When you first pop in Madden 07 to your precious 360, your first thought may be that it feels a whole lot like last year's game. Well, you are correct. The graphics are pumped up of course, for the 360 engine, but game modes are a lot like last year. The gameplay is... well, thankfully better than last year. Even though this game may appear, at first glance, to be a brushed up version of Madden 06, there are enough new features to make it a good game in its own right.
All of the gameplay and control features are back from Madden 06. You've got the optional passing cone, all the old push button running moves, and all the rest. The highlight of the game lies in the new gameplay and control features that have been added to this year's title. These include the all-new highlight stick, lead blocker control, and a new kick meter. The highlight stick is the right thumbstick, with which you can now pull off your nasty running moves. Flick it left or right, and you'll juke in the respective direction. Pull it back, and you'll pull up your runner causing the would-be tackler to dive in front of you. The coolest part of the highlight stick is the fact that the pushing it forward is context sensitive. If you're a bigger back, you'll try to bowl over the defender. If you're a smaller, quicker back, you'll try to duck under the tackle. It's quite intuitive, and actually very exciting to pull off successfully. Lead blocker control allows you to take control of anyone on the field before the snap, and then block for the runner. You can perform drive blocks or chop blocks, depending on whether you feel like drilling a guy chest high or taking his legs out from under him. Once you lay the block, you can switch control back to the runner and take off. This system works very well, and is extremely satisfying to lay out a defender and open up a whole for your runner. The new kick meter is also a refreshing addition. To kick, you simply pull back on the right stick, and push it forward at the right time. The smoother the better. If you push it right, the ball will go right. It takes some practice, but you'll be drilling those field goals in no time. You'll find that, aside from these new features (which are indeed enough to justify a new game), the game plays a lot like Madden 06.
Graphically, the game looks great. The looks have been revamped for the next-gen hardware. The stadiums look better, the coaches, fans, and players are all better. The animations look a bit smoother, such as tackles and jukes and such, and you'll find that they run together excellently. If you're looking for improved graphics from last year, you'll find them here.
The sound in the game is satisfactory, and nothing new for the Madden series. The soundtrack is, as usual, without any kind of logical theme. Most of the stuff is fun to listen to, but some of the songs you hear will make you want to ask: “What is that doing on this game?” But hey, what's new.... Madden and co. say a lot of the same things in the booth, but they do the job. It seems to me that if you don't notice the commentary, then it is satisfactory.
The learning curve on this game varies. Depending on what features you want to use, it could be very easy or pretty tough to get used to. If you just want to play like last year, then you'll be up and running in half an hour. However, if you want to utilize the new features in 07, it will take you a week or two to really get them down. The lead blocker controls and highlight stick are easy to pick up, but very, very hard to master. In one sense, this is a good thing, because you'll want to keep busy improving on these features. When you really get good at them, they truly do help you win football games.
The game modes are all back from last year, including franchise mode, superstar mode, and the standard quick play and practice modes. The franchise mode is complete with minicamp, newspapers, etc. A new addition this year is rookie scouting. You can actually play the college all-star game, and check out potential stars for your team. After you see them, you can invite them to your training camp to work them out. This feature really adds some depth to the sometimes repetitive franchise mode. Superstar mode is very similar to last year, with the main difference being that this year, you main goal is to get your star into the hall of fame. You can do this by becoming a locker room menace, or by being that self-sacrificing team player. The game even keeps you updated on your progress on your way to the hall. This, if nothing else, gives you something to work for in superstar mode. Just like last year, you'll have a blast playing as all the different positions. This is most likely where you'll spend a lot of your time in the game.
Overall, this game is your standard Madden, with a standard amount of improvements and beefed up graphics and animations. It looks great, and the new gameplay features make this title well worth the purchase for Madden fans. Online play adds to the bundle, making this an easy recommendation for football fans. After all, it is Madden.