posted: Sep. 9, 2005  |  Feedback

I have few rules in life, but this is one of them: Any time one of my buddies plays a "Madden" season in franchise mode through the year 2022, and he has a wife and two kids to boot, he gets to critique the next year's game on the Sports Guy's site. So here's my buddy Gus' critique of "Madden 2006."

• Short of bringing back Pat Summerall and the ambulance driving on the field, the NFL Films Music component is the best thing they ever could have done. Nothing beats kicking field goals in training camp on the All-Madden level with Sam Spence doing his thing in the background as the clock winds down.

• Love the cutaways to the coordinators in the booth during game play, as well as how the stands clear out if you're blowing out a team on the road in the fourth quarter.

• Not since Summerall uttered the word "Ah-Waaaay-Zah-kay" have I enjoyed an announcer saying a name as much as the way Michaels says "Putzier." The word "Houshmandzadeh" is also entertaining.

• NFL Superstar mode is a nice diversion. Fun to create yourself. But as a wideout who got drafted by the Browns, it was a bit of a bummer to try and improve in practice with Trent Dilfer as my QB. Fun to get all tattooed up, call out your coach and demand trades. I ended up in Tennessee and Drew Bennett and I make for a unique receiving duo (just call us "Vanilla Thunder"). And since there is a Ramsey in the NFL now, Al Michaels actually says my last name when I make a play. Once the season starts, I play the games with the accelerated clock on, and it's a fun half hour.

• Now, for the most controversial video game development that doesn't include subliminal pornography. I like the passing cone, but at the All-Madden level it's ridiculously hard. My hands haven't flailed about that haplessly since my junior prom. On All-Pro level it's better -- I imagine teenagers can handle it, but for a 30-something, carpel tunnel-impaired person, it's really hard at All-Madden level. The cone combined with precision passing makes completing the tough pass easier if you do it right, but the penalty for doing it wrong is often a pick. I asked six people at work if they play with the cone on or off and they all said "off." I can't imagine that anyone competing in this year's Madden Challenge would say, "Hey, do you mind if we turn the cone off?" So I'm keeping it on.

• I actually like that you can overthrow guys now, makes the game seem more realistic. I also like the random spin move as the runner bounces off tackles that is in the game this year. The return of the helmet flying off is also nice.

• You can still line up to block a punt and then audible to punt return formation to give yourself a chance at the punt return.

• The Broncos' playbook is loaded with play-action passing and is pretty fun to run. One good thing is that many of their receiver routes have two guys in the same line of vision, which makes using the cone a little easier. It's also fun to do running plays out of a formation in the first half thinking that the computer will bite on the run in the third quarter when I go to the play-action from the same formation.

• Dislikes: The elimination of the pregame weather report, which I always enjoyed; the drive-summary graphic after a score almost always has the wrong total yardage (details are important, dammit); they still haven't bagged the cameos for memory space and used actual cheerleader footage at halftime; sometimes when you try to throw a low precision pass the QB fades back and the throw is inaccurate; no Jimmy Kimmel and Tim McGraw at halftime. I like it, I love it.

• My ultimate goal is to get to 2030 with this game. In last year's version I made it to 2024 and Wade Phillips retired in 2022! I can't believe he made it that long without being fired -- that had to be the upset of the century.

Final grade: B-plus.

September 2005