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Madden NFL 07
Score: 82%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: Tiburon
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Football)

Graphics & Sound:
A console launch without Madden is like a glitzy party without Paris Hilton – it just doesn’t happen. Madden NFL 07 is a complete port of the 360 version, so if you already have the game you’re not missing much. However, if this is your first jump into the next-generation of Madden, you’re in for a treat.

Being one of the first really high-profile games to hit both the PS3 and 360, there are bound to be visual comparisons. Except for a few small tweaks, the PS3 version looks identical to the 360. If this is your first time with a next-gen Madden, get ready. The player models are highly detailed and feature loads of smooth animations. Stadiums are huge and filled with fans – not the blurry masses seen in previous installments, but fans that actually look like people.

One of the more surprising aspects of Madden NFL 07 is the lack of the man himself. An unknown announcer handles commentary with John handling a few comments in the “Ask Madden” feature. Although the move will probably upset some of the Madden die-hards, the “nameless commentator” actually sounds better and is a step up. It still doesn’t match the banter heard in the 2K games, but it is still good.

Superstar mode is at the core of Madden 07. Playing as a newly drafted rookie, you deal with the ups-and-downs of a career in the NFL. Fundamentally, the mode plays the same as in other versions, though the focus has shifted towards your NFL career rather than worrying about ancillary issues like movie roles. Progress through your career is depicted as a meter that measures where you are in your career; the better your on-field performance, the closer you get to the Hall of Fame. There are no set objectives for advancing your career, but you obviously want to stick with your position’s strengths. If you’re a running back, you obviously want to rack up miles of yardage.

You’ll also have to build up an image with your team by completing team-building exercises. How well received you are by your team is tied in with your role on the team. As you play through games, your performance is gauged based on your role. The better you perform, the more chances you have to improve your skills as well as influence the performance of the players around you. Influence works both ways; if you have a bad game, there’s a chance the players around you will too.

Madden 07 brings back most of the features found in the current-gen (or, I guess that would be last-generation versions), but they have been scaled back. Franchise retains all of the core aspects and does away with some of the added features like Owner mode. It’s nothing flashy, but works well enough.

The online modes haven’t changed much either. You can still connect in head-to-head games and chat in lobbies, but what has changed is the new online Franchise game. As you’re playing through your Franchise, you can choose to have a live player drop-in and replace your A.I. opponent. Drop-in Franchise games are not the most streamlined and there are a number of glitches that hinder the experience, but it shows potential.

Training mini-games is another feature that doesn’t live up to its potential. As you play through Superstar mode, you will perform training exercises focused towards your position, as well as some general routines like the 40-yard dash. Not only are the instructions not very clear, but they aren’t as fun as the mini-games found in previous versions of the game.

Madden NFL 07 retains the same pacing and feel as previous games. Except for learning the new features and controls, expect to have the same trials and tribulations you’ve had with previous installments. One of the more noticeable aspects was that few games seemed to have that “cheap edge” found in so many sports games. The game still has its fair share of blown calls, though the frequency of absurdly flagrant miss-calls is low and I never reached the point where I was wishing harm to the good folks at Tiburon or their families.

Most of the noticeable difficulties reside with small features that either don’t work exactly right or decisions that, in hindsight, probably weren’t for the best. One of the more notable bad calls involves Superstar mode. While playing in games, the camera is pulled in on your position, making it harder to see the entire field. When playing as a player in the middle of the line, the camera doesn’t cause too many problems, but when you get towards the edge of the field, it gets tricky.

As a bit of a side-note, a more expansive instruction manual, or at least better in-game instructions, would be helpful. By this point in the series' run, most players know how to play, but a clearer explanation of added features would be helpful.

Game Mechanics:
Madden NFL 07 introduces yet another function for the over-worked right analog stick. When controlling one of your backs, you can use the stick to juke, spin, and pull off all kinds of crazy moves while running. Depending your what type of back you are, you can either truck through guys or spin around like Reggie Bush. Like the Quarterback’s Vision Cone, the Highlight Stick is optional, but it adds to your game if you learn to use it properly.

The new lead-blocking feature, Run to Daylight, has also augmented the running game. After the snap, you can try and open up some breathing room for your back by taking control of his blocker. Of all of the features introduced over the years, lead blocking is one of the tougher to learn since it requires quickly switching between your blocker and runner in order to use effectively. But, like the Highlight Stick, if you can learn how to use it your game goes up.

Madden 07 uses the Sixaxis for several features. While on defense, you can use it to jump the snap by pushing forward or motion the controller around to try and land a few hits. On offense, you can fake the snap or pull off the Highlight moves. Truthfully, the functions don’t use the motion controls all that well and feel like they were bolted on at the last minute. They work if you choose to use them, but it is easier to stick with the normal functions.

If you already have the 360 version of Madden NFL 07, there is little reason to pick up the PS3 version since both are identical. Even if you already own the PS2 version, the PS3 version doesn’t offer much of an improvement aside from the visuals. But, if you don’t find yourself falling in either category, this is your best bet.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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