Madden 2007 goes back to the roots and gets it right.
The gameplay in Madden 2007 has shaped the game pretty close to it's real life counterpart. All of the features from the previous years are back such as QB vision, hit and truck sticks, and all on the fly/hot route playmaking. In addition to the aforementioned features, the physics in 2007 seem to be based on a more realistic setting. Players will roll over one another, carry their momentum, and as a result, yards gained may differ substantially from past installments. The passing game is still crisp and responsive, as compared to last year when QBs would often have a costly and unnecessary delay to their throw, which resulted in numerous sacks. Users can easily pick out their targets, and make a solid pass without having to worry about your QB throwing like a pee-wee football player.
As expected due to Shaun Alexander (Seattle running back) on the cover, the running game has received quite an overhaul as far as physics are concerned. Running backs will perform a number of moves without having to jam your buttons left and right, and will roll off defenders, carry them with their own momentum moving forward, and plow over defenders. Unlike earlier version of Madden, where users could select a quarter or dime defense (max pass protection) and still stop the run for a gain of 1-2 yards, Madden gurus will now have to pick defensive run plays carefully. If one chooses a defensive pass play, and the offense has chosen a run, generally the user controlled team will give up a significant amount of yardage. This makes games much more exciting and users can still win games where the score is 28-21 for example. Previous games would often result in the user blowing out the computer on harder difficulties for a seasoned Madden player. There are some small issues in that the running game can sometimes get out of hand where a single running back would be carrying the ball 40+ times. You'd think they'd be getting tired but they just keep trucking along. In any event, it's not that much of an issue to really worry about. Since the passing game has generally been spot on in the Madden genre, the running additions and re-configurement is a nice addition.
Special teams was atrocious in Madden 2006. During a punt, your team would not block at all, which often resulted in 2-3 defenders always waiting right where you caught the ball. This meant that you would have to fair catch nearly every instance. In addition, the computer punts would generally be hilariously short which meant you could easily score points. Field goal kicking has generally always been flawless with previous games. Fortunately Madden 2007 fixes all punting issues. Punters actually punt 40+ yards without having to change the difficulty sliders, and your defenders will block graciously on your punt returns. Unfortunately Madden somewhat messed up with a flawless field goal system. While everything appears fine, kickers can now really boot the ball. It is not uncommon for some higher rated kickers to constantly get touchbacks, or kick 55+ yard field goals with ease. In one instance, this reviewer was able to clear the upright on a 60 yard field goal kick, by about 10 or so yards. This means that 65+ yard field goals are quite likely. This is generally not a common trait of true NFL kickers.
Other then the passing, running, and special teams gameplay, Madden continues to keep franchise, superstar, exhibition, and mini game options. Users can create themselves via franchise or superstar and play 20 or so years until they retire in the hall of fame if they are good enough. Superstar welcomes a much needed feature of changing your players looks while creating himself. Unfortunately parents cannot be manually changed so if you're shooting for 100% realism, you may be clicking for a while to get the exact jobs of your true parents. Still, superstar adds the necessary features of customizing yourself. Users also play superstar mode as if they were playing their own position. If you're a QB you will not be running, receiving, or playing defense. Instead you'll simply be the QB. This is a very nice system for those that truly wish to simulate the experience. You also get to go through the draft, workout, and customize your apartment. It's very neat to see your name included with those that were actually drafted for the 06-07 season (such as Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, etc.).
The graphics in Madden 2007 are as usual, above average. Unfortunately PC users did not get next generation graphics, but the player models seems less blocky then in 2005-06. The field is much more detailed as grass is actually visible now instead of a giant green mat. Crowd detail and sidelines are better but the noticable difference is minor. Some reflection on helmets can be seen but nothing will knock your socks off compared to the X-Box 360 version. Fortunately, some unnecessary features such as halftime cheerleaders have been removed. As stated earlier, actual animations for each character appear more vibrant, which helps the actual motion and graphical effects of the players.
Sound is technically no different in 2007 from 2006, spare the glitches. It seems that Madden will no longer say that the Patriots are having a good game, when it's just the Vikings and Seahawks playing. Al Michaels does a fine job as usual, and EA Sports seems to have added a few more lines this year. The minigames also have music now so it's not just a boring quiet sound of your QB throwing balls at pads on the field. EA Trax is back, but I prefer the musical score this y ear compared to 04-06. The crowd effects are quite superb if you're playing superstar. Generally the field volume is louder than the announcers, and the hits and other player voices are all quite easily heard. It's an immersive feature that really adds to the realism that you're on the field playing in the NFL. The only glaring problem with the crowd though, is that sometimes they don't seem to care. You'll complete a long pass for a TD at your home stadium, yet everyone seems to really not care. You'll hear some minor booing and cheering obviously based on the stadium and team you're playing, but it just seems to lack the intensity of Qwest (Seahawks) and Soldier (Bears) FIeld, or Arrowhead (Chiefs) stadium.
Value wise the game is great. Aside from a more realistic running game, all player stats seem to have taken care of themselves. For example, you can expect Shaun Alexander to run for 1700-2000 yards and 20+ TDs. LaDanian Tomlinson will put up 1600 yards and 18-20 TDs. This is all by simming the game. The offensive line pancake glitch has been fixed, where your offensive lineman would record a rediculous amount of pancakes, thus awarding pro-bowl status to nearly all of them. Furthermore, key players are no longer constantly injured. In 2006, it was not uncommon to see Peyton Manning, Shaun Alexander, Randy Moss and crew out for the season, multiple weeks, or career ending injuries. Strangely enough, most of those that were injured, have never or rarely been injured in their entire careers. Thankfully this has been fixed. Finally, certain teams (at least for 2007) will not crazily end up in the super bowl or playoffs. After simming a number of seasons, I generally found Carolina, Seattle, Denver, Indianapolis, Washington, Dallas, Pittsburgh, New England, and a few other teams in the Super Bowl. Nowhere did I see other teams that would leave you wondering whether or not EA Sports really knows football.
In an effort to add increasing value to the superstar and franchise modes, EA Sports has also added a player specific role development to the game. This means that players can earn the titles of: Star QB, pass rusher, star running back, 1st round draft pick, etc. These titles add morale to your team and can boost other players' stats. In addition, players with these titles will most likely be difficult to trade for and the computer controlled teams will not as likely let them go. In all previous Madden games, it was quite funny to see star players being traded away to other teams, when in reality they would not be going anywhere. Here, players that would most likely not be traded, won't be (of course there are varying circumstances). As a result, seasons now will be much more realistic.
The draft itself is much more improved. The draft finally comes after free agency, and users can play a college all star game to check out the new upcoming draft class if they wish. Teams can also have upcoming rookies perform individual workouts which can help identify or boost their stats prior to the actual draft. The actual draft itself hasn't changed a whole lot, but football gurus will very much appreciate that the draft is after free agency and that the rookies are more involved then they were in previous years.
One of the least important features in Madden, but still worthy of mentioning, is menu interaction. This year Madden has cleaned up a lot of the screen. Menus appear to move much more fluidly, load faster, and are presented in a compact format. It's not as overwhelming to see all the information pouring on your monitor at the same time. While most of the menus are an improvement over last year, some of the text and formatting for certain areas of the game have taken a step back. For example, when users view the box score after a game, the team data is really not colored or categorized in a way to easily distinguish team data. The text is big and blocky and it's easy to get lost. Still, aside from such small issues, the presentation, light colors, and lack of clutter all over the screen are welcoming.
Overall Madden fixes all the glaring problems and issues found in previous games. As a result, nothing has really changed that is going to leave users frantically running around screaming about a cool feature. Instead, the game will leave users with a warm satisfied feeling that they can rely on computer controlled AI, a practical running and special teams game, and most importantly, simulated football in Madden's best form.