: Madden NFL ‘06PUBLISHER
: EA SportsDEVELOPER
: EA TiburonDATE RELEASED
: November 16, 2005NUMBER OF PLAYERS
: 1-2XBOX SYSTEM LINK
: NoXBOX LIVE COMPATABLE
: YesHDTV Support
: 480p/720p/1080iIn-Game Dolby Digital
: Football SimPLATFORM
: XBOX360, XBOX, PS2, PSP, GC, DS, PCESRB
: EveryoneRetail Price
Once again the Madden team at EA Sports has done it…they have managed to release a Madden franchise game for a new console. Back in 2000, it was the Playstation 2 port of the newly revamped Madden NFL 2001. This was the first in the franchise not to sport big John on the cover, but instead featured Eddie George. The team at EA started the project; they did so without a dev. kit. They used one console!
Now, we have a similar occurrence with the Xbox 360 port of Madden NFL 2006. This time, though, the EA team at least had the XEDK with which to begin. It is obvious that they build this game instead of just improving the graphics and sticking it on like a skin over the Xbox or PC version. In some ways, Madden ’06 is quite impressive. More often, though, I find myself disappointed at the lack of fun I experience with my wireless controller in-hand.The Good
EA obviously spent a ton of time working on the look of the game. The player models are spectacular. Any player of any importance, when you look inside the helmet, looks similar to the real-life version. I used the Rams, and when Mark Bulger approaches the line of scrimmage, his facial features look quite nice. Similar attention to detail was paid to the other important players on the team and on the opponents. Less popular players suffer the old generic treatment. The coaches look great, too. I would have to say that the development team spent a great amount of time on the coach models.
Stadiums get the usual treatment-each like the real thing. The fans in the stands look better too, though they often share rhythmic movements like arm waving and swaying.
Player animations look quite nice as well. Tackles, runner movements, passing, shifts, everything the player does looks great.
The new play calling menus look great too. You can pick plays by formation, play type, or ask John for his opinion. The menus are very user friendly, though, and you can easily pick your favorite play in just a couple of seconds.
Celebration animations look good too. I don’t care for them, and I wish I could just turn them off. And, there are only a limited number of them, but they do look good.
EA has included some other interesting features. The first that I found was the “truck stick”. Using the right analog, you can cause the player running the ball to cover the ball and put his head down, powering through would-be tacklers. Any back or receiver of size routinely bowls over his opponents. Poorly timed truck-sticking can cause a potential long run to be cut short, though, as the player slows to a near crawl. You can still use the old standards like juking, stiff-arming, spinning, and speed bursting. Also carried over are elements like hot routes and audibles. You cannot shift formations, though, and that would be nice (especially since the real-life Rams shift around like a man with hemorrhoids sitting on a hard bench)
Madden’s use of the new 360 set-up is also a joy. Instead of listening to pre-selected music and a generic announcer (yes, Madden and Michaels are absent…I’ll get to that in a bit), you can stream your favorite tunes during the entire game—I usually choose some old school Snoop Dog, Tool, or Audioslave
The default profile is the one logged in at the 360 dashboard, but it can be changed if you so desire.
The crowd is in some ways smarter than in previous versions of the game, too. In the old days, when you’d click the right stick to get the home crowd pumped up they’d cheer like a bunch of lemmings, no matter the situation. In ’06, you need to work the crowd at the right time. Stop the opponent’s running back for a loss, click the stick, and the crowd will go nuts! But if you just allowed a big play and try it, they’ll sit on their hands and stay quiet.
Madden ’06 crowds are much more polite than those in other games too. If you are playing in someone else’s place and you work the crowd, they will start to applaud. Call me picky, but if a visiting linebacker tells the crowd to get-up, he’s usually likely to get booed out of the city. Not in Madden ’06, and I don’t care for that.
AI is decent here, too, as one would expect. Run a play too many times during the game and the defense will key on the player most used in that formation. Double teams of receivers is common if you go to one guy too much. If you’re trying to rack-up 500 rushing yards with one guy, the defense will stack everyone from the most violent linebacker to the mascot in the box to stop you. Same goes for defense. If you like to blitz a lot from a certain formation forget it. After your second sack, you’ll be blocked out of the play until you run some other plays from the defensive set. I really liked this aspect of the game on both sides of the ball.The Bad
Despite all of its eye candy and improvements, Madden ’06 lacks in some vital areas. First and foremost, you cannot create a player! WHAT?! What kind of sports game does not allow you to make a player sporting your own name and favorite number, with jacked-up attributes and the kind of salary Terrell Owens dreams about? EVERY sports game should include create-a-player, and the fact that this one doesn’t makes me wonder exactly the development team were doing on that day.
Second is the fact that you cannot challenge a call made on the field. After all of the graphical and physical upgrades made in Madden ’06 adding (supposedly) to the sense of realism, enveloping you in the experience, why would we be deprived of this basic part of the NFL?
NO JOHN MADDEN. NO AL MICHAELS. That’s right. Though annoying, how can any Madden game NOT have him adding little tidbits of knowledge about a player? And I always like Al Michaels in these games. Instead, some generic guy welcomes you to your favorite team’s broadcast. Boring. One would thing that a next-gen game of this importance would not only include the Monday Night duo, but might add in John’s famous tellustrator and yellow circles on important plays. Maybe later.
Odd movements on defensive player before the snap are common. They’ll stay in the backpedal or side-step motion even if you have the left analog stick buried straight backward. Sometimes you’ll move a player a little one way or another, and he’ll stay facing that direction-like the sideline. Auto centering should be a basic element of a next-gen game.
You still feel like you’re handling a square against other squares. When you are running to make a tackle, if a lineman gets within a fingertip of you, he’ll block the heck out of you for 5 seconds. The truly next-gen game will have more variables when it comes to blocking. If a guy gets a hand on me, I want it to look like it. Jerk my shoulder pads or my jersey, and risk getting called for holding. I DO NOT want it to look like I ran straight into a block when I clearly went around it.
Player morale sucks. My quarterback set single season records for passing yards and touchdowns, the MVP, and offensive player of the year, but after the Superbowl his morale was in the toilet. He had a lucrative long-term contract and all of the star skill position guys remained along with his best linemen. It may or may not have affected his performance, but every time I looked at his stats it frustrated me.Online Play
Very standard stuff here. Leaderboards, voice communication, content downloads. The interface is well designed, and games were easy enough to find for now, even with the lack of 360 consoles out there. I didn’t play there much, because I have screaming 10-year-olds telling me how much I suck and that I just got pwned. I know I get pwned. I know I suck. I stick with the computer or games against friends and avoid headaches.The Verdict
Ehh. In my swim through Madden NFL 2006 on the 360, I found myself wanting more. It was missing that indescribable quality that addicts a player. The things that I didn’t like outweighed the things I liked. I tried really hard to be fair to this game from the start, keeping in mind that it is a launch title and was under a bit of a time-crunch to be released in time for November 22. This games looked great. Its overall gameplay is so familiar to all of us that no one can say that it just sucks. It is what it was, with a few subtractions that made me nuts. It points to a great place. Very promising things for Madden 2007. This is a good launch title, not a great one. This is a poor showing, when comparing features, up against previous versions of the game. Rent it or buy it used—mine will be available soon—and look forward to next year!