Each year, the Madden NFL series undergoes a few changes that make the game just a little bit better–while this makes many people happy, as the sales numbers can attest to, there are gamers out there who feel somewhat cheated, like Madden’s yearly release is just a way to get new rosters out. While that has never been the case–EA has constantly tweaked Madden and tried new ideas to enhance the user experience–this year’s edition, Madden NFL 10, seeks to overhaul the franchise through a number of smaller, more subtle refinements. What makes Madden NFL 10 impressive, and also arguably the best Madden title in its long history, is the fact that the developers enhanced, altered and changed so many things that the title feels the freshest it has in years.
Developer: EA Tiburon
Aug. 14, 2009
The developer’s goal was to make Madden NFL 10 look and feel like Sunday. We’re used to watching football on television, and we have an idea about what we should be seeing when a game is on–EA took those ideas and put them into the game’s “telecast”, so playing has a much more authentic, NFL feel to it than it ever has. In past Madden titles this generation, you had the realistic visuals, but there were plenty of areas that the game could be improved upon graphically so that while in motion it could be mistaken for a real-life NFL game and not just a video game. For starters, they added in half-time reports with highlight reels and scores from around the NFL, just like during an actual half-time. As long as you’re playing well, this should be fun, as you get to revisit some of your great plays from earlier in the game from different angles, just like you would if a television station was replaying events.
There’s much more than just that though, as the focus was to make the players and coaches also act the part of “real” NFL players in a real game. You’ll notice a lot more attention to detail with coaches on the sidelines, as they do more than just stand around now, and players will react to plays, either vocally or with some mini celebrations–for instance, after a huge gain with a running back that saw him shed a few pursuers and pick up a few first down, he screamed out, “That’s what I’m talking about, baby!” as he ran back to the huddle. EA also cut down the size of the playbook on screen so that these animations–players, coaches, fans, etc.–could be enjoyed while you make your next move.
Graphically, Madden has changed a bit as well–as I said before, in stills, Madden during the HD generation has always looked realistic, but now the game looks better in motion than ever before. The camera work is very fluid, and switches between various camera during play much like during a telecast of a game. Players react to hits by cringing, they look totally bushed when they are fatigued, and they do a much better job of being aware of their surroundings not just in their movements and routes, but visually–you’ll see player’s heads follow the ball and ball carrier, and because of things like this even something like blocking looks more realistic in action.
This realistic look stretches to some of the gameplay changes as well, such as the new Pro-Tak animation system. Pro-Tak allows for gang tackles, with anywhere from three to nine players. You can create a pile that moves with the ball–defense and offense can both push the pile–and depending on the player holding the ball, the pile can stand up for quite some time. If the gang tackle pile stands up too long, the refs will call the ball dead, just like in real life, which is just one of those little changes that serves to make Madden feel that much more realistic. This, along with the ability to fight for fumbles in a button mashing mini-game make the gameplay more interactive and realistic in 2010. The enhancements to gameplay go on and on–your controller will rumble when a defender gets near your QB in the pocket, which has already helped me curb my bad habit of getting sacked as I wait for an opening in the defense, the ratings have been given a makeover so that players are more true to their real life counterparts, you can now assign your best defenders to the best offensive players on the field to help “Lockdown” the offense, you can now choose to play injured players, just like in NCAA, or even just use the accelerated clock so that those of you that pick a play in two seconds can still feel like the clock is moving along at an acceptable pace. The accelerated clock knocks 15, 20 or 25 seconds off of the play clock, making long drives and killing time a breeze, and again, making a game of Madden more realistic than before. Best of all though, are the changes made to the AI–the game is designed to keep you from just running the same plays over and over, as the defense will adjust to your successes. The key then becomes to react to them, so for the first time, when the announcers talk about how running success early leads to later passing success, you can see this happen in real time as the linebackers start to close off the running lanes and leave your tight ends and wide receivers open over the middle.
EA didn’t just stick with the core game when it came to revamps, as the online modes also had some work done to them. For the first time ever, there is now two-player online co-op. There is also a “Madden Elite Status” purchasable add-on for Madden ($4.99), which will allow you to access VIP lobbies, leaderboards and a new mode, Elite Gametype. It’s setup in All-Madden difficulty and is meant to appeal exclusively to the most hardcore, die hard Madden fan out there. Best of all though is the Online Franchise mode. You can draft live with friends, there are message boards set up for your league, and you can manage it from either a web browser or through a brand new iPhone and iPod Touch application that went live earlier this month. This is basically like a fantasy version of fantasy football, except you get to play the games. This is honestly the biggest single addition to Madden in quite some time, and it’s very promising; it’s the kind of thing that should make people stick with the game longer. Each new copy of Madden NFL 10 comes with an activation code for online franchise mode, but those who buy the game used can also purchase an activation code from the Madden Shop.
Blast Factor: Madden NFL 10 is the most realistic and in-depth version of Madden yet. The game no longer just looks realistic, it plays and sounds that way too, which makes all of the difference in the world. It’s the best version of Madden that has been produced because of this, and with additions made to online modes like two-player co-op and online franchise, you will be playing it plenty.
Madden NFL 10 is available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles, and retails for $59.99