Madden NFL 10 is a different yet familiar beast on the Wii this year. It’s familiar in the sense that the modes and much of the gameplay you know and love are there, making it in one way similar to its hi-def console cousins, but on the other hand you have a game that is no longer striving for a watered down version of the realism shown in the other versions of the game. Whereas the focus of Madden NFL 10 on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 was on the revamping of realism and how that positively changes the game experience, Madden NFL 10 for Wii is meant to give the system its own distinctive football game that plays towards its strengths and its audience. In that sense, it’s a success, but that does not mean that there are not some issues that should be ironed out for next year’s edition.
Developer: EA Tiburon
Aug. 14, 2009
If you have been following our coverage, you know about the changes to the look of Madden on Wii. The art director, Tim Spangler, spoke with us at length about the new, arcade looking style, and the reasons why EA Tiburon went that route. Many people may not like the new direction, but if you give it a chance, you will see that there is a lot to love about it. It’s arcadey, sure, but there isn’t any of that out there right now either, and that style helps to make things like Big Hits (the Wii Remote version of a Hit Stick tackle) that much more fun and satisfying. Most importantly, the menus and fields got a makeover, not just the players. The stadiums and fans fit well with the art style, and act as an extension of the direction they were going for with the players redesigns. The menus are also much more polished and are well-presented, thanks to IR support.
Madden NFL 10 Wii also has plenty of its own exclusive game modes. There is Madden Showdown, which lets you play 5-on-5 or classic 11-on-11 in customizable games. It’s a 1-4 player tournament, so it’s great for a quick run of games by yourself of if you want to see which one of your friends is the best at Madden. There are a few things EA Tiburon did that change things up a bit in this mode. First up is Game Changers, which are basically extreme rule changes. There’s Tug of War, which gives you a single down before the ball is turned over, meaning you have to score fast. Fumblitis makes you much more prone to fumbles, All Passing Plays and All Running Plays are self-explanatory, as well as many others including a Random mode that will keep you on your toes. These are a lot of fun if you want to have some laughs while you play, or if you’re just tired of the standard gameplay. Within the games themselves you may come up on spotlight moments, which are dramatic, game-changing moments. A mini-game (much like the fumble pile in the 360/PS3 versions) will come up, and you’ll fight for things like breaking a tackle for a big gain, fighting for the ball, sprinting to the endzone, or avoiding defenders trying to sack you in the pocket.
This mode is fun, but the other new mode that I prefer is Road to the Super Bowl. It’s a season mode with a few new twists. You can keep the 5-on5 gameplay here if you would like, which makes things interesting enough to begin with, but you can also choose a differing season length, or start off right in the playoffs. This mode is 1-4 players and features co-op, but there’s a catch. Completing a pass, catching the ball, running successfully, picking the ball off , sacking the QB, and basically anything else you can think of are worth points, which are tallied at the bottom of the screen. You need to earn points to stay in the game–if you fall below a certain threshold, you will be benched, and your partner will have to buy you back into the game using some of his points. If you’re playing single-player, you will lose, so you need to make sure you pay attention and try to keep your production consistent and avoid costly mistakes. This makes Road to the Superbowl loads of fun if you’re playing with a group of friends, especially if you want to pass controllers around every time one of your buddies gets himself kicked to the curb. In 5-on-5 mode you’re also guaranteed some action, since there are so few offensive options on the field at any time, so you won’t be bored playing co-op.
As for actual gameplay, the best new addition is that of Point-and-Pass. Simply point the IR at the player you want to throw to, and hit A. No more complicated motions that you need to remember to perform specific actions, just point and press A harder or softer depending on whether you want to rifle it in there or lob it over the defenders. The IR usage goes deeper than that though, with Call Your Shots returning on offense–this allows you to write new routes for your players and take advantage of holes or mismatches in the defense–and for the first time appearing on defense. This helps you keep your best defenders where and on who you want them to be, and is much more rewarding than simply calling an audible.
EA Tiburon has also added All Player defense this year, so for those inexperienced or younger players, you now have things a bit easier on both sides of the ball. There’s also a Huddle Up mode which can work for father/son or boyfriend/girlfriend duos, since one player uses the IR remote rather than a player to change things on the field. If dad’s tossing a pass but he’s going to get smoked by a lineman, Little Timmy can use his IR pointer to knock that guy right over and give dad some space in the pocket. It works for opening up holes in running lanes, clearing pass routes and anything else you can think of. Obviously this makes the game a bit easier, but it’s good for people who want to introduce the game to inexperienced and young players that may not be able to enjoy the full version of Madden yet.
The last major change to All-Play also benefits more hardcore Madden devotees. There is now Skill Level Play Calling, which lets you choose from All Play, Intermediate and Advanced play calling menus. Ask Madden is still around as well and as useful as ever if you’re in a pinch, though he’s a lot less chatty than he used to be.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any of the traditional modes yet, like Franchise and Superstar. They are in the game under the Classic Modes section, and they received the same gameplay and visual updates to the players, stadiums and fans that the brand new modes received, but there is a little something amiss with them presentation wise. They still have the bland, boring menus from the 2009 version of Madden, and lack the polish that the new menus do; even the way you select things changes, as the IR function no longer works. While this does not affect the gameplay experience, it’s just kind of odd to see, given the attention to detail everywhere else. Hopefully this will be changed in the 2011 version of Madden, and hopefully they won’t be modes you have to unlock either.
Blast Factor: The new Wii exclusive modes are great, and make this more of a “party” Madden than any other. It accomplishes this without sacrificing the gameplay you love either, and in fact makes it easier for even those who aren’t familiar with Madden–or even football–to play and play well. The new visual style won’t work for everyone, but trust me when I say it will grow on you as you see it in motion. It’s a shame that the classic modes weren’t given the same attention as the new ones, but given Madden Wii is in a transition phase, we can give it a pass on that and hope for better things next year.
Madden NFL 10 is available on the Nintendo Wii, and retails for $49.99