Madden NFL 2006 Review for Xbox 360
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 @ 11:32:39 am E.S.T
As a long time fan of the ESPN/NFL 2K series, it was extremely disappointing to hear that Electronic Arts had gobbled up the exclusive rights to both the NFL and ESPN. With 2K Sports and others out of the way, it's quite possible that EA Sports has the market deadlocked for years to come. This has worried gamers that their beloved Madden franchise may see a decline in quality. But just how well does the newest edition of Madden held up in comparison with past titles? Let’s take a look.
It has been well-publicized that the Xbox 360’s edition of Madden 2006 has been trimmed down to the basics. Gone are the owner, superstar and create-a-player modes of the current-gen Madden. In their place is an extremely solid football title. While it is indeed upsetting to pay $60 for such a trimmed down version of a game that has lost so much, it truly is worth the sacrifice. With Hundreds of new animations, sharper graphics, better gameplay; this is a great start to next-gen football.
Every aspect of Madden 2006 for the Xbox 360 was built from scratch. Your basic modes are still available, Quick Play, online matches, and a 30-year Franchise mode. The on the field game still plays similar, although with many subtle differences from past versions. New to Madden 2006 is the QB Vision Control, where a cone representing your quarterback’s field of view is seen on the field. Receivers within this cone are more likely to receive an accurate pass; those outside of it may just watch the ball be intercepted by the defense. Due to a large amount of disapproval by fans, EA has elected to disable this feature by default. It is easily activated, however, by those who want it – a flick of the right analog stick brings the cone right up. QB Vision Control is a great feature for those who are looking for an extra challenge, as well as those who dislike the ability of players to throw the ball across their body at no penalty. Take note that star QB’s such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will have a larger field of view, whereas Kyle Boller’s is much smaller.
On offense, X remains the dive button, while Y secures the ball. The A and B buttons are slightly different, with the ability to juke your defenders being mapped to the A button, and the spin to the B button. The left trigger is used for stiff-arming defenders, and the right trigger is used to QB scramble or sprint as the ball carrier. New to 2006 is the QB Action Mode. To activate it, you simply pull and hold both of the triggers. Now, your QB is able to use the same abilities a ball carrier would be able to, in addition to being able to throw the football. Defensively, the controls have remained relatively similar. X tackles, the bumpers are used for swim or strength moves at the line of scrimmage, A attempt to strip the ball, Y to intercept and B to switch players.
Another small control addition is similar to the 2K series’ precision passing, where you can tilt the analog stick in a particular direction during a pass to have even more control on the ball. Throw the ball ahead of your receiver to make it harder for the football to be tipped, or throw it high so Antonio Gates can jump up and snatch it. Players have access to the ‘Truck Stick’ when carrying the ball - with a flick of the right analog stick power runners like Corey Dillon can lower their head and run directly through the defenders.
Defenders have some tricks, too. Their right analog stick gives them access to the ‘Hit Stick’. This is basically the opposite of the Truck Stick, giving you the opportunity to deliver a nasty hit to the ball carrier, providing you with the extra chance to create a fumble.
While the additions gameplay-wise are minor, they do make for a much more entertaining and realistic experience. Poor passes no longer mean automatic incompletions, as players will attempt to make a play on the football, rather than just watching it fall to the ground. The control tweaks really provide you with full control of what’s going on in the field. In older football games, it could often feel like you would push a button and watch as the action would unfold from there. Now, you are always in complete power of your team.
Madden’s A.I. has significantly improved from years past; the opposing team will by and large make the right decision in the majority of situations. Teams will run the two minute drill, mix up their play calling, run the ball to setup play action, etc.
One small quibble with Madden is the camera. There are no options to alter your setup, aside from the ability to zoom out pre-snap to view your receiver’s route and to get a better look at the defense. Once you do this, you are stuck on this view for the duration of the current play. While this is only a minor complaint, it can be an annoyance.
Little is to be said about the online multiplayer – there are no leagues or tournaments, just simple games. As important as those are, it seems odd that such popular features would be left out for no apparent reason.
Franchise mode is where the "meat" of Madden 2006 is at. It plays much like that of any other sports title, with the exception that you’ll get extremely extensive statistic keeping over the 30 years it allows you to play. An entire section dedicated to the Hall of Fame, All-Time records and more provide you with the feeling that you really are on the field. The lack of any elaborate presentation system means you won’t be seeing much of a Super Bowl celebration...or any celebrations at all. If not for the commentator’s remarks, you wouldn’t be able to tell a playoff game from a pre-season game. It is, however, a solid start for franchise modes on Xbox 360.
The all new play calling system is simplistic, yet extremely intricate. Plays can still be called by formation, but you can now also sort plays by those relating to ‘Key Players’ and by play type (e.g. screen passes, draws, etc.). The other three alternatives allow you to ‘Ask Madden’, ‘Ask Coach’, and view your last five plays. Aside from the ability to ask Madden’s advice on calling plays, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the old Raider’s presence anywhere in the game.
This is mainly due to the new commentary system; the game is now called by the home team’s local radio announcer. Aside from hearing his description of each play, you’ll primarily be listening to what is heard on the field. Whether it be a hard tackle by Ray Lewis, or hearing Peyton Manning call out an audible at the line of scrimmage (whose real voice is in the game, along with other superstar players’), this is a fresh new take on audio in a sports game – and a welcome one.
Graphically, Madden 2006 isn’t as stunning as EA Sports had initially suggested it would be. Nevertheless, it does look significantly better than current-gen versions of Madden look. Hundreds of new animations, from tackling to dives help to create the impression that you’re watching a real football game. Players look great, from their grass-stained jerseys to their well-proportioned bodies. More than 100 star players have had their faces scanned to provide gamers with an even more realistic look at their favorite players.
The biggest complaint with Madden’s graphics would be that the rain looks simply terrible. It suffers from the Disney World water-on-a-string syndrome. The rain just looks far too calculated and exact. Should it start raining or snowing you will be impressed as you watch the field get ripped up, causing large portions to be entirely brown. The best looking element of the game is easily the look of the stadiums. EA actually studied each stadium, right down to which seats have had their color faded by exposure to the sun. Fully-functional scoreboards, magnificent crowds and realistic turf will cause you to feel like you really are there. You’ll be thoroughly convinced that this is the best looking pigskin game around when you first see the pirate ship in Tampa Bay.
In terms of the game’s presentation, a screenshot can really show it all. A small, simple scoreboard at the bottom of the screen is about the extent of what you’ll see in Madden 2006. Why didn’t EA take advantage of their ESPN license? Or at very least make some attempt to make the game have a less simplistic feel to it? It could be argued that EA tried to give gamers the feel of being on the field, but it seems like an excuse more than a feature.
For a first generation title, EA did a fine job. While it doesn’t include many of the modes that fill older Madden titles, it does make up for that with a solid football title that gives you more control than ever before. For those with the current-gen Madden, you may not want to shell out $60 for what seems like a downgrade on some levels, but hardcore football game fans should unquestionably open their wallets.
Review By: Chris Pereira - 563 Reads
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