Criticizing EA for releasing what is seemingly the same Madden year-over-year with minimal adjustments has become a sort of favourite past-time of mine. However, this year's entry into the Madden franchise was different, and oddly enough, an enormous improvement over previous years. And while the 360, PS3 and current-gen versions ended up being great titles in their own right, it's the Wii version, designed specifically from the ground up, that's the real winner here.
Madden for Wii comes jam-packed with all the bells and whistles we've come to expect, and plenty more, but the biggest selling point is its unmatched control. Madden for Wii makes full use of both the Wii-mote and nunchuk attachment, allowing even the most inexperienced of footballers to make Devin Hester-like kick-return touchdowns, or 60-yard TD passes like Peyton Manning. With a simple flick of the wrist, you can execute highlight-reel-worthy jukes and spins, and it's all done exceptionally well on the Wii. Passing, for example, is pulled off by swinging the remote as if you were throwing the ball.
Juking and stiff arming on the other hand are assigned to the nunchuk and Wii-mote respectively; moving your arm left or right results in your player mirroring that gesture in the same direction. You'll even find yourself lifting the controllers into the air to make the catch. Better yet, there are a few additional features that are bound to ignite an ear-to-ear smile on your face, like when you have to raise your hands in the air and wave your arm to call for the fair catch, or when you take control of the ball carrier's legs and thrust the remote forward and back in tandem to initiate a speed burst. Yes, chances are you'll get mocked for doing this in front of your friends, but put the Wii-mote in their hands and good luck getting it back.
Thankfully, Madden provides first-time players with 'Learn Madden' - an interactive and welcomed tutorial, outlining every aspect of the game's control - so when you do jump into the game (trust me, you'll want to take this tutorial before you do), you won't be missing out on all the motion sensing goodness.
'... you have to raise your hands in the air and wave your arm to call for the fair catch...'
As invigorating as it can be to send bullet passes by swinging the remote, or getting the crowd to cheer by moving the controller up and down, not every play made a smooth transition to the Wii. I'll put it simply: kicking is a bitch. I've spent countless hours trying to master what is arguably one of the most important aspects of the game. It's not that I need to be able to pull off Matt Bryant field goals blindfolded - though that would be awesome - but missing game winners close to the goal can be costly, and frustrating.
Despite losing sleep trying to nail down the mechanics, kicks will still veer off to the left and right, and are rarely, if ever, directly on target. Likewise, on the defensive side of things, stripping the ball from a player - performed by lunging the remote forward and then back - rarely results in a successful turnover. The Big Hit move, where you shove both attachments forward in an attempt to send the quarterback or ball carrier to the hospital, is equally hit and miss.
That being said, three misses out of a dozen hits isn't a shabby record at all, and Wii's motion sensing capabilities make Madden an absolute blast to play, especially when you get a group of friends together who are willing to ignore how ridiculous they look and play a few games. Better still are the Wii-exclusive multiplayer mini-games, including an excellent 2 on 2 mode.
What the Wii version does lose points on is its lack of online functionality - a huge selling point of any sports game these days - and under par visuals when compared to its big brothers. As great as Madden looks on the Wii, comparable to the GCN version, and although it boasts widescreen and progressive scan support, it's hard to go from the sexy 720p shine the 360 version sports to a title that, visually, appeared on consoles years ago.
Then again, there's the age old debate of gameplay over graphics, and much like Twilight Princess, Madden is a prime example of when that proves to be true. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining football experience, and this is coming from a guy who swore never to play virtual football again when 2K got kicked into touch by EA.
Controls aside, Madden 07 for the Wii is essentially identical to the last-gen versions. Franchise mode makes an appearance, complete with fantasy draft, and almost everything else is present and correct: training sessions, create-a-player, and my personal favourite, Superstar mode, which like Oblivion earlier last year, gave a beating to my social life.
As great as it was to get hold of Twilight Princess after what seemed like years of delays, Wii owners should be celebrating Madden with equally open arms. Having been playing the series since its early heydays in the 90s, I can honestly say I haven't had this much fun with a football game in decades. Add a few friends into the gridiron mix and you're coming away with one of the best Wii experiences yet. If this is any indication of what the future holds for Nintendo and EA, then Wii owners have much more to cheer about than just getting another Mario.