|Although thousands of them already line up each August to catch the latest edition of gaming's most recognized annual title, it's safe to say that football fans and sports gamers will have an even harder time passing on the "06" version of Madden NFL. This edition of the long-running series introduces a few changes and additions, designed to make the challenges of executing on offense feel more realistic than ever before.
The most obvious changes to this year's edition come in the passing game, which introduces gameplay features based on quarterback-specific attributes. Most notable is the new "Vision Cone," which simulates the QB's field of view with a highlighted cone that fans out in the direction of the current intended receiver.
The feature is designed to force the player on offense to commit earlier in the play, and to telegraph his passes much more realistically than in earlier versions of Madden, making those improbably easy "no-look" completions a thing of the past. The range of the vision cone is based on multiple factors, including the quarterback's "talent" attribute rating and the difficulty settings at which the game is being played.
Madden NFL 06 also brings a new "Precision Passing" system to the series, which allows quarterbacks some direct control over the accuracy of their passes. By bumping the left analog stick or D-pad in the desired direction as the ball is passed, QBs can aim high, low, in front, or behind their receivers, allowing them to lead the catcher away from coverage or make use of height advantages.
Other features, more familiar to gaming's most popular sports series, are also present in Madden 06, along with new replay camera angles, animations, and other presentational upgrades. There's also an offensive answer to last year's defensive "hit stick" mechanic, which allows ball carriers to try to plow through oncoming hits and blocks with a flick of commitment on the analog stick.
As usual, this edition of Madden is designed to offer a highly customizable game of football, and players who prefer the more forgiving play design of earlier editions can simply turn off the Vision Cone -- or nearly any other element that conflicts with their personal style of play. The game also includes all the teams, stadiums, and players of the real-life NFL (thanks to an exclusive license that takes effect for the first time this year).