Madden 07 Wii Impressions

We watched a lengthy stage demonstration of Madden 07 Wii at a recent Electronic Arts press event to see exactly how your wild gyrations will translate into hard hits and big plays on the gridiron.

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It's almost football season in the world of video games. With NCAA Football 07 shipping next week, and the console versions of Madden 07 hitting stores a month later, armchair quarterbacks have plenty to look forward to. But one of the more anticipated football titles won't hit stores until well after the NFL season is in full swing. Madden 07 for the Nintendo Wii has been the subject of much speculation about how exactly the game of football can be adapted to take advantage of Nintendo's unique motion-sensitive controller. The veil was officially lifted at E3 earlier this year, so check out our hands-on impressions from that event for details about the basics of the game. Today, at an Electronic Arts press event, we learned a little bit more about the game and got to watch an extensive demo of what EA Canada calls the "free-motion control" scheme.

The demo dropped right into the middle of a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks. We started off with the basics, and the person playing the demo showed us how to snap the ball and pass to an open receiver. These motions seem quite natural, as the motion for a snap looks like a snap and the motion for a pass looks like a pass. Of course, there are a lot more motions that you can perform in the game. In the next play, we watched as Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger quieted the crowd, which is an action performed by waving the nunchuck and wand above your head before the snap. But these motions aren't limited to the offense, as we saw when a defender performed the same move in attempt to pump up the crowd.

After that, the center hiked the ball and the Steelers ran a running play to the left, giving us a look at the controls for the running game. The way it was explained to us is that the remote represents your hands or arms, while the nunchuck represents your body. For instance, if you want to throw a stiff arm to the right, you can flick the remote to the right. If you want to juke left, you can flick the nunchuck to the left. If you're trying to defend against a pass, you can quickly move both the nunchuck and the remote up above your head to make your defender jump up in the air for an interception. If you can't quite get the pick, you can simply swat at the ball by swatting the air with the remote.

These moves are all useful in a practical sense, but what if you want to put a bit of style into your game? Using the free-motion control system, you can shake the remote to do a high step to finish off a long run into the end zone, which is sure to aggravate your opponents (or make you look like a fool) in multiplayer games.

Although the motions look natural enough and will probably come as second nature to football fans, there's a helpful in-game tutorial that you can access at any time during the game. For instance, if you don't quite know the correct motion for kicking a field goal, you can press the B button to bring up an explanation of how to properly kick the ball. If that isn't enough, you can practice the motion right in the middle of the game, before returning to the play where you left off. It's a feature that won't see much use after a game or two of playing, but it should be a helpful tool that players can use to become acclimated to the unconventional controls in the game.

Play-calling has also been simplified through the use of the pointing capabilities of the Nintendo remote. Between plays you'll see the familiar playbook, with options to choose your formation and play. Doing so is as easy as pointing the remote at the play you want to choose and pressing a button. There's an onscreen icon to show you exactly where you're aiming, which seems like it will make choosing plays very easy.

Sometimes, though, you choose the wrong play, or, more accurately, your opponent chooses the right play. If you don't want to burn a time-out, you can simply call an audible, which again is done with the pointer. You simply point at a player or group of players on the field, which brings up a menu that shows a list of button icons corresponding with the available plays. If you think the offense is going to run left, you can shift your linebackers left by pointing at any one of them and pressing left on the D pad.

Aside from the interesting control scheme, Madden 07 on the Wii looks very much like any of the Madden games on the GameCube. We didn't see many close-up shots of players, or any replays or special effects in the demo, but the action on the field moved smoothly. The players all move well, and although there's not tremendous detail in the backgrounds and fields, the focus is on the movement of the players. And by players, we mean the people playing the game.

Madden 07 for the Wii looks like it's shaping up to offer a different, but no less entertaining, game of football. Based on the demo we saw, it looks like the controls are quite versatile and are being put to good use in Madden. It also looks like it will be a fun game to play, especially with two players on the same console flailing about as they scramble to break a tackle or lay out a receiver. And let's face it, this is the closest most people will ever get to actually playing in the NFL.

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