It’s been almost twenty years since EA started making the Madden NFL series, and to be honest not much has changed other than the obvious developments in graphics. The game has always been controlled in roughly the same way with little tweaks to counter the changes in control pads from console to console, but now it seems as though it is time for EA to do something a bit different with their high selling American football series, and luckily there is also a new console that is controlled in a way like none other. In a launch line up otherwise devoid of proper sports titles does this mean that Madden NFL 07 will be the first American football game that is really worthy of being bought, after endless updates that offer very little in terms of new features or innovative gameplay.
Because you’ll have never played Madden like this before there is a tutorial called “Learn Madden” to guide you through the early stages of the game, as well as this in actual matches you will get hints and tips popping up on the screen from time to time to help you get the hang of the game quickly. It is great that with a game like this you are really eased into it, so that you can fully understand and come to grips with the controls before you need to play for real. You won’t be dominating your opponents straight away, but the tutorial lets you learn the controls at a decent pace, before you can then yourself move onto the more complex manoeuvres and tricks.
Speaking of controls you’ll be very happy to know that Madden rarely uses the buttons on the WiiMote and nunchuk at all, but rather it prefers to use different movements to control just about everything in the game. In fact it is strange considering EA, who are hardly considered to be an innovative game developer have utilised the Wii’s features to better effect than any other of the Wii launch titles. The offensive side of the game is a lot more fun than defensive, but really who prefers tackling to scoring touch downs? Another reason for this is because in the attacking plays of the game there is more variation, you’ll be pretending to throw the WiiMote to hike the ball or holding the WiiMote and the nunchuk out in front of you to catch the ball. Others include shaking the nunchuk to perform a sidestep, or juke as the Americans call it, and the WiiMote will allow you to perform hand-offs while you are running to the end-zone. Although other Wii games take a while to get used to this isn’t the case with Madden, this is largely due to the simple learning curve that will ease you into the game.
Unfortunately there isn’t as much do to defensively, obviously you can tackle, but if you really want to hurt your opposition then the big hit is for you, by thrusting both controllers forward at the same time, while pressing the Z button, you will hopefully demolish the attacker completely. But these aren’t always picked up by the sensor bar as well as they should be, so occasionally you may find yourself losing through no real fault of your own. Slapping down passes and throws is also quite fun you just need to wave the WiiMote above your head to do so, this works surprisingly well and makes the defensive aspect to the game a lot more fun. Although there are some minor flaws, for instance when you need to flick the WiiMote to one side most people will move slightly to the opposite side before flicking it in the right direction, this means that you may pass the ball in the wrong direction.
It is inevitable that Madden’s graphics on the Wii will draw comparison to the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, but in reality there is not comparison at all. Those used to playing the more graphically capable consoles on HDTVs will find Madden’s graphics almost laughable, they aren’t much of an improvement over the old Xbox’s graphics, and the textures are quite low resolution. This isn’t the game’s only major flaw, there is no online mode for the game at all, but this can’t really be blamed on EA as it is more Nintendo’s fault for not setting up the online infrastructure yet.
One of the strongest features of Madden for the Wii is the three exclusive minigames. The first of these is probably the most fun despite being the simplest, in the 2 on 2 minigame you have five chances to score a touchdown against two defenders, who also have five attempts to score against you. The most interesting feature about this minigame is that you can make your team-mate’s controller vibrate, this can be used as a signal to make a run at a specific time without your opponents knowing about it. It may not be the most revolutionary idea but it does make the game more fun.
The kicking minigame is alright, you need to try and score the most field goals out of the four players playing, but the three others who aren’t kicking will create wind by waving the WiiMote’s up and down. It may sound easy enough but due to the amount of wind it can become near impossible at times. Yards After Catch, or YAC, is the most complicated of all the games. You and the other players all take turns on offense and you earn points by running for the ball for longer distances than everyone else, and scoring touchdowns. You also must do some defensive duties, here you’ll get points for man marking, tackling and deflecting passes. With three others all in the room at the same time it is a great deal of fun, a lot more so than a normal football multiplayer.
If Madden 07 demonstrates anything on the Wii it is that gameplay is far more important than graphics. Visually this may be a very weak game but it makes up for these mistakes by being an awful lot of fun to play. Even though at launch Zelda was always going to get all the attention and sell a lot more than any other game you may want to consider this unlikely gem, it is a throughly enjoyable game for sports fans and gamers alike and its accessiblity will make it great for those outside those two groups as well.
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