BOOM! Now that's big time Football!
The creative minds at Electronic Arts have done it again, with their latest edition in the Madden Football series, John Madden NFL '97. This game is one of the most realistic simulations of a sport that this gamer has seen on any system. With a myriad of play options and non-stop action on the field, sports enthusiasts will find it hard to tear themselves away.
The opening sequence in this game was almost as exciting as the game itself. With superior graphics and music I actually found myself getting pumped up to play. You really know its time for action though, when that familiar Madden face appears on the screen and officially welcomes you to the program.
The strengths of the new program are easy to see immediately. first, the passing game is vastly improved with a perspective of the field that allows the player to view the entire field before deciding where to throw the ball. This is perfect for all of us armchair quarterbacks out there. More impressive than that is the much improved artificial intelligence exhibited by the players on the field that are not being directly controled by the participants. This is especially apparent in terms of the down-field blocking that the ball carrier gets as he moves towards the goal line. The running game also shows marked improvement with moves that leave veteran defensemen by the wayside as your half back shakes and bakes his way up the field.
This well developed offense however is complemented by improvements on the defensive side as well. Defensive players pursue the ball with greater intelligence and urgency that forces the offensive team to enact different strategies to fool them. Pass coverage is excellent if the correct defensive scheme has been chosen, which makes it more difficult for the secondary to get beat on deeper routes.
Other qualities that '97 posesses include options that can be toyed with before the game even starts such as: your choice of stadium to play in, adverse weather conditions that can affect the playing field, crowd involvement that goes as far as to chant DEFENSE, DEFENSE, when the home team is trying to prevent a third down conversion, you can create your own players and place them on whatever team you please, and you can choose from more teams overall. Added bonuses such as pregame analysis by veteran announcers James Brown, Pat Summerall, and the Mad Man himself are pluses as well. Each of these options help give the game a much more authentic feel.
With all that is good about this game, its shortcomings are more nit-picky than most. The "Maddenisms" that the flambouyant host of the game spews out at selected moments are kind of silly and certainly unnecessary , but can be turned off so they are no big deal. I also feel that the game had too few turnovers, especially fumbles, of which I have only seen one in all the games I've played.
The strong tackle button is hard to use and tackles are often missed in the attempt to use it. With the diving tackle button you can get to the ballcarrier faster and improve your chances of bringing him down. Overall, the control just isn't a tight as GameDay. Like too many football and basketball games, the movement of the players looks a little too much like 'skating' and not real running. Madden '97 still has players sliding all over the grass.
My biggest complaint, however, is the stupid end Zone dances that the players do when they score. Classy players like Barry Sanders and Brent Jones don't do back flips in the end zone and many find such grandstanding an example of poor-sportsmanship. But, I must confess, considering how accurate the rest of the game was, I found myself waiting for one of the Packers to leap into the stands as their form of touchdown celebration.
This is a very solid footbal sim that shows terrific attention to detail. I recommend it as one of the most well-evolved football program to date, proving once again that the members of EA's programming teams are some of the best. But flaws in the control and gameplay leave you wanting slightly more (Madden '98 perhaps?).