• If I was to pigeon hole myself against games genres then sports games would not be high on my list of faves, but if there is one sport I truly love to watch in the real world then that would be the NFL, or American Football for those not in the know. So therefore being able to play through an NFL game on the Xbox 360 is very, very cool in my books. Madden NFL 2007 on the Xbox 360 by EA Sports is the second and newest iteration from the Madden series to hit the 360. When the Xbox 360 was launched last year we were given Madden NFL 2006 and the chance to see what an NFL game could look like on a HD Next Generation machine, and proved to be an instant hit. Madden NFL 2007 looks to take what was great with that game and has expanded on the content giving the fans a whole lot more to sink their teeth into.

    Some might say the features we can now fiddle with in Madden NFL 2007 should have featured in the previous game, and those statements would be true in a way as the Xbox 360 version of Madden NFL 2006 had a lot of the features dropped when compared to other formats of the same title… Although… and as much as I could be classed as now providing excuses for EA… most people simply did not understand that Madden NFL 2006 on the Xbox 360 was a fresh build, and had not been a simple dirty port with tarted-up, HD looks. But… given most people did not understand this, the previous game was slated as rushed just to get it out on the 360 and whilst that was also probably true in many ways, as a true fan would have been willing to wait for the real deal, the game was still an amazing affair to play through, albeit also slated in what is now becoming typical of EA in giving away easy achievement points.

    But what is done is done… and it is what is now, that is important. So line in the sand and all that and time to move on to what Madden NFL 2007 is giving the gamer, and to find out if EA have given the fans what they want this time?

    Madden NFL 07

    This years outing comes packed with a whole host of features including; Play Now Mode, Franchise Mode, Superstar Mode, Mini Games, Practice Mode and Xbox LIVE Multiplayer. Physical gameplay has also been improved/tweaked with a whole host of new moves having been implemented. These features include a highlight stick, new kicking meter, and better lead blocking controls. One of the better features out of this pile is the new highlight stick, which evolves the trunk stick and allows your player to pull off some crazy new moves looking to avoid getting decked by the opposition. Mastering these new juke moves and such like is advisable as once you have got to grips with them you can be a one hard ‘mother of a runner’ to stop in your tracks. Although I will point out, if you don’t have the inclination to do so, you can still get away with a lot in this game by just sticking to the face button moves.

    Before I get down to the nuts and bolts of the actual on the field gameplay, I will skip over the content to give you a feel for what is contained within the game. Play Now Mode is a very simple, pick a team, set your quarters and take on a friend in front of the same screen/play the CPU or to take that game into a LIVE game against anyone. Franchise Mode is back and once again is about taking your team or teams through thirty seasons. Franchise mode still remains a slight disappointment, that is not in the design but that an achievement is given for completing the thirty years and as that is one hell of a feat to accomplish, most gamers including myself simply opt to simulate through the entire franchise mode in order to just tick the box. It is also worth noting before moving onto the next mode that Franchise Mode also makes it possible to move a game into LIVE with a simple touch of a button.

    Superstar Mode is new to the Xbox 360 version of Madden, although if you have played Madden on various other platforms, then you will have already tasted this little number. In Superstar mode, you take control of one player and through their career look to make them the number one… numero uno… best of the best. This is a pretty slick affair and a nice addition for us 360 players, although certain aspects of the gameplay can be a little off putting, but more on that later. Mini Games Mode is another new one for the Xbox 360 version and they are played over a kind of track and field basis where you will have your player sprinting down the track or bench-pressing some huge weight. Mini Game Mode features in the Superstar Mode but can also be selected separately.Â

    Practice Mode is another welcome addition and allows you to get a feel for the game that is the NFL without the headache of losing and having it effect your statistics. And last but by no means least Madden NFL 2007 once again features a fully supported Xbox LIVE Multiplayer mode, with all the features you have come to expect now with LIVE. And as you should have picked up on earlier, you can take practically any of the offline games you play through instantly into LIVE with a touch of a button, which… well… is a pretty cool feature really, if you ask me.

    Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay… American Football can be classed as a very confusing sport if you are not experienced with how it is played, and Madden can be stated as a smidge unforgiving to new NFL wanabees as it does not bed you into the game and kinda expects you to know what you are doing from the get go. Each team in the NFL has a standard set of moves they use for both offensive and defensive play but also includes some unique plays for each of the teams. You begin your Madden life choosing your favourite team and then by jumping into one of the game modes will eventually find yourself on the football field facing off against your opposition. Set plays come with a whole raft of options, from choosing by key team player, type of play, even through to Madden, himself recommending which plays you should use. It is this that will confuse the newbie but if you simply look at what is being presented to you, with what highlighted player will run to where, you will quickly get a feel for which plays work for you and which don’t.

    The presentation and the physical hands on aspect of the gameplay is once again top notch and having played through Madden NFL 2006… 07 looks a whole lot better. Player control is very easy to get to grips with, and the on screen game play menus are also very quickly understood, as quite often within the game you will have chosen a defensive or offensive set play to suddenly see it won’t work… with a simple press of a couple of buttons you will have changed your team line up and had them aligned with the opposition or better placed to get past your opposition all before they or you have managed to snap the ball. Within minutes a seasoned Madden pro will be back in the land of love, with the newbie to the game cracking on and starting to understand how he/she can win.

    Kicking in Madden NFL 2007 has changed slightly in that a new kicking meter has been provided. This new meter seems to work better than the previous version with the left thumbstick being used to set the angle and height or arc of the ball, then, switching to the right thumbstick to activate and stop the power bar before your kicker will take a swipe at booting the ball exactly where you wanted it. It will take a while for you to master this as it is totally different from the last version, but the accuracy bonus in getting it right is spot on this time.

    As deep with the amount of content you have to chew through and as fantastic as the game is to actually play, Madden NFL 2007 is not without some problems albeit I prefer to call these problems – niggles. First off and I have mentioned this before the Franchise Mode is superb to play through but being asked to play through thirty years is ridiculous. No one will do this given how long an NFL season runs for and it is almost as if EA knew this as once again you can simply choose to simulate your way through all thirty years with never having even made it onto the field. Secondly I also have a slight problem with the Madden menu system, in that you will make a choice say having played through some Franchise Mode, back out only to still see the Franchise Mode window sat in the background. This is off putting as you can become confused as to what is going on / or / have you done something wrong.

    As nice as it is to see Superstar Mode being a new addition and all… there again exist some issues with how this works. Superstar the term is you taking a single player through their career so, keeping that in mind when you are on the field the gameplay worries you have is with just that player, and that is where quite often the problems come in. The camera angle zooms into your player and makes it hard to know what is going on around you and the CPU controlling the other aspect of the game is best classed as comical. Superstar mode really is a great little piece to play through but it can also become frustrating as hell.

    Now this final little niggle, may just be down to my personal preference but… The achievements you aim to tick off as you play through 07 whilst certainly having become a lot more to get, with smaller scores… in other aspects have once again been given away for free with you having to do nothing other than simulate a few seasons. I just wish that by now EA would have stopped doing this and had turned off the ability to take an easy ride through the game. I am guilty of this easy ride there is no denying that. But there was no way in a million years that I would have bothered to play through thirty years of franchise mode and goes back to I just wish that EA would re-think this franchise mode and remove it so that we just play through one season. Thankfully as a positive note there are some achievements in this game that you have to work at. Right enough said… I will shut up now.

    Graphically Madden NFL 2007 seems to have been given some spit and polish and what looked good in 06, now looks awesome. Pitches seem to have a real life look to them this time instead of looking slightly plastic. Players have had their in game likeness tweaked to their real life personas including ensuring that if a player has long hair, his game character also has long hair. Seeing Troy Polamalu from the Steelers with no hair in the 06 game, was a very scary thing indeed, especially since Troy has not cut his hair since his college days. The NFL uniforms look amazing and character movement is very nicely done. Sound presentation is also top notch in both on and off the field, grunts and groans never sounded so good and you can almost hear those bones shatter as you sack the oppositions; quarterback. Off the pitch a whole raft of tunes to delight your ears have been provided. All in all Madden NFL 2007 looks and sounds amazing.

    In closing as an NFL fan, EA have given me a huge smile to walk around with. Madden NFL 2007 does have its slight problems but the gameplay is top notch and well worth your pounds and pence to experience what its like to be part of the NFL.

    Score: 9/10

    About The Author