The game is out and there seems to be a lot of railing against it from online magazines and a lot of variety in what people deem as "good" and "bad".
I'm a big Madden backer, most people that check out Console Gold know that. Many also know that I give every game its due process...in this case that would be ESPN NFL 2K5. I love both games, but I think gameplay wise the Madden games are just better. The graphics and audio portions were owned by 2K5, no doubt about it. However the overall gameplay was better in Madden 2005 in my opinion (your opinion may and is allowed to vary).
When the NFL exclusivity was announced it cut the hardcore sports gamers (I'm not talking the mainstream gamers that pick a football game up here) in two. On one side the majority, at least in print, felt that EA basically did unspeakable crimes to them and that EA was actually the one that bought the license outright. The minority side takes the stance that it was the NFL that wanted an exclusive license with a company and EA wasn't going to let its biggest selling game every year go by the wayside, so they ponied up the major money in order to get the license.
Both sides were very worried about EA Tiburon not adding anything substantial to the game given that there was no competition. The additions in Madden 06 are such things as the Visual Cone, a Superstar mode (that is somewhat like The Crib from NFL 2K5, but seems to be more broad), the Truck Stick for RBs, Precision Passing and general refinements to the offensive line and defensive oversights from last year.
Last Friday IGN's Review (8.8) came out. They railed against the Visual Cone passing, but generally they gave good spin on what they felt were weak things. They also said there were no new animations visible. Yesterday Gamespot's Review came out (8.2). They also ripped on the Visual Cone passing and also talked about other bugs, the biggest of which was having hards taken away from passing yards when a QB is sacked or an interception was made. The writer must have found out he was incorrect and he later edited the review. He was pretty pissed off about this, so I wonder since that problem is not there if the score would be higher or not. He also makes it perfectly clear that the Superstar mode is stupid in his mind, while it seems some posters on Operation Sports forum think differently.
Those two reviews, from the two biggest online magazines, paint Madden 06 and its refinements and additions as nothing substantial. Then we have two other reviews: Team Xbox (9.0) and 1Up (9.0) and a magazine review (EGM) that gave it 8.5, 9.0, 9.5. The Team Xbox and 1Up reviews are much more even in how they present their feelings, giving pros and cons. In fact, 1Up goes so far as to say there are indeed new animations.
Granted, the scores may not be significantly different, but the tones of the reviews are. Railing against EA and Madden are all the rage once again now that Madden is the only NFL game on the planet. Yes, we can all be bitter about the exclusivity, but if the NFL hadn't have been greedy we could have multiple titles once again. Same thing goes for the NCAA (EA) and Major League Baseball (Take Two). Welcome to the era of exclusivity. I wouldn't be surprised if the NBA and NHL don't join in on the fun either, but at least this year we'll have multiple choices.
Anyway, I probably have no point in this. Every year this whole thing just rubs me the wrong way. I grow tired of people picking sides and not listening to the other side or arguing about who is at fault for getting an exclusive license. You're either interested in Madden or not; you either want a new football game or not; you either want to keep playing ESPN NFL 2K5 for the next 5 years or not pick up a football game at all...it's your choice, but let's stop arguing about it.
I'm picking up my copy this afternoon. I don't know when I'll be able to play it, but there are plenty of opinions out there from people.