Madden 2006 Xbox Review

Obviously tired of passing in video game football, EA's Madden team introduces cone vision passing in 2006. This new feature stands out as the biggest tweak to the game, and it's one that adds an unnecessary, yet realistic, twist. It's going to be a love it/hate it feature.

Off the field, this is a small upgrade. The new Superstar mode is the biggest addition, letting players live the life of a player through various tasks. You can import a player from another game (NCAA, NFL Street) or create one through a random "parents" system. This is usual menu driven text after creating the player, including interviews or arguing with coaches. It's rather ridiculous at times, as you can even earn movie deals, though you'll need a certain "look" for that.

Anything added to the menus is signified by an annoying "New!" marker. On the field, fans of the series have what they're used to, a loose playing football game with dated graphics. The vision passing is only for those who desire major change, as its implementation isn't as earth shattering as you're led to believe by the marketing materials. You'll need to "look" at your receivers before throwing with the analog stick.

A brightly lit cone on the field indicates where your throw will have the best accuracy. The better the quarterback, the bigger the cone. What makes no sense is how an awareness stat can so severely affect a player's peripheral vision. The entire idea is rather ridiculous. This also hurts multi-player gameplay, leaving friends to obviously see where you're thinking about throwing the ball.

Physics and graphics remain about the same. Textures are cleaner and the lighting is slightly more effective, and definitely the same as on the Playstation 2. Players still look too skinny, and the animation routines have been used for five years now.

Obviously upgraded DB A.I. is the best update, with relentless defenders who rarely drop coverage. They'll always be diving and leaping to bat down a ball or pick one off. On the highest difficulties, everyone except the best players in the country will have trouble placing the ball into receiver's hands.

The running game is roughly the same, except for new right analog controls. These allow for power moves and evades, even though there were plenty of buttons (where your thumb is for everything else) to use these new moves. It's a worthy addition because of the way it can affect the game, but not for innovation.

Commentary has been improved this year, though it's still limited. The crowd is smarter, and if the home team struggles with a few three and outs, they'll begin booing their squad. Radio programs are still a fixture of the franchise menus, and it's far better than most of the music (aside from some of the NFL Film's tunes).

Those who religiously plunk down $50 every year for a new Madden have plenty to do. They'll get just as much out of this edition as they would any of the previous ones. If you're looking for a new experience, you'll be sorely disappointed.

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