Madden NFL 07 Xbox 360 Review

After last year’s next-gen disappointment of EA’s biggest franchise, Madden NFL 07 heads onto the Xbox 360 to try and right last years wrongs. Now being that it’s the only game of American Football you can get, there isn’t much choice other than this title. Luckily it improves over ’06 in a lot of ways, but still has some missing features from the last-gen versions which leave it feeling a little bit empty.

Madden NFL 06 was a very barebones game with the only game modes being Franchise, Play Now and Online. This year the great Superstar Mode has been added along with the return of the Mini Camp, Practice, Create a Player, Hall of Fame and Madden Gamer Level. I will talk about Superstar later, but first let me explain what both the Madden Gamer Level and Hall of Fame modes are.

The Madden Gamer Level basically tracks your progress as you play through the game. If you rush for 311 yards in one game it will record this and show it in your Personal Best section. Every time you play a game in any mode it will track what you did during that game, and at the end it will show you your results and give you a certain amount of points for each task accomplished. So this could be anything from recording 3 tackles with one player to scoring a touchdown on defence. After a certain amount of points are gained, your Gamer Level will move up a level and this will be shown to other players on Xbox Live so that they know how you are doing in the game. You will also receive a certain percentage in some of the game modes as you accomplish more things in them. So if you play the Franchise mode a lot you will have a higher percentage than the Mini Games that you don’t play that much. It also has a bar showing how much of your life you have been playing on this game – a great idea if you ask me!

Another new feature is the Hall of Fame mode. As you progress through the game and improve your Madden Gamer Level, you will unlock more Hall of Fame players. They will appear on your roster’s free-agent section, so if you wanted you could add them to your favourite team. If you access the Hall of Fame mode from the main menu you’ll be taken to a screen showing all the Hall of Fame players in the game. From here you can choose a team’s Hall of Fame players, view pictures, see what year they were inducted and also watch nice little highlight reels of each players in action. This is a great feature if you are into your NFL history.

The Superstar mode was also added this year. When you first start up the mode you will need to choose your parents. This is done randomly and will determine your beginning stats and also position. If your desired position doesn’t appear first you just randomly draw two parents out again until you get your preferred results. The way in which they determine your stats is with their hobbies or job etc. If your dad was a Pro Bowl quarterback and your mum was an Olympic sprinter then your character would have a great arm, vision and awareness and also possess darting speed making you an ideal quarterback. Once you’ve chosen your parents, name, preferred number, body build, etc, you will need to sign an agent. Each agent will have different skills and abilities and it’s up to you to choose one which suits your style. After the decision is made you will be taken to the calendar which will show you upcoming events. The first will normally be an interview depending on your agent. Interviews are RPG-like in the way that you will be asked questions and will need to choose one of three different answers. These will vary depending on what attitude you decide to adopt. So if you wanted to you could be a cocky player who only cares about himself, or a team player who just wants to win and doesn’t care about the fame and money; the choice is yours to make.

There are also some mini games to play that will help to improve your character’s stats. There is the 40 yard dash, weight lifting and an activity based upon your position. They are all good at first, but when you are made to repeat them over and over again it can become repetitive. Near the end of your first month you will take the NFL’s IQ Test and then be drafted by a team. You may want to save your game before the draft just in case you don’t like the team that picks you since you have no choice. Once you’re on your team you can of course start playing some games. The Madden NFL 07 version of this is different to 06 because you only control your superstar, meaning it’s best to choice a position that will see a lot of action like a running back or wide receiver. My personal favourite would be the running back just because of the camera angle. It can’t be changed and is set directly behind your character at quite a close angle, this makes it hard being a quarter back because you can’t see the whole field and the same kind of thing can be said for other positions. This is really the only bad thing about the games in Superstar mode.

One of the best things about it is the influence system. Before each play you can assign influence points to yourself or either of the two teams competing against each other. If you assign them to yourself you can momentarily upgrade one of your attributes. If you assign them to your team (whether it be offence or defence) they will improve and vice versa if you do it to the other team. Before you can do this you need to gain influence points. After each play made you will gain or drop points, so if you’re a running back and you rush for a first down you will receive some influence points. If you lose yards on the carry you will be deducted points and will have to gain them back by completing successful plays. When you’re just starting off you will start each game with no points, but as you progress through your career you will earn more and more points to start with before every game. And the main goal of the Superstar mode is to become a Hall of Fame player. On the ‘My Superstar’ menu if shows you how close you are to becoming one so you get a feeling of how much more you need to do.

The graphics this year have improved a bit over last year’s 360 version. The clothing looks more realistic and everything has that extra sheen on it giving it an overall more polished presentation. The main difference is the animation. A lot more have been added this year to give the game a more realistic look. There are more than a hundred different animations just for catching and the most notable improvements come from the running game. This is mainly because of the new blocking feature which will encourage you to rush more if you can master it. Basically before every play you can switch to anyone on the offensive line, notably the Line Backer. Once you have control you can run in and make a block, thus creating a hole for your Running Back to go through. This is a good feature if you can use it effectively. It isn’t required, but I think that overall it makes the running game more fun even though it’s quite hard to get used to at first.

Another graphical update is on the field of play. After a few quarters of play, the area where there has been a lot of action will become very muddy, and when playing in the rain there will actually be big puddles on the field that will actually have reflections of the surrounding stadium in them. This is a nice addition and really shows that this is a next-gen game.

If you’ve ever played Madden before then you know the score with regards to the gameplay. You will have a big playbook with a great collection of different defensive and offensive plays to try out. If you’re a beginner there is also the ‘Ask Madden’ feature where John Madden himself will actually tell you what play to use and give a description as to why you should use it. If you played the last-gen versions of Madden NFL 06 you will notice that the quarterback vision is now gone from this version unless you activate it yourself. This is because a lot of people complained about it and preferred the original Madden passing game that has been used for years. So if you were fond of that feature you just need to press the Left Trigger before a play to select the receiver you want to focus your vision on and then you can move the cone using the right analogue stick.

The sound this year is good. John Madden and Al Michaels no longer commentate, and instead we have a local radio announcer for the home team. I think this is a better idea because he really gets involved with the game by cheering on his team and getting excited by various different plays. John Madden is still involved with the ‘Ask Madden’ feature I talked about earlier. The soundtrack has a mix of rock, hip-hop and NFL Films Music. Artists vary from Audioslave and Keane to The Rapture and Wolfmother. I personally like the NFL Films Music which is used on the ‘Action Replays’. You can actually watch replays back as if it was an NFL Film and the music really adds to that. It has a great collection with the originals and also edits which really add some atmosphere to the game.

Overall Madden NFL 07 on the 360 is a big improvement over 06. EA have added a lot of features that make this a better package, but it’s still missing some little touches that are included in the last-gen versions, such as the radio show and the newspaper articles seen in the franchise mode. If you’re an NFL fan you will love this game. It has a few minor glitches and bugs here and there, but EA are apparently going to be addressing these with a patch in the near future and with that in mind I would definitely recommend this game for a fun and now deep, gridiron experience.

I would definitely recommend this game for a fun and now deep, gridiron experience.

9 out of 10
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