Madden NFL 07 (Wii)
Madden NFL is a tricky game to review. Coming from a country that doesn’t play NFL, the game makes about as much sense to us as eating vegemite does to those that are not Australian. Therefore, its impossible for this review to begin without a brief introduction to the crazy game that is American Football.
NFL 101 – 2nd and what?
At its heart, NFL is a pretty simple game. The team on offence has up to four attempts to advance the ball 10 yards or further, otherwise they forfeit possession. When a play is referenced to as “second and four” it means that this is the second attempt to get the ball to the next ten yard marker and only four yards remain.
Points are scored by a player on offence crossing the goal line with the ball in hand, and this is worth six points. After that, the team can choose to either convert the touchdown by kicking through the uprights for another point, or running a final play for two points. Field goals are worth three points.
Possibly the most confusing aspect for someone who has never grown up watching and playing NFL is the amazing amount of different plays that can be called, from button hooks to blitzes, it can get a bit overwhelming. Madden simplifies this a fair amount in its play books by letting you group plays into categories, such as short/medium/deep passing options, inside and outside runs and various types of screens. This lets you get the right play for your situation pretty quickly and works pretty well. If you’re ever stumped, you can always ask for a play suggestion, and this is most useful on defence.
What about the waggle!
Having gotten the game rules basics out of the way; lets move on to how the game plays on Wii and for the most part its a pretty positive experience. I’m sure most people have read about the basics, but lets quickly go over them. To start the play, you pull back on the Wiimote to snap and then you can choose a receiver by pressing the corresponding D-pad direction or A button and throw by gesturing forward with the Wiimote. The speed of your gesture will dictate how quickly the ball leaves the quarterbacks hands, either normal, lobbing or bullet pass, and this part of the game is a definite winner.
The running game also works pretty well. Player control is accomplished via the analogue stick, and gesturing with the Wiimote/nunchuck performs various evasion tactics. The nunchuck allows you to sidestep, or juke as the Americans refer to it and the Wiimote lets you stiff arm and try to push off a defender. Preparation and timing is the key here, as you must start these movements before the defender is about to tackle you otherwise it will all be too late. Spinning is accomplished by the A button, with B letting you dive, C protecting the ball and Z letting you sprint.
Defending on the other had is a bit of a hit and miss affair. Part of this is because the game can move so quickly that at times you don’t feel like you are having any direct control over your team. Of course, choosing the right defensive play is important but after that ball is snapped the play can be over in a few seconds, leaving you confused with what actually happened. A lot of this can be attributed to the rules of the game, and not the digital representation of it, however its cold comfort especially to those who might not have had much exposure to it in the past.
Defensive controls also need to be worked on. Tackles don’t always land as you expect they would and the big hit gesture is a little flaky, requiring you to press Z and push forward with both remotes. You can also swat down a throw with the Wiimote by waving down, which works fairly well.
Madden is a pretty good example of what can be done with a franchise mode when you’ve been working on the same game for the better part of a decade. Its very robust and allows you to manage everything from your myriad of formations to handling interviews with the media. Whilst an NFL nut will surely get a kick out of this, for those that aren’t obsessive about their favourite wide receivers statistics will likely find it all a bit overwhelming.
Possibly one of the more disappointing omissions in Madden when compared to other EA Sports titles such as NBA Live and NHL is the inability to just play one season, which is more enticing for someone that wants to get to the super bowl, but doesn’t really want to commit themselves to an exhaustive franchise mode.
Multi player Mayhem
One of Madden’s shining lights is its awesome multi player mini games, especially the two on two option. In it, you have a quarterback and a receiver that has four attempts to make as many touchdown plays before the other team has a go. Whilst sounding amazingly simple, its also an incredible amount of fun when you throw multiple people into the mix and add plenty of smack talk. If you know you are going to have lots of multi player sessions, this mode alone is well worth considering a purchase for.
I haven’t touched much on the graphics and sound as really when you’re selling an NFL game in a country where only the Super bowl is broadcast each year, interest in NFL is pretty low, and graphics alone aren’t going to convince people to buy this game. Needless to say the game looks noticeably better then the Gamecube efforts.
What should also be noted is the spit and polish that has gone into the interface for Madden. Tutorials can be brought up at any time, and its also nice to see the menu can be navigated with either the pointer, d-pad or analogue stick. Its the little things that count and its pretty obvious that EA has included a lot of these little things to make the game experience as easy as possible.
So, is this game worth a purchase? If you’re a sports game fan then I would recommend it. Its certainly going to be confusing to someone who doesn’t know NFL, but its also intuitive enough that it can be picked up pretty quickly. However if you aren’t a sports game fan steer well clear, as there is nothing here for you. NFL is a foreign sport for most of us, so you won’t have any reference post to gauge the game against.