The Madden series debut for the Xbox 360 was notable for a number of reasons--improved graphics, the not-so-conspicuous absence of Al Michaels and John Madden, and a redesigned user interface that made calling plays easier than before. The game was also notable for what it lacked, namely the career feature--dubbed superstar mode--which was found in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game. As EA put it, the idea was to have different features in all versions of its NFL game to make each attractive to football-crazed gamers. However, with the Xbox and PlayStation 2 software generations winding down, it was clear the publisher couldn't continue leaving features out of its next-gen game. To that end, the Madden team today announced that this year's variation of superstar mode would be playable in the Xbox 360 version of Madden NFL 07.
For those who are new to superstar mode, the feature essentially lets you create your own pro football alter ego and play through an entire career, engaging in many of the on- and off-the-field activities that a real NFL player takes part in. In Madden NFL 06, for example, you started off by creating a character, then you took a simplified form of the Wonderlic test (a standardized measure of intellectual capacity that all NFL players take before playing in the league), before moving on to team practices, contract signings, and game-day activities.
This year's superstar mode won't be a carbon copy of the feature found in Madden NFL 06. In fact, beyond the features that will be new across all versions of the game, superstar mode for the 360 will differ slightly from the Xbox and PS2 versions of the mode this year. For one thing, while the PS2 and Xbox games will have some of the same off-field antics that were featured in last year's superstar mode--off-season movie roles being one example--the Xbox 360 will place more focus on your player as an athlete and his role on the field. Also, instead of your apartment being the hub for your superstar activities, your agent will be the focal point for moving throughout the mode's many features on the 360.
The aim of superstar mode in Madden 07 is to put you in the shoes of your created athlete and keep you there. Just like last year, you'll start the whole process with your parents; the DNA system that determines your skill set and position on the field based on your parents' individual attributes is back. The combination of parents will determine whether you are a bulky offensive lineman or a lithe, speedy wide receiver, but keep in mind that every position on the field is open to you as a player in Madden 07's superstar mode. Well, except kicker and punter, but honestly who would want to be a kicker? Just like last year, however, you can "reroll" your character as many times as you like until you end up with the combination of attributes and position that suits your playing style.
Once you have your player ratings and position sorted out, you can do a bit of customization for your player to get his appearance up to your liking, and then it's on to the NFL Draft, the day your player will take his first steps into the pros. Just like a real draft-day hopeful, you have no control over which team picks you, so if you're a running back looking to go to Seattle, or a wide receiver looking to begin your career as a member of the Detroit Lions, you might be surprised when you come back disappointed--just as in the real draft, NFL teams will be making their draft picks based on team needs, not because you were a big Steve Largent fan from back in the day.
When Madden NFL 07 for the 360 was first announced, the Tiburon team developing the game let loose a few details about some of the minigames that will be in the game, most of which having something to do with training camp. Among standard quarterback passing and tackling drills were minigames for the 40-yard dash and hitting the weights on the bench press. As you might expect, these minigames will play a large role in how your superstar player develops even before he hits the field. A wide receiver looking to get open in the middle of the field will want to focus on the 40-yard dash, for example. If you're playing an interior lineman, on the other hand, you're going to have to put your time in slinging iron to make sure you can line up against the other beasts you'll be up against. If you perform well in these training camp exercises, you'll get boosts to your player ratings that will help you once the regular season begins.
Perhaps the first thing you'll notice once you're actually in a game in this mode is that the camera is solely focused on you and your position on the field. If you're a wide receiver, the camera will focus on you as you take a position on the outside or in the slot. If you're an offensive or defensive lineman, your perspective will be from whichever side you're playing--and, therefore, you won't always see the entire field or the play as it develops, should it move to the opposite side of the field. Even the most traditional position, quarterback, will have a unique perspective all its own--lower to the field and closer to the player. The goal here is to make you feel as if you really inhabit the position you chose to play. But it goes a bit further than simple camera angles. Read on to find out how.
In-game, your sole responsibility will be for the action at your position. In other words, you won't be calling plays. That's up to the artificially intelligent coach, though a quarterback can elect to call an audible if he doesn't like what he sees from the defense. If you're a quarterback and you complete a pass, you won't be controlling the receiver once he catches the ball--it's up to him to get open, catch the ball, and then earn those all-important yards after the catch. If you're an offensive lineman and manage to open up a huge hole for your running back, you'd better hope he notices, because you won't be controlling the runner once the ball is snapped. In much the same way NFL Head Coach puts the onus on the player's strategic ability--and lets the game engine do the down-by-down dirty work--Madden NFL 07's superstar mode holds you responsible for your position and lets your teammates do the rest.
Because practically every position on the field is fair game in Madden 07's superstar mode, it follows that each position has specific controls and roles associated with it. As a defensive back, for example, you can choose to play the lone-wolf role or specialize in grabbing interceptions. There will also be controls for bumping your coverage assignment at the line to throw him off his route. The same goes for linemen--you'll have controls for pancake blocks, cut blocks, and so forth. Though we're still not convinced many folks will want to spend an entire 10-year superstar career opening up holes for the halfback, you'll definitely have the option to do so in Madden 07.
It goes even deeper than that, however. Say you're playing as a quarterback and you toss an interception. While you're riding the bench, waiting for the defense to get the ball back (or at least prevent the other team from scoring), you'll have the option to fast-forward through the other team's offensive possession so you can go back to focusing on your team and, specifically, your player. Of course, if you wish to play defense, you'll be able to do so, but as on offense, it will be up to your coach to call the plays. A fast-forward feature isn't exactly a new concept in sports gaming career modes--Sony's MLB series has been doing it for a while now--but it's definitely a user-friendly choice that, once again, helps to keep the focus on your player and his progress.
Speaking of progress, you'll constantly be updated with feedback on your players' performance throughout a superstar mode game in Madden NFL 07. After each play, you'll either earn or lose game points, depending on your performance. Managing to make a game-changing sack as a linebacker, for example, will earn you points, while tossing an open-field interception that's returned for a touchdown will have a detrimental effect on your quarterback's point total. As you build up your stash of points, you can spend them throughout the game to pump up players on your team. A quarterback, for example, could use his points on his star receiver at a crucial point in the game, and, with a bit of luck, use it to his advantage to score the go-ahead touchdown. You won't earn points just for decisive plays, however; even if you're involved in a play (such as making a huge block if you're playing fullback), you can expect your point total to increase.
Beyond racking up yardage, touchdowns, or interceptions, another way to determine your progress in Madden 07 is the so-called Madden Gamer Level, an in-game gauge that will determine your success across all of the different modes in the game, including superstar mode. Within each game mode, there will be a number of achievements you'll need to accomplish for your level to progress--from easy things such as passing for 150 yards in a game, to more complicated accomplishments. Though EA is still mum on the Madden level goals in superstar mode (as well as the 15 Xbox Live achievements specific to the superstar mode), we suspect they'll have to do with the same kind of goals a real NFL player would have--such as winning the division, the conference, or the Super Bowl, or being invited to play in the Pro Bowl.
Of course, the ultimate measure of your success in superstar mode will be getting your player inducted into the Hall of Fame. Your best bet to earning your place in Canton, Ohio, according to Madden developers, is by getting multiple trips to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu to play in the Pro Bowl during your NFL career. However, don't think you can just sit back and wait for the accolades to come your way. Though your player can't sustain injury or miss playing time in Madden NFL 07, producers told us that a career may run anywhere from seven to 12 years, maybe longer in certain cases. As such, you'll be expected to produce early and often.
Finally, it wouldn't be a true superstar mode without the ability to unleash your inner Terrell Owens on management. Though you won't see much in the way of truly outlandish behavior in the game (no word yet on a "sit-ups in the parking lot" minigame), you will have the opportunity to demand a trade if you aren't happy with your team. Trade demand will usually be granted more or less immediately, even if they happen in the middle of the season, which means you'll be off to a new team and harassing a whole new set of teammates and coaches. Your trusty agent will always be in your corner, of course, helping you to negotiate new contracts, guiding you through the various features in the mode, and skimming off 10 percent of your total earnings in the process.
In all, superstar mode for Madden NFL 07 for the Xbox 360 looks to be pushing the role-playing aspects of the feature further this year. By tying you to a specific position on the field, superstar mode will certainly play differently from any other mode found in the game. Obviously, we have yet to see the mode in action on a working Xbox 360, but we expect to get a good look at the mode in July during EA's summer press event. For more on superstar mode in Madden NFL 07 for the Xbox 360, check out our