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Madden NFL 07 for Xbox 360 Review

EA Sports
Also available for PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC, PSP, DS, GBA
Score 4.5 out of 5

Last year's debut of Madden NFL on the Xbox 360 was a horrifying disappointment. This means that EA Sports could do just about anything and produce a better version for this year. I'm happy to report that they've done a lot and Madden NFL 07 on the Xbox 360 is a great, but not perfect, game.

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EA Sports has the exclusive video game license of the NFL and PLAYERS INC and Madden NFL has been the best selling football game of all time. This is the 17th installment and for this game they've focused on the running game. Last year they revolutionized the passing game and this year they're aiming to revolutionize the running game. It's possible to play as the lead blocker to set a block, and then switch to the running back and burst through the hole. New running controls give you the easy ability to overpower defenders, juke right or left, or take a cute little backwards step. The right thumbstick lets you use player specific running styles matching those of the real NFL players. For example, smaller backs slash and cut to avoid tackles and bigger backs overpower defenders.

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The running controls are a step forward, more so the Highlight Stick (right thumbstick) than the blocking. I find that it's not so easy to set a good block and many times I'm better off letting the computer do it. Although, a few times I have dealt out devastating blocks on sweeps on the outside and then switched to the runner and danced into the end zone. That was fun. So my feelings are mixed on the blocking. But the Highlight Stick rocks. Shaun Alexander bowls corner back over and Tiki Barber sort of slithers his way around defenders when you push up. It's very cool stuff. I have great control over jukes also. The running game is pretty powerful stuff. Coupled with the improvements in passing last year this makes for a powerful offense.

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Specific to Xbox 360 is the ability to create a play and then increase his attributes by running him through skill based mini-games called mini-camp. In the off season you can use mini-camp to condition players or rehab injuries to get back on the field faster. This feeds into NFL Superstar: Hall of Fame Mode where you take your player into the big leagues and play on the field with the pros. I played a little of this and sort of lets you pretend that you're in the NFL, at least for a little while and then you realize that playing the football game is what matters. You've got to make decisions on and off the field. I'd rather just play football, but for those who want the solo career aspects, they're there. Also on 360 is the Madden Gamer Level which is a great statistical tracking system. It keeps track of your accomplishments while playing ("Make an Interception") and then generates a score for you. This lets you know exactly how you stack up against opponents online.

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Overall, the attention to detail is excellent. The crowd looks and acts more real. There is action on the sidelines. The camera angles are very good at building up the drama of the game. EA did a great job with the announcer who actuallly keeps track of what's going on on the football field. Madden doesn't say much, which is a disappointment. This game is worth having for the 360, although I have to admit that I like the controls on the PS2 better.

And the best part is that it's fun to play.

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