Madden NFL 07

Those with a Nintendo DS really have no choice for portable football games, and when it’s all said and done, Madden NFL 07 is honestly the only real option. Sure, the graphics and audio for the previous versions weren’t exactly amazing achievements, but EA doesn’t really have the best hardware to make a sweet, portable football game from the ground up anyway. Still, the DS versions have some nice upgrades that warrant a look at this football title, all of which compare rather nicely with the console versions.

For Madden NFL 07 for the DS, 3D models and stadium all look decent from certain camera angles, although in some areas they look rather pixilated and choppy. You won’t be able to recognize the players by their faces, but you can certainly see their number, as each player’s profile is shown by an info bar that’s shown after their involvement in a play. Some subtle changes to the game’s presentation include some stadium accuracy, which was nearly non-existent in the previous games. Also, the graphics are a bit cleaner, and animations are bit smoother. There’s a good variety of camera angles, replays, and end-zone celebrations in this game, and that ultimately makes the game much more playable. Sadly, things like the commentary by Al Michaels and John Madden are way too repetitive, and even at the highest volume levels, are still quite inaudible after concluding hard-hitting plays. You’ll hear Michaels sometimes saying the same exact call in the same quarter.

Thankfully, not all is lost when it comes to new featured and refined gameplay. Most fans wouldn’t expect some of the depth in this game, but there’s actually quite a bit of options available form the get-go. You can now create your own plays (which work quite well with the stylus) and add them to your favorite team’s playbook. You can even call multiple audibles and hot routes before each ball snap, or tricking a run into the defensive line. Repositioning players before each snap on defense is a snap, and calling audibles and strategic formations work well by looking at the top screen of the DS. You can use the touch screen to control some actions too, such as assigning plays with audible calling with the system’s microphone. This voice-mapping feature is quite welcome to this version, as it does put some fun into the entire handheld experience.

With the stylus now being a new form of controlling the game, you can actually pass to your receivers by dragging the stylus towards your receivers. You can even draw the new hot route you want your receivers to run with the stylus, an intuitive and easier way to remember a play. Icons on the bottom-screen’s menu also allow you to drag defensive formations onto specific players, such as dragging the DZ icon to your linebacker to make him move back into a deep zone formation. However, in what may be one of the first ideas for a kicking system to date, Madden NFL 07 for the DS has you drawing a starting and end point for your kick, then again drawing a straight line quick enough (for the power of a kick) from start to end points. You’ll draw short lines for onside kicks and shallow punts, but most people will be hard-pressed to putting the stylus aside when the regular controls will be required seconds after the kickoff or punt.

CPU AI in the game is virtually the same as last year, and although the CPU does a good job with its default settings, time spent with the game will expose some of its “cheating” plays. This includes deep long-bombs that can be repeated over and over again for a quick touchdown. Quarterback sacks are less frequent from past games, but interceptions, and fumble recoveries are much harder to do in the game due to some blocky graphics during high-speed moments. Gladfully, you’re able to tweak AI within the various aspects of CPU speed, skill, and accuracy.

The game modes of this handheld football title are quite expansive, as die-hard fans will be glad to find the season and franchise modes as having a good amount of options parallel to the console versions. The franchise mode, for instance, allows for trades, contract negotiations, drafts, pre-season games, statistical information, newspaper views, etc. Skill progressions are also shown. Other modes include custom league and tournament modes, a two-minute drill mode, practice, and situational modes for pitting your favorite team in various gameplay formations. You can even dive into a classic NFL match-up and try to re-enact an unbelievable comeback, or defensive stop in an important game such as past Super Bowls. The mini-game mode also has five different mini-games to play.

Madden 07’s Wi-Fi capabilities allow for several of your friends to play in full-length games or for competition against each other in some of the mini-camp challenges. Create a team and create a player are also there. Basically, you’d be rather surprised on how much EA packed into this football sim all in one cartridge.

Just Another Madden
If you can ignore its presentation hindrances and iffy control schemes (especially the kicking meter), Madden NFL 07 for the Nintendo DS barely gets the job done in terms of pigskin enjoyment for the handheld. Still, the game is respectable for what it does. If only the DS hardware allowed for more smoothness, we could have a game that would solidify as the must-have football game for the Nintendo DS.

— Ray Almeda

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