, same old.

That done with I'll definitely be reviewing Dead Rising now that I've beaten it through the "True Ending" and unlocked Infinity Mode. Next week Saint's Row hits the streets, and I'll be sure to report whether or not the framerate issues of the demo are still there in my full review.


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