Forget everything you thought you knew about the Madden football franchise on the Xbox 360. The 2006 installment was a pathetic attempt to sell a game based only of graphic eye candy, with very limited replay ability. When NCAA ’07 came out earlier this year, I was ecstatic just to have a game so playable. Madden matches NCAA’s game play, but it offers so much more as far as in depth play is concerned.
To get the obvious out of the way the game has excellent visual graphics, easily the best seen in a console football game to date. In addition to that the game delivers a good punch with its presentation of a quality soundtrack on game menus. The overall experience is numbed fairly significantly with a radio announcer doing play-by-play in game, and I would like to see how a 360 game would feel with the Madden-Michaels tandem at the helm. If you prefer to keep Madden’s lips closed then this will be a victory for your tastes.
One other notable category of improvement over last year’s game is the noticeable increase of player animations. There are new tackles, blocks, and even player-specific moves. Daunte gets his roll-on following a big play, and Chad Johnson graces us with his touted river dance in the end-zone which adds quite a quirk to the game. Some of these animations can be quite comical as well. On one occasion I intercepted a pass and took it back for a touchdown, and when watching the replay one of the offensive linemen could be seen barely getting blocked and falling while trying to maintain his balance yet ultimately winding up on his backside.
The all-new lead blocker control changes the game and can really add some spice to the game especially for those who prefer to employ a run-based offense. The all-new Hall-of-Fame mode adds unbelievable depth to the game because playing each position is so different. Running backs, you had better learn how to pass block, and linebackers cannot simply blitz off the edge every play like so many players are obsessed with. The mode can seem frustrating at first, especially when getting no practice before being forced to run a timed 40 and do bench press reps. Overall this adds an entirely new component to an already fantastic game.
Overall, football on the next-gen Xbox 360 is not up to par with what we left off playing on our former consoles. Now, I would much rather be playing this game on 360 than PS2, it’s just that there is so much room for improvement that I can’t help but be excited about what could go into next year’s game. For the time being I’ll be just fine exploring this gem.