Anyone picking up Madden NFL 06 falls into one of three camps. There's the hardcore fan, happy to plonk down cash year after year for a game with only incremental changes. There's the manic Xbox 360 fanatic, determined to collect all the launch titles. Finally, there's the confused grandmother hoodwinked into purchasinga 'football' game for her grandson. In any of these cases, Madden NFL 06 offers the same general experience - initial jubilation tinged with regret and slight disappointment. Unfortunately, Madden NFL 06 offers up a graphically superior rendering of a key franchise with inferior gameplay mechanics.
Pretend that the amazing E3 'target visuals' demo doesn't exist. That way you won't feel the tinge of disappointment once the teams enter the fi eld, and your expectations of photo-realism are crushed. But the visuals are still incredible; massive oval stadiums packed with real 3D people, well-animated hulks sauntering onto the fi eld, grass textured like only real plastic can look, and an echoing tannoy announcer whooping everyone (except the sneering evil part of your psyche) into a frenzy. The tiniest details, such as the helmet manufacturer's logos and hair braids are all in there. EA licensed over 150 faces to ensure Donovan McNabb looks just like the slightly plastic Autonpossessed version of himself is supposed to. Don't look as closely at the players EA forgot to license; they stare into space with cold, dead eyes and look freakishly dissimilar to their real-world alter ego.
On the plus side, this game has beautiful menus. In-game, the ease of picking your plays - whether by formation, type (running or passing), by asking Uncle Madden or after consultation with the team coach - is sensational. There are other innovations, too. The Quarterback's passing cone, which infuriated some purists, is now an option. Even better, the giant, pie-eating American announcer John Madden has fi nally given fans something to celebrate: his removal from the commentary box - relegated to playcalling advice. Local announcers chat instead, doing a much better job telling you in stilted prose what happened five seconds ago.
It's a shame then, that the Franchise mode omits goals, mini-camps, morale, and spring training. Want even less? You can't challenge calls after a play, and the promised 'hard-hitting' animations during a tackle turn into a weird and glitchy dance. And tragically, there's no Superstars mode. Once you've done feasting on the visuals, you've got a bargain-basement Madden at a real-world price.
AN EMACIATED QUICKFIX FOR DIEHARD FANS