As we near the end of the life span of the last generation of consoles, key franchises that have appeared year after year begin to wrap up their yearly development cycle. Crazy as it may sound, Madden NFL 07 could be one of the last times we see Madden on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, or the GameCube. With that in mind, it's not altogether surprising that Madden 07 doesn't really push the envelope terribly far. The game includes a few new control features and some mode tweaks (nearly all of which are also available in the Xbox 360 version of this year's game), but for the most part, it feels like the result of a series pushed as far as it can possibly go on a given platform, and you definitely get the sense that Madden on current-generation consoles is beginning to wind down. However, for at least this last year, the veteran player outraces the up-and-comer in the Xbox 360 version, and there are certainly enough compelling reasons to check this year's game out on the older consoles.
Madden's back on current generation consoles, and in case you were wondering, yeah, it's a lot like it's been in recent years.
Madden NFL 07 brings back practically every feature that was in Madden 06. On top of that, a number of new gameplay upgrades have been brought to the table, the majority of which are available in all versions of the game. By themselves, none of these individual changes or upgrades is particularly game changing, but taken as a whole, they add a nice dimension of depth.
These features include the highlight stick, a new kick meter, and lead blocking controls. The highlight stick is a new version of the truck stick used for runners on offense. Here, you can use the right control stick to pull off the sorts of crazy jukes and steps that star running backs are so well known for, and on top of that, depending on the type of back you're playing, you can opt to use more-powerful moves, or more finesse-based maneuvers. This feels like the natural evolution of last year's truck stick, though most experienced Madden players will be able to get by just as easily using the button-based moves rather than making liberal use of the stick. But if you take the time to learn the stick and figure out how to use it and the button controls together, you can be a very hard runner to stop.
The new lead blocking controls are likely to inspire some new tactics from all types of players. Here, while on offense, you can opt to switch your controlled player to any of the available blockers during a running play. This includes offensive linemen, tight ends, fullbacks, or whoever else might be blocking on a play. When blocking, you can just do standard blocks, or you can even get dirty and do some mean-spirited cut blocks. This is an interesting mechanic, because it stops you from having to rely on CPU blockers, which as any experienced player will tell you, are not always the most reliable players on the field. You can also quickly switch back to control the running back once you've laid down your block, which is good, because the CPU running back doesn't always manage to find the holes you're creating. At first, you may find yourself unable to effectively use this feature, as setting up the right blocks isn't always the most intuitive thing in the world. But after some time, this control method gives the running game a really interesting new perspective, and those who love finding new strategies are bound to eat this up.
Lead blocker controls sound kind of weird on paper, but really do add a nice new dimension to the running game.
The new kick meter is probably the most accurate representation of kicking available in a game thus far. With this meter, you use the typical arrow to line up your angle and then press down on the right analog stick to set up your power. The meter quickly fills up, and then you press forward on the right stick to set the power as well as your accuracy. The accuracy is based on the angle at which you press up. If you press too far to the right or left, the kick will get away from you. If you land it within a set space, it will go pretty much right where you want it to.
Beyond that, the changes from 06 to 07 are mostly ancillary, and fundamentally, the game plays very much as its predecessor did. On defense, there are a few more available options in terms of positioning your defensive players, and you can commit your defense in a certain direction the moment the ball is snapped. On offense, the quarterback vision cone, which made its debut last year, is still available, though it's not a required feature. You can just tap the right analog stick after snapping the ball, and it will pop on, letting you use it for a little accuracy boost. No, it's not any more fun to use than it was last year, but that's not altogether surprising. Otherwise, pretty much every control feature you've come to expect from Madden is front and center once again. Potentially, some people could play through Madden 07 and never really partake in the new running control features, but there's definitely enough in all the available upgrades to add a significant layer of depth to the experience.