Madden NFL 06 PC Updated Hands-On

The PC version of Madden NFL 06 looks a lot like its console cousins. Nevertheless, we dive right in to take a closer look.


Madden NFL 06

With summer almost here, we're about to reach full throttle on the Madden NFL 06 hype machine. The game, due in August, was shown off at a press event in San Francisco recently, and we got to spend some more time with it--this time on the PC. As has been the case of late, beyond some enhanced graphical tweaks on player models, the PC version of Madden will be identical to its console counterparts in nearly every respect. Despite this, we did manage to glean some new information about features that will pertain to both the PC and console versions of the game.

First off, you'll have more options than ever before when calling plays in Madden NFL 06. If you've read our previous coverage of the game, you already know about the ability to swap your primary receiver before the snap--thus changing where your quarterback's vision cone will be aimed once the center snaps the ball. What you may not know yet is that you have the ability to assign "smart" hot routes to wide receivers before the play begins. We've all played Madden games and found ourselves in medium yardage situations on third down, where all the receiver needed to do to keep the drive alive was to run a quick out to the first-down marker, catch the ball, and keep the chains moving. Yet in the past, what has happened more often than not is the wideout runs his route and stops well short of the first-down line, which screws you into a fourth-and-short scenario.

So-called "smart" routes in Madden NFL 06, activated with the right analog stick before the snap and assigned to specific receivers, will force the receiver to run his route relative to the position your team occupies on the field. If you need that crucial first down, then that same out route will now take into consideration the first-down marker, and your wideout will adjust his route accordingly.

Since audibles are such an important part of the real NFL (at least, if you're Peyton Manning), the EA Tiburon development team has made sure that you'll have access to more than the handful of audible options available to you in the past. This time around, audibles will be formation specific, so you'll be able to individually assign audible plays based on any formation in your playbook. More audibles obviously mean more offensive options for you and less of a chance for your opponent (either real or virtual) to guess your move when he sees you changing up your play.

One thing we hadn't noticed before was the ability to throw the ball at a full sprint in this year's game. Playing the Eagles, we wanted to take advantage of Donovan McNabb's speed and were surprised to see that you could toss the ball even when scrambling out of the pocket and pressing the "turbo" button. The caveat here is that passing at a dead sprint takes some zip off the ball, and your QB's vision cone will be stuck to staring straight ahead unless you choose to manually move the vision cone with the right analog stick. There's no automatic cycling through your receivers with the trigger button. A final note about pre-snap game options is that you'll also be able to adjust your offensive line before the play in much the same manner as you do the D-line when playing defense. Slide-protection options will give you the ability to shift your O-line a step right or left, or have them spread out or bunch up, and it all can be executed with a simple press of the analog stick.

A few minor but noticeable changes this time around in Madden 06 include an altered game menu that shifts the score and down-and-distance information to the top of the screen, as well as a few in-game cutscenes that are mixed into the action in between plays. The cutscenes might include close-ups of the ball as the players walk up to the line of scrimmage, or shots of assistant coaches in the booth watching the action and calling plays from overhead. These cutscenes were in various forms of completion in the build we played, but we definitely got a feel for where they're heading.

One pleasant surprise we learned was that this year's version will have the same minimum system requirements as last year's game (namely an 800MHZ, or faster, processor, 128MB of RAM, a video card with more than 32MB of RAM, and either an ATI Radeon 8500 or above, or an Nvidia GeForce2 GTS or greater). Unfortunately, Windows 98 and Windows ME users will be out of luck with Madden 06, as the game will no longer support those operating systems.

Our coverage of Madden NFL 06 on all platforms will continue throughout the summer, so be sure to check back for more.

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