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E3 06: Madden NFL 2007

NFL Football is a game where linebackers routinely mow down scrawny-but-nimble defense backs. In previous outings, Madden NFL has focused almost too much on the passing game and quarterback mobility. That's all changing with Madden 2007 for Xbox 360. Electronics Arts will finally add some bone-crunching realism. By pressing B on the controller at the start of a play, you can control any linebacker for a few seconds to create running lanes. Or, you can switch to a wide-out receiver and set up quick blocks. It works a lot like switching defensive players and gives you more than just pass-and run control on offense.

The new Highlight Stick also adds more realism. In the past, Madden has favored players like Jim Kleinsasser from the Vikings who can just push their way through defensive lines or make one lame juke move.

 



Now, you can use more jukes and combos, so a finesse running back like Mewelde Moore doesn't have to rely solely on brute force. It just requires quick taps on the right analog stick, and seems highly relative to the running back you are controlling. (Meaning, you can’t make Kleinsasser dance like a twig.)

Defensive control is not completely overlooked, though. Madden 2007 adds defensive playbooks from the actual teams, so you have more options in pressure situations to cause a turnover or level the quarterback.

The Superstar Mode gets a slight enhancement, allowing you to take any player to the Pro Bowl and rack up Hall of Fame points you can track for each game. You can earn Gamer Points for on-field accomplishments like sacks and fumble recoveries, and the wager them to increase your status against either the game or online players. Mini-Camps also get a new emphasis in Madden 2007. You can now create a player and run him through mini-game drills before the season starts and even during off-season, in addition to the usual mid-season drills.

It's still not clear how these drills will impact Franchise Mode - and help you actually win more games - or whether new features such as a deeper drafting option, a College All-Star Game for scouting, and a "franchise role" feature will play out on the field, or just add busy work. And, following a trend from the past few years, the graphics seem like a tweak from last year, nothing spectacular. There's more bone-crunching, more running finesse, and more stuff to do, but whether all the new features add up to a better game is all TBD.

May 12, 2006

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