January 03, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Dalton Ross suits up for ”Madden NFL 07”

(EA, Everyone, all platforms)
Honestly, how much I enjoy a new edition of Madden football depends on how lame my favorite team (the Redskins) happens to be that year. Luckily, they’ve got a pretty decent squad this time around. (49er fans, you may want to take a pass.) Decent is a good word to describe the latest updates to this 17-year-old videogame franchise. The kicking mechanism — which has tended to be wildly frustrating in some past years — is pretty fluid, and a new blocking feature lets you control players at the line of scrimmage. (You can even use a dirty cut block and take out a guy’s knees. What’s not to love about that?) The Superstar mode allows you to create a player at any position and then play him exclusively on the field with the goal of ending up in the Hall of Fame. Sounds cool, but it also leads to an excessive amount of menu toggling as you do things like conduct interviews (which prove almost as boring here as in real life). Of course, those are all just little bells and whistles: The basic gameplay remains unchanged. But hey, if it ain’t broke… B+ —Dalton Ross

(Square-Enix, Teen, PS2)
Don’t judge this game by its lineage: Even though the Final Fantasy series is synonymous with the role-playing genre, Dirge of Cerberus is — surprise! — a third-person action-shooter set three years after the events of FF VI. You play Vincent Valentine, a red-cape-wearing hero who wields his mighty Cerberus pistol against the Deepground, a group of soldiers with a nefarious plan to activate the all-powerful Omega weapon. While there’s certainly a lot of dialogue — too much, in fact, with cut scenes lasting up to 10 minutes — the gameplay is blander than prison meatloaf. A typical level goes something like this: You point and shoot at bad guys in nondescript corridors while trying to accomplish goals that end in an exclamation point (”Protect the boy!”). This could have been Final Fantasy‘s answer to Devil May Cry or God of War, but instead this mediocre effort proves that Square-Enix is better off sticking to its RPG roots. C —Geoff Keighley

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