August 30, 2006

Madden 2007

by psu

Having learned my lesson from the last time I bought a football game for the 360, I took advantage of the boundless generosity of the second Pete to get Madden 2007 for the 360 using his Gamefly account.

I was cautiously optimistic about the game this year because the press says that the game is much closer to (say) the PSP version of the game than last year. The reality is that as usual, when they say "close" they mean something completely different. Sort of like when they say Metal Gear Solid has "good" game-play.

In its defense, the 360 Madden does play better than last year in one way: it doesn't feel like the running back is stuck in quicksand anymore. That's good.

Of course, there are a small number of things missing from the game when compared to this year's offering on the PSP. Yes, I bought the PSP version. Yes I know it's a sickness. Go away.

Let's see:

1. No accelerated clock. To make up for this, they make the playtime even longer with stupid offsides and motion penalties. Also, for God's sake whatever you do, never play against the Colts. Because then you spend almost all of the 45min of game time watching the Zombie Peyton Manning jerk and dance and sing and audible.

2. The A.I. on defense goes missing occasionally. Your little minions will run right past the play, seemingly clueless as to the fact that the guy they just ignored has the ball.

3. Defensive backs in particular enjoy ignoring their coverage assignments and just watching the ball go by.

4. The instant replay camera control is jerky and annoying. The frame-rate in the replay itself can be inconsistent as well.

5. The game camera occasionally jumps around at random.

6. Jump the snap was stupid in NCAA 2007, and it's just as stupid here.

7. The pre-snap adjustments are completely crippled compared to the PSP. You know, the machine with 1/10000th the CPU of the Xbox 360. To make up for it, the UI makes it harder and more tedious to configure fewer settings. Way to go.

8. Replays show that collision detection and clipping problems are common. Passes "hit" your receiver's hands 5 feet away from their body and bounce off. Willie Parker runs through the head and shoulder's of his center on the way to melting into the defensive lineman's mid-section. Yes, this sort of thing happens on the PS2 as well, but it's not quite as noticeable. I guess the machine is too busy pushing out textures and has no time left to actually do decent geometry.

9. The vertical play calling menus suck just as much here as they did in Madden 06 and NCAA 2007. They are also strangely non-deterministic. You'll hit one screen and go to the next, and hop back, and the available choices are not the same. This makes fast navigation difficult.

10. The Steelers picked off my Tom Brady avatar 4 times in 16 passes. That's stupid.

OK. There is one cool thing. The rendering model of Downtown Pittsburgh is cool.

Looking over this list, I find it hard to believe that the game is this bad. Maybe I'm being unfair. After all, I only played a few games over one night. But here is the thing. The game is almost fun. You play, and you are almost convinced that you will have a worthwhile experience. Then, inevitably, something stupid happens and you think "WTF?" and you are back to reality. I think playing the game for a few more hours will not change this.

My recommendation is to play this game on the PSP. The new version is really nice. They have added instant replays back this year. So it's nearly like having the PS2 version in your pocket, except that it's better because stuff like the retarded Superstar mode is not wasting your storage.

Posted by psu at August 30, 2006 08:15 PM | Bookmark This

Can you attack Zombie Peyton Manning with a chainsaw or shoot his head off?

Man, the only football video game I ever liked was the old Mutant League game. Somebody needs to make another one of those with modern technology.

Posted by Adam Rixey at August 30, 2006 09:35 PM

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

The second Pete? You are dead to me.

Posted by peterb at August 31, 2006 08:18 AM

I'm sorry, I shouldn't have written that.

I played one last game last night, and remembered a few things I forgot in my original list after I hit 10.

11. The on screen displays are stupid and convey nearly zero information. In particular, nowhere is there an indication of how many time outs you have left unless you go to some pause menu.

12. The game uses animations on the in-game "jumbo-tron" to take 15 seconds to tell you things like "first down", or "the kick is good" which can be communicated in .5 seconds with a small piece of text. This also has the side effect that it's impossible to tell that some in-game events have happened. Fumbles for example.

13. The interface for calling an audible is similarly different, and less usable. It's easy to accidentally hit the audible button and have no idea that you've done it because the UI is too subtle.

14. I mostly hate the new cascading menu system.

15. When will they remove the shit music soundtracks from these games and just leave me in peace? OK. That's a problem on the PSP too.

Posted by psu_13 at August 31, 2006 09:17 AM

A lot of the design problems seem to stem from EA's unwaivable desire to make games that look good. A lot of stuff (like the animation complaint in the comments) would be cleared up if the designers in charge started thinging about playing football, instead of watching football.

As a spectator, it has to look good. As a player, it has to play fun. If they keep concentrating on making the game look fantastic, they are going to wind up with a game that nobody can distinguish from real football, but that no one is going to play. Sometimes graphics gets in the way.

Posted by Duncan at August 31, 2006 05:07 PM

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