Order! Order in the Tribunal Court!

*janitor coughs*

Ok, so it’s been a while since we’ve had a Tribunal, but the court is now back in session. We’re here today in Tribunal Hall to judge the biggest sports game of the year Madden 06 which is available for the Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube. Madden 06 please step forward.

Madden 06 stands today before the court to prove its worth, and it has a lot to prove. Despite having no competition this year due to having the exclusive rights to the NFL, you still faced tremendous pressure. Gamers have been saying for months now that the exclusive contract with the NFL will lead to you being more stagnant then you already are. To combat this, you bring an ambitious new simulation mode in the form of NFL Superstar mode. Will this coupled with your time tested gameplay be enough to survive the Tribunal?

Today your judges are Michaelangelo McCullar, Tom N, and Tom Pandich. Are you ready for…THE TRIBUNAL?!?


Judge #1:Michaelangelo McCullar

When it was announced that EA had obtained exclusive rights to the NFL, fanboys were up in arms. The big bad EA was ruining gaming as we know it by obtaining a monopoly on the biggest sports franchise in America. Never mind that nowhere near the same amount of animosity was shown to the NFL, who were the ones shopping to sell exclusive rights in the first place, or that nowhere near the amount of vitriol exhibited would have been directed to any other company had they been able to get the rights (witness the lack of uproar over Take Two nabbing exclusive MLB rights). Buried under all the rhetoric was the real question we should have been asking: how good would Madden 06 be now that it was the only game in town?

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Madden is Madden, a solid franchise that offers quality sim-style football. The gameplay itself is for the most part the same, with the new addition this year being QB Vision, which gives the QB a Vision Cone in which he is most accurate when it comes to passing. It’s a strong concept, but one which in the end falls a bit flat, as the execution can be overly complicated.

The other new addition to Madden 06 is NFL Superstar, where you can guide a player from draft to retirement. What should have been an exciting new gameplay mode is a total failure, as repetition and lack of impact from decisions made doom this idea from jump. This is an idea with definite potential that needs to go back to the drawing board for a major overhaul.

In the end, while the new features Madden 06 provides leave something to be desired, in the end it’s still Madden. It still offers strong gameplay and a deep Franchise mode that will keep people playing for months to come. There are a few diehard EA haters who will boycott the game out of principal, and that’s too bad, as they’re missing a good game. There’s a reason Madden Release Day is almost a national holiday, and it’s not just marketing.


Judge #2: Tom N

Madden NFL ’06 is another great entry into the series, although one that doesn’t necessarily improve upon it’s predecessors enough to make it really stand out. The biggest change to the game this year is the new Quaterback Vision and Precision Passing system, which while a really cool idea in theory, comes off a little clumsy with having to use the right analog stick to change your field of vision. That aside, the ability to change the path of the ball to your receiver is a welcome addition and adds a whole new level of depth to the passing game. The offense also gets the addition of the “Truck” stick, which can turn your running backs into offensive machines provided you get the timing down. The remainder of the features and controls are pretty much the same as they were last year, so players of previous Madden games will find everything pretty familiar.

Franchise Mode is easily the highlight of the game, allowing you to get a taste of what it’s like to own an NFL team. Combine this with Superstar mode, where you can create your own player from scratch, and you’ve got one hell of a nice single player experience. Unfortunately these are a little lackluster in their execution and not quite as engaging as they could have been. Still, it’s enjoyable to play through at least once. Of course multiplayer has always been one of the favorite ways to play Madden, and this year is no different, as you get the full functionality of X-Box live that we’ve all come to expect.

Graphics and sound don’t appear to be much different from last year, but the game looked so good then, why change it now? And besides, the graphics folks are probably all scrambling to get things looking as realistic as possible for Madden’s X-Box 360 debut. As for John Madden himself? Well, he still has a tendency to get pretty repetitive. Although it could just be me, but he seems to talk less this year.

I’ll always be a 2k fan at heart, but since we only get Madden this year, I’ll just have to live with it. Fortunately Madden is a game well worth playing, and for football fans, it’s a game worth owning.


Judge #3: Tom Pandich

As much as I hate to admit it, Madden 06 is a good game. The problem with it though is that the new features are pretty inconsequential to the core game. Take the big new gameplay feature for example. Unlike previous years, the new feature to gameplay, QB Vision, can be turned on and off making it completely optional. The idea of adding in the ability for both the defense to see where the quarterback is looking and for the offense to throw off the defense with blind passes is a good idea in theory, but the execution is flawed. Controlling the QB Vision becomes a pain especially with a decent amount of scrambling QBs like Michael Vick who has horrible vision but excellent scrambling ability. He becomes essentially a running back because of how unwieldy vision can be. For other QBs like Tom Brady, vision is never an issue because he can see the entire field taking away the whole trade off of vision. It’s an interesting concept to add into the Madden franchise, but it ends up coming off as pretty gimmicky.

The other new feature is NFL Superstar mode, which ends up being an even more unwieldy feature considering how much work you, put in for such a little pay off. Rather then working your way up to the NFL through the Arena league or NFL Europe, your player ends up as a third stringer at practice. Essentially, the only way for your player to practice is to manipulate the offense or defense so they end up starting.

While the new may be pretty meh this year, Madden 06 is an incredibly solid game with a huge amount of depth. The graphics look great as always, and John Madden is much more tolerable this time around then he has been in the past. Besides QB Vision, Madden 06 has very intuitive controls that reward players who put in the time with it. Madden 06 is one of the deepest games on the market this year too. The strengths completely outweigh the flaws here.

So Madden 06 is a really good game, it just doesn’t add enough to really justify a purchase over Madden 05. I like Madden 06 a lot, but it takes major hits on originality and modes, as it really offers nothing that new to the Madden franchise. EA took a gamble tossing out a few brand new modes, but end up with egg on their face considering how unwieldy most of the new modes are. If the new stuff was more solid, Madden 06 is a great game. As it stands, it’s just a good game.


And now to the final Judgment!

Score 1: 7.0

Score 2: 7.5

Score 3: 7.0

Final Judgment: 7.0 (GOOD)

It is the decision of the Tribunal that Madden 06 is a good game, like it is every year. The innovations that Madden 06 bring to the table don’t do enough to really establish the fact that this is the only NFL football game on the market. Buy this game only if you haven’t played Madden in a while, or the new rosters are worth $50 to you.