Madden NFL 06 (Xbox) review
" In 2004, EA's bold disregard towards its biggest competitor, ESPN 2K5, made many wonder why the most dominant franchise in video games would act so ridiculous in the face of competition. Even after making incredulous claims, EA went out and bought the rights to the NFL, effectively erasing any chance another company would take a shot at Madden's throne for quite a while. With all eyes watching this year's rendition, Madden attempts to reassure its long time fans, and at the same time innovate..."
In 2004, EA's bold disregard towards its biggest competitor, ESPN 2K5, made many wonder why the most dominant franchise in video games would act so ridiculous in the face of competition. Even after making incredulous claims, EA went out and bought the rights to the NFL, effectively erasing any chance another company would take a shot at Madden's throne for quite a while. With all eyes watching this year's rendition, Madden attempts to reassure its long time fans, and at the same time innovate to make believers of newcomers.
Of the year's new additions, arguably the biggest one is the new way in which you pass. What used to be a simple motion of drop back, scan recievers, and hit a button, is now a system that has undergone a radical upheaval. Now when your quarterback drops back to pass, a yellow cone of vision appears, its size varying according to the quarterback's real-life accuracy. What makes this tricky, however, is the fact that in order to have an accurate pass you must have the cone over the intended reciever. A previously fluent, easy process has now been unneedingly complicated. I can definitely see the reason behind this madness, but the system simply doesn't work for the everyday Madden player. You'll often find yourself having a hard enough time as it is finding a guy open anywhere on the field, let alone within the vision, so adding a feature that applies another thought process to the mix is simply preposterous.
Luckily, aside from this oppresive system, the same tried and true gameplay is present with numerous tweaks available to facilitate the needs of perfectionists. New shifts, route changes, and more thorough audible options give way to a highly enhanced tactical approach to the game. And my personal favorite feature of the game, the new Truck Stick, allows the ballcarrier to dole out the pain with a mere flick of the right analog stick. This is very similar in feel to the renowned Hit Stick, in the sense that massive hits are dished up, giving you a feel of satisfaction after crunching someone. These modifications are especially useful when playing online against the increasingly stiff competition.
Thankfully, the passing game is not totally ruined as another system besides the cone vision helps to greatly enhance and, in this case, balance, the aerial assault. With a simple slide of the left analog stick your quaterback can strategically place the ball down low, up high, or to the side to frustrate the cover cornerbacks. This is a nicely implemented feature that feels perfect even amidst the frenzied pace of the game. With all the misplaced emphasis on the cone vision, it's good to see this worked to perfection.
Gameplay alterations aren't the only fresh face, as a new mode called NFL Superstar allows the creation of a young stud to be brought up through the ranks just like a real NFL youngster. You'll be allowed to select your parents, changing the way your superstar looks and performs. Whether your dad is a previous star or runs a cash register at the local grocery store, the diverse results are innumerable. You'll also be asked seemingly frivolous questions that have no considerable meaning or reason to them. But once the unnecesary elements are aside, NFL Superstar is quite a refreshing change of pace, if not a little boring to the ones that just want to play some football. After numerous projects take up your time, the initial thrills vanish after the realization that there's not much else to it has sunk in. Of course, there's still the classic Franchise mode around to enlighten ardent fans and, as usual, the meat of the game lies here.
As evidenced, change is the name of the game in Madden NFL 2006, and thankfully, the graphics have abided by this philosophy as well. Finally, after years of the same exact graphics engine being used, visuals have recieved a facelift with much more defined player models, better stadium environemnts, and some pizazz missing in previous installments. Helmets have luster and shine to them and animations seem considerably less choppy. Add this to mostly entertaining gameplay and EA's got yet again another hit on their hands.
However, nothing can change the unacceptable mishap in the cone vision system. Because this is used so frequently, it causes mixed emotions on the franchise we all know and love. Madden will always sell units, and even more so now that there's no other alternative, but the wait for a Madden with the right mix of good and old is something that, quite frankly, looks to be nowhere in sight. The feeling that this year's Madden is a collosal step backwards in the grand scheme of things lingers beyond the first snap. To make everything click, you've got to have solid running and passing games; this game lacks efficient passing. Madden NFL 2006 shoots itself in the foot by trying to be too bold, and instead chalks up an extraneous effort lacking the essentials.
Community review by Linkamoto (September 13, 2005)
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