The end of summer, the start of fall, and the first mornings when you need to run back into the house to grab your coat. These landmark times can only mean one thing, it’s football season again, and more importantly, it’s Madden season again. The question is: does this year’s entry, Madden NFL 10, do enough to warrant your purchase? The answer is that you need to head out to your nearest retailer and pick this one up. And I’ll tell you why. First of all, Madden has not changed fundamentally from its formula from last year, or the year before that, or the year…you get it. However, the small adjustments, tweaks and upgrades make it a new, better and definitive game of football on next-generation consoles.
You should know right off that bat that this year’s game is no cakewalk. This is arguably the most difficult Madden to date. Don’t expect to jump into a franchise, pick a receiver and throw fly routes all day on your way to a Super Bowl. Be honest, you’ve done that. The AI has been improved and toughened on defense, and the offense is also smarter. The computer-controlled team really will find your weaknesses and exploit them on both sides of the ball. Like to sit in a play-it-safe, conservative defense? They will churn you up for 5-6 yards every play. Like to blitz all day? Get ready to be “play-actioned” all day for big plays. The AI adds a much-needed level of thought to the game, because no longer can you find something that works and use it over and over again, or you will be punished.
The most highly-touted new feature this year is the all-new Pro-Tak system. This is a defensive mechanic that allows us to wave goodbye to canned tackling animations forever. Every time a tackle happens, it is allowed to play out dynamically. If the hit is a good one, the runner might go down hard without delay. However, if the runner manages to struggle and avoid going down, a few different things can happen. He might just break away and go for more yardage. On the other hand, you might see five players gang-tackle him brutally. You won’t see the same tackle twice, and I must say that Pro-Tak is very impressive, adding a new level of realism to tackling. It is also very evident that the referees and penalties system has been overhauled, and it’s for the better. You’ll see refs going over to talk to each other to discuss calls, and they always get them right. Penalties occur much more frequently than past entries, which also adds to the feeling that you are part of a real football game.
Aside from the new features, the game simply runs more smoothly than it ever has. In fact, no football game can hold a candle to this one in terms of fluidity, realism, and pure fun. The basic controls are intact, and you’ve still got mostly the same options for play-calling, on-field adjustments, and the like. You’ll be able to see when injuries happen, and more importantly, why they happen. Fatigue also plays into the game experience a lot more this year, and you’ll notice each game being realistically affected by it. For example, if your defense is forced to stay on the field all night, you’re not going to be able to get much in terms of pass rush late in the fourth quarter because your D-line will be spent. It’s frustrating, but realistic. It’s actually rather difficult to explain because there really aren’t that many details that are “different” than, for example, Madden 09.
In order to understand, you must play the game, and once you do you won’t put it down.
There have not been any drastic changes to the lineup of game modes this year. If you’ve ever played Madden at all, you know that franchise mode will consume the bulk of your time. It is largely unchanged from last year, but the biggest addition is the fantastic online franchise mode. You have the ability to create a franchise with one or many more of your buddies and compete in a full franchise online, from week to week. It is simply awesome, and must be enjoyed really to take advantage of what this game has to offer. One addition to franchise mode that could have been left out is the Extra-Point show, which is used as a wrap-up and halftime show each week. Unfortunately, this seems very tacked-on, and is pretty messy. There are awkward pauses, video clipping occurs frequently, and overall it just seems like the game would have done better without it.
Online play is just what we’ve come to expect from the Madden series: smooth and enjoyable. In my roughly ten full online games so far I have not experienced a single disconnect. There are minor hiccups here and there, but they are rarely during an actual play, and do not detract from the experience in any big way. Again, the online franchise mode is simply awesome.
Visually, this is one of the best-looking games on current-gen systems, not just one of the best-looking sports games. The player models, stadiums, animations, movements, lighting effects, and truly just about everything else is spot-on. I tried to find a flaw in the way this game looks, and I failed. The new Pro-Tak system is an incredible step forward in football animations, and I guarantee that you will be impressed with the way it looks, as well as with the way the game looks as a whole.
The audio in the game will not surprise any fan of the series. The sound effects seem to be largely unchanged, and the music is the usual mix of some hip-hop, rock, and metal from artists like 2-pac, Beastie Boys, and so on. The commentary is excellent for a while, but you do start to hear a good amount of repeats and awkward pauses during games after a while. The fellas in the booth do give a lot of good information, such as stats, player and team backgrounds, and tendencies. Like the visuals, the sound does not generate any big complaints.
Madden NFL 10 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is one of those games that makes you feel like you have arrived at the destination for which the genre has been heading all these years. During your first game, you will understand what makes this Madden really propel the series forward. The core elements that make Madden what it is are faithfully intact, but EA has moved significantly forward in terms of visuals, animations, fluidity, AI, and overall realism and fun. If you are a fan of the series, this is a no-brainer to pick up, but even if you are even a mild sports fan, you cannot go wrong with Madden NFL 10.