EA’s long running Madden series of "American Football" titles has never made a big impact on next generation consoles.
Although last year’s Madden NFL 06 on the Xbox360 certainly looked the part, even the developers themselves would be hard pressed to defend its obvious rushed nature.
It stripped out some of the best recent features - particularly the "superstar mode" where you play out an entire career of one player from fledgling rookie to full blown media magnet - in order to get it onto the shops shelves in time for Christmas.
But another year gone means yet another release. So does this one cut the mustard? Or do we get another opportunity to claim that professional American footballers are all big pansies who wear far too much padding?
There’s no denying that just like every single EA Sports title out there, the initial signs are all good. The obscenely high production values and gorgeously cut introduction show off just how Madden intends to dazzle. It’s the best visual representation of the sport out there.
The good looks continue throughout with some of the most realistic body movements you can see in modern console gaming. Watching a player’s body contort and jerk in a slow motion replay after a last gasp tackle at the edge of your End Zone is a somewhat perverse pleasure that we’ll all submit to at least once every game.
But repeatedly zooming in on the action can reveal a few little flaws. Every now and again you can plainly spot some very odd looking bits of animation that, while not overly jarring, can’t help remind you that you’re playing a mere game.
Out on the field things again seem to be working well. Initially players seem to be making the correct decisions and the best runs. But after a few hours play – on the default difficulty levels anyway – it becomes obvious that the AI leaves a few major doors open in their defence that you can easily exploit over, and over, and over, and ov… well, you get the picture.
Racking up huge wins might be fun, but you never get the feeling of overcoming huge obstacles. Who do you think gains the greatest pleasure out of these two scenarios: Chelsea thrashing Mansfield Town 2-0 in a League Cup match, or Mansfield nicking a late goal against Chelsea?
The aforementioned superstar mode makes a very welcome return and stands as the main single player treat to gorge on. Remember though, you’re playing an entire career here, so make sure you’ve a huge chunk of free time before you get stuck in.
So, Madden 07 is better than last year’s Xbox360 effort for sure, but it’s still a small step behind the cheaper titles on the last generation of consoles.
You’re still looking at the best modern representation of the sport of the last few years, even if that sport is a bit boring (awaits deluge of hate mail…).