Madden NFL 06 Review

Each new console is initially judged on the quality of its launch titles, but the one title that is inevitably scrutinized more closely than others is the debut of Madden NFL on that console. Gamers love their football games and usually can’t wait to get their hands on the next generation version. Once again a new generation is upon us and we have a next-gen version of Madden to go along with it – Madden NFL 06 on the Xbox 360. The pre-game hype is over, it’s time to hit the field and put up or shut up.

Welcome to next-gen football...
The first thing that you probably want to know about Madden NFL 06 is the first thing that will leap out at you when you first fire up the game: the graphics. On this play Madden scores a touchdown and converts for two. On a high-definition TV or a computer flat panel display the game is jaw-dropping gorgeous. The detail of the players is simply amazing and the player animations are very realistic from their movements on a play down to their facial expressions. On current generation consoles you can sort of recognize the faces of the league’s top players, but on the Xbox 360 you’ll easily be able to tell who’s looking back at you from behind each facemask. This version of Madden is also the first game to actually bring the stadium crowd to life. You no longer see a thousand cardboard cut-out clones in the stands – the stadiums are packed with 3D fans that react to every play. You won’t believe how much this little detail adds to your feeling of immersion when playing the game until you see it for yourself.

As for the gameplay itself, there have been a few minor changes over the versions appearing on current gen consoles, but it is evident that the gameplay engine underneath is pretty much the same. It’s still a little too easy to pass and a little too hard to run in the Xbox 360 version, and you’ll recognize some of the same old familiar quirks. The controversial QB vision cone is now an optional feature, though, which will undoubtedly make a number of gamers happy. The kicking game has been changed, which is a bit odd since it’s not really an improvement over the old version. You can no longer aim your kick before the play but instead must play a game of “stop the swinging arrow”. You press the button once to stop the arrow when it is pointing in the right direction and then again to try and catch the power bar at full power. This change makes kicking more difficult and brings down field goal percentages to unrealistically low levels. Hopefully this is an experimental feature that will be retired before next year and not a sign of things to come.

Madden NFL 06 also adds a new play-calling system that works pretty well. Before each play you can ask Madden or your team’s head coach for advice, or you can select from any play in the team’s playbook. You can select your play by formation, type (run vs. pass), or even by key player for those times you just have to keep going with the hot hand. This system provides you with a number of options for quickly getting to the play that you want and most gamers will be quite pleased with it.