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.
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?).