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A confident first outing on the Wii proves that EA have a sound understanding of the potential of Nintendo's machine. Here, controls add to the run of play rather than simply introducing novelty. Promised simplification in next year's release also bodes well for the franchises onward journey with new and casual gamers.
Not having been a keen follower of American football, like many brits I guess, I hadn't picked up a Madden game for a considerable time. The last American Football game I had played was probably either Cyber Ball in the arcade, or the Games Workshop lead figure based Blood Bowl Football. Both are worthy franchises, but both are getting a little long in the tooth. It was therefore with some glee that I spied a copy of Madden 07 plopping onto the doormat.
Furthermore, with the upcoming Madden 08, what better time was there to get more acquainted with one of the most popular American sports? In particular, I was keen to see how last year's game compared to the new title. Before popping the disc into the slot, I was of course already aware that EA had made a big song and dance at the time about their new Wii controls. Now that we have a wider selection of Wii games with which to compare Madden 07, it will be interesting if they still stand up to more rigorous scrutiny.
For those of you more in the know, the game offers all the usual EA Madden features. The Wii version is essentially a port of the PS2 game, and seems to run at a decent frame rate. Although the visuals are obviously nowhere near the 360 version, and let's hold judgement on this year's PS3 release, they certainly get the job done. The frame rate holds at a steady 30 frames per second, and the output is a nice 480p in wide screen; all aspects we have now come to expect from our Wii games that were still something to shout about earlier in the console's life.
It is the first glimmer of hope that the Wii could deliver on some of the video gaming basics.
To get started you have the choice to either work through some tutorials or jump straight into a game and figure it out as you go. We found that a little time invested in the tutorials led to a much better learning curve and less frustration with the main game. If you have played Madden before, the main difference you need to get to grips with are the Wii controls that have been introduced to try and provide more of a sense of connection between the player and the game.
Back when the game was released earlier this year, there was quite a commotion about these controls. It is the first glimmer of hope that the Wii could deliver on some of the video gaming basics, in addition to the gesturing novelty of Wii-Sports and Wii-Play. Some months later and things have obviously moved on somewhat for the Wii. Not only have we seen a number of games that make good intelligent and measured use of the Wii-mote and Nun-chuck combo, but we also have the prospect of a slew of first party Nintendo titles stepping up to the plate to underline this point. There is also the matter of the soon to be released Madden, for the 2008 season which looks to build on the controls in 07.
Even with all this, Madden 07 still stands up pretty well on its own merits. The measured introduction of the Wii controls work as well as they ever did. At times providing an outlet for some physical violent motions, at others providing easier and more accurate route to key moves. The different gestures are introduced in the run of play, although if need be you can instantly jump out to a quick tutorial mode. It's a shame you can't practice the moves with on screen players, although with a bit of trial and error during your first two games you will soon be strong arming, jinking, spinning and throwing bombs to your heart's content.
EA really can say, there is no where else that you can play American football this way.
Graphically, the Wii version also performs better than you would expect. Amid the wrangling for most solid and highest frame rate between the 360 and PS3 versions, the Wii simple gets on with delivering a solid visual experience. Whilst this isn't going to win any awards, it certainly proves to be more than adequate for a great experience.
Sound wise, things haven't changed that much from last year's game. Background music is used sparingly and to good effect. Voice work is well written and convincingly performed. It does what sound should do in a game, hold the disparate play pieces together into an amorphous whole.
Talking about this game, you can't help but come back to the controls, they really to change the whole Madden experience. Those who have invested a lot of playtime in the non-waggle versions of the games are likely to find it the hardest to adjust. But for the newcomer or returning player they really are a boon. On that note, it is interesting that EA is extending this accessibility still further in Madden 08, with its option to simplify the controls for younger or beginner players. The game turns from a sports action game into more of a sports simulation, where you are influencing rather than controlling the on screen action. This 'dumbing down' may sound like a bit of a bad move for EA, but for those of us with friends, spouse or offspring who are still getting started in the game world, options like these can make all the difference. I can't wait to try it out on my kids when the new version is available. Role on Madden 2008 so we can see if this works as well in practice as it does paper.
Overall, this is a respectable and solid Wii game whose controls have stood the passing of the last few months. It offers further promise to the hope that the Wii is more than just a passing fad. It proves that well considered development can deliver a compelling, accessible and highly engaging experience. EA really can say, there is no where else that you can play American football this way.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
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