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New 'Madden' title tackles the field

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

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"Madden NFL 06" implements a revamped offensive game.

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The "Madden NFL" video game franchise has scored touchdown after touchdown, selling an astounding 43 million copies in 15 years.

"Madden NFL 06" continues to trounce the competition -- on the three major console platforms and Windows PCs -- by delivering the same kind of fun, accessible and deep pro football play as its predecessors.

The new "Madden" is this season's only officially licensed National Football League video game, and it introduces a slew of features and improvements worth stepping onto the field for.

While last year's version tweaked the team's defense, "Madden NFL 06" implements a revamped offensive game, particularly when it comes to passing.

A new feature, QB Vision Control, shines a cone-shaped light on the field to represent the quarterback's field of vision. The better the QB, the wider his field of vision as he looks to fire the ball to an open receiver. You can swivel your quarterback's field of vision by pushing the right analog stick left and right.

You may throw to someone outside the cone, but the pass won't be as accurate. Newcomers to the game should try a few practice snaps first in the Madden Tutorials area.

Another fun offensive addition is the All-New Truck Stick Control. Activated by pressing the right analog stick forward at the point of impact with a would-be tackler, this feature allows you to pancake the defense to make way for the end zone. Keep in mind, however, the truck stick may lead to more fumbles, especially if the pigskin carrier isn't as big as a truck himself.

There's also a new audible that can be called at the line of scrimmage to quickly and easily change plays without tipping off the defense. And though it's a bit tricky to pull off, another new feature called smart routes lets you press a couple of buttons on the game controller to instruct specific receivers to perform special moves after the ball is snapped.

"Madden NFL 06" also includes an NFL Superstar Mode, a new single-player game that takes place on and off the field. You start by creating a rookie player from scratch (or, for a head start, you can import one from either "NCAA Football 06" or "NFL Street 2"). Once your player gets into the NFL, you help him work his way up the ranks by dealing with mentors, agents, fans and the media.

The goal is for your player to become a living legend as he flies from city to city for interviews, endorsement deals and acting gigs. Along the way, you can customize his look with clothes, haircuts and tattoos. This fun and refreshing game mode should be a treat for football fans interested in the celebrity lifestyle.

Expected "Madden" features from past games are back, including online support for Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 2 and Windows versions. The online play modes provide multiplayer games, downloadable rosters and other features.

The new "Madden" also includes broadcast-like camera angles, color commentary, dramatic replays and multiple game types such as the deep season franchise mode, quick match games for one or two players on the same screen and a host of mini-games such as "Two Minute Drill" (score as many points as you can before the clock hits zero) and "Rushing Attack" (the more yards you gain, the more points you rack up).

Unlike some franchises, which grow stale over time, "Madden NFL 06" hasn't lost its game. Its new features, high production values and fun play make it the must-have football title.

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