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VIDEO GAME REVIEWS



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



'MADDEN NFL 07'

(EA Sports) for Xbox 360, GameCube PlayStation 2, Xbox, PSP, PC, DSGenre: Sports; Rating: EGrade: B-

The "Madden" football franchise is almost as much a cultural event as it is a video game. It probably gets more mainstream press (besides the "Grand Theft Auto" bashing) and sells more games than just about any other in a given year.

Of course, this ignores the fact that the "Madden" franchise has lost its main competition, "2K's NFL" franchise, and with it EA has lost some of its drive to make large leaps in progress. While this year's version is an improvement over "Madden 06," it still feels a lot like last year's only with some of the bugs fixed.

Besides the annual improvement of the menu screens, the game modes themselves have also gotten some upgrades. The superstar mode has been added to the 360 version and enhancements have been made across all consoles. In addition to the always-enjoyable franchise mode, the superstar mode is easily the most enjoyable, because creating a rookie in any position and trying to make the Hall of Fame is good fun.

The game play itself seems to ebb and flow in any given year; two years ago it seemed the defenses were impenetrable, then last year it was too easy to run the ball. In "Madden 07," it's the passing game that has it too easy. Out patterns and hook routes are much too easy, and with a little patience you can march up and down the field and score at will.

The 360 version of "Madden 07" is clearly the best looking of all. Gamers still playing on current-gen platforms have more to look forward to than those 360 owners. The overall package plays and feels deeper on the PS2, Xbox and GameCube than it does on the 360. If EA is just biding its time until all the next-gen consoles are released, here's to hoping it buckles down and truly gives gamers something to cheer about when it delivers "Madden NFL 08" next summer.

Instead of settling for "good enough," there comes a point when you step back and realize that each year Madden has the chance to be the game of the year. Let's hope EA follows through on that promise. But no matter, there's no denying that "Madden" is a great game to own.

-- Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard

'NINETY-NINE NIGHTS'

(Microsoft Game Studios) for Xbox 360Genre: Action/adventure; Rating: MGrade: F

In this hack-and-slash adventure game, your thumb is gonna feel like it will explode if you have to rip off one more huge combo in order to slay the hundreds of enemies in front of you.

"Ninety-Nine Nights" is Microsoft's ode to the 360, since it is without question the most stunning and smoothest-running game on its next-gen console to date.

Sadly, "N3" is also perhaps the most mundane and repetitive game to come along in several years, and all of its audio and visual triumphs are undercut by the reality that this is just a frustrating game to play. While there are seven fully-playable characters, you have to complete the game as the main character, Inphyy, before getting to go at it with the others. If you succeed in venturing past that, my hat's off to you.

At best, what "N3" provides is an epic battlefield where you get to control two squads of soldiers and then rush into massive battles that do not seem to end, all the while tearing foes apart with vicious combos. At worst, all the enemy forces act the same, pretty much making them ripe for the slaughter, and your soldiers are about as useful as a dull sword, meaning you'll quickly ignore them and just fight everyone yourself.

Yes, "Ninety-Nine Nights" is a beautiful looking game, and I can only hope other game developers look to the visual quality of this title when making next-gen games in the future. But the game play is truly numbing (both to the brain and the thumb), and beyond a brief weekend rental there's more to be angry about in this game than there is joy.

-- Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard




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