home > review > Madden NFL 06 Review
GamesFirst! Online since 1995
ups: Improved graphics and presentation, customizable interface, new play calling features.
downs: No practice mode or tutorial, no Owner Mode.

View Image Gallery || Get Prices

Madden NFL 06 Review
game: Madden NFL 06
four star
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
publisher: EA Sports
developer: Tiburon
view related website
ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 09:07 AM Mon Dec 12th, 2005
last revision: 08:59 AM Mon Dec 12th, 2005

Unlimited Game Rentals Delivered - Free Trial

Click to read.A football fan for over twenty years, and a sports gamer dating back to the three-button glory of the Sega Genesis, I was surprised to realize that I hadn\'t actually spent any significant time with the Madden series for five years. In fact, I missed it on the last generation of consoles completely. I guess I have been a casual fan at best for a while now, until recently when a combination of things brought me back: my son became an avid football fan, the Seattle Seahawks clinched the number one slot in the NFC, and Madden 06 launched on the Xbox 360.

Madden is, and will likely always remain, the same game at its core. Each year the strengths and weaknesses of the teams change with their rosters, the gameplay is refined a bit, the graphics and presentation improve. Long before it owned the only video game license for the NFL, it owned the hard core football gamers, and that is both its strength and its weakness.

Dependably, Madden 06 contains an in-depth Franchise Mode that allows players to control their favorite team season by season. Monitor the schedule, pick which games you want to play, which games you want the computer to simulate, and dig into your team\'s rosters and playbooks. Guide your team throughout thirty years of gameplay. You can be as hands-on as you like, micro-managing all of the minutia inherent to the sport or letting the computer do the little things for you. The 360 version of the game offers a fully customizable and user-friendly menu system that allows you to get team information quickly and efficiently. Look up stats, score cards, and depth charts, monitor free agents, even get league news and check the history books. The Madden series has never skimped on franchise play, and 06 is no exception. This is why people return to year after year. Of course, the Play Now option is also available for a quick skirmish.

Multiplayer games are available in two-player split screen or online play. Online play is where the Xbox 360 excels over all other systems. The versatility of the 360\'s dashboard allows you to find your friends online, chat or send messages in order to set up games, and measure your achievements against those of your friends and the online community.

Madden 06 introduces a few additions to gameplay. The best new feature is QB Vision Control. After hiking the ball you are able to lock onto receivers by holding the right trigger and either pressing the button corresponding to a specific player, or cycling through players by pressing left or right. By locking onto your intended receiver your QB follows their route, ensuring a more precise pass. Your QB\'s field of vision is represented by an illuminated triangle projecting from their head. The more experienced your QB, the wider his field of vision, giving him more options for an accurate pass in a hurry. In addition to increased precision, regular use of this feature helps develop the perceived relationship between your QB and receivers, and makes it easier to learn your players\' routes. I found that I was better able to predict where my receivers would be and how long it would take them to get there after I had been using the QB Vision for a while.

The Hit Stick and Truck Stick are also valuable additions. When controlling a defensive player, pressing the right stick, or the Hit Stick, at the point of impact with the ball carrier delivers a crushing blow that is more likely to force a fumble. Of course, this requires timing, and can leave you flat on your face. Similarly, pressing the Truck Stick when controlling the ball carrier will improve your chances of breaking tackles and penetrating the defensive line. It also increases your chances of fumbling the football. The Truck Stick seems to work more often in the way it was intended, helping gain yardage in high stakes situations. In the hands of an inexperienced player, the Hit Stick just increases you chances of completely missing your opponent, which happens often enough as it is.

New to the 360 version of the game is an expanded play calling system. In addition to calling plays by formation, you can cycle through lists by play type or by key player. Calling plays by type is indispensable for less experienced players, or old school gamers like myself who grew up choosing plays from categories like Shot Gun, Quick Outs, Zone, and Blitz. It simplifies your choices and clearly defines the plays you have to choose from. Calling plays by key player allows fans direct access to plays featuring their favorite, or most dependable, player. You can choose to Ask Madden or Ask the Coach to recommend plays, although you could probably get better advice from the family dog, or the coaster you set your drink on. I think the last thing Madden had to say to me was \"use quick outs when you have to get the ball to your players in a hurry\" or something equally inane.

The graphics and presentation are greatly improved. Player models include new 3D head scans that give them that eerie, vacant-eyed, photo-realistic look. Don\'t get me wrong, they look amazing, just vaguely impersonal. The crowd shows more depth and individuality than ever before. The lighting and weather effects happen in real time and are perhaps the best improvement to the look of the game. There is also a great deal more animation surrounding the plays than in previous versions, which are fluidly integrated into the gameplay. I appreciated the new audio track that brought the sound of the game onto the playing field. The roar of the crowd and the chatter of the players are authentic. The announcers sound as if they are filtered through an earpiece, and the songs and stadium announcements make it seem as if you are actually there.

As with the other EA Sports games in the 360 launch lineup, Madden 06 is missing some key elements of gameplay that were available on the other systems. I have no idea why this is, other than the publisher is pushing for style over substance, which is never a good idea. The Owner Mode is unavailable on the 360 version, as is the practice camp. The practice camp is sorely missed by everyone, but especially by newcomers to the series, or to football in general. All the X\'s and O\'s and lines and squiggles in the world aren\'t going to help a novice understand a play. To force players to enter a season without the ability to devote some time to learning how a play is supposed to work shows incredible shortsightedness on the part of the developers. I have been a fan long enough to know what a play action pass is. My son, however, is an up and coming fan, and new to the Madden series. He shouldn\'t be expected to know each and every play before he picks up a controller. There is also no formal introduction to the team you are about to command. For instance, I know as a Seahawks fan that they are better at quick outs than the long game, but some practice time would certainly help me hone their strengths. In this way, the developers of Madden 06 are catering only to the hard core fans-the ones that have been with them for a while, and indeed make up the majority of the sales. But if they want to continue to grow their fan base, they need to make the game accessible to new players. The game manual is eight pages long, with less than a third of the page devoted to strategies and tips. Some kind of tutorial is necessary. This is just common sense.

As I am sure we all know by now, EA Sports managed to secure the one and only license to the NFL and all of its teams, logos, and likenesses. Personally, I think the lack of variety and competition ultimately hurts the gamer. Thankfully, Madden 06 is a great game. With a deep Franchise Mode and good additions to gameplay, it is a welcome evolution of the series. However, despite markedly improved graphics and presentation, as well as some new play calling features, it is hard to justify losing some popular, even necessary game options on the Xbox 360 version. If you are one of the many hard core Madden fans out there who doesn\'t need practice, and won\'t miss the Owner Mode, this is the version you must own. If you are new to the series, you may want to consider picking it up on another system, or plan on buying the strategy guide.

Click images for larger version

Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger. Click for larger.