There’s no need for a real introduction to the Madden NFL series. It’s been going for a bloody long time. Each year, improvements are made of either the technical or graphical variety which creates the phrase “This is the best Madden yet” every single year. Madden and NHL are the only sport video games I actually enjoy. They just always seem to be a step above all the others. FIFA and PES don’t intrigue me because I’m not a fan of football, games such as Top Spin feel too arcade and NBA games just seem a little boring. But Madden and NHL, Madden in particular, feel more like strategy games when push comes to shove. Having to figure out what you want to do before hand as well as timing everything well, because both games are extremely fast paced.
Well Madden 10 is, I’m proud to say, the best Madden yet. And this year, it’s the tiny things that make it that much better. Madden 09 made a lot of gameplay changes to make it a step above 08 which, at the time, seemed near perfect. Madden 10 focuses on the little details to make it that much more of an experience. Things like the quarterbacks being handed a towel, your running back slamming the ball to the ground after a poor play, to even the correct placement of details on the uniforms. It's the little touches like this that EA Tiburon has made to make it that much closer to the real thing.
All these little changes have been built on to what was already a solid game, with Madden 09, to spruce it up in its Sunday best. The presentation has been significantly improved, the menus are less like a maze now and are much easier to work your way around in. This is extremely important in the main mode, Franchise Mode, which relies on you checking your team’s league standings; performing trades, checking up on injured members of your team, improving players’ stats and so on and so forth. I’ll come back to Franchise Mode at a later point. The Play Call screen is much more streamlined in-game so you can get a better view of the field. The little things make the presentation that much better and make it feel as if you are watching Sunday Night football. Little cutscenes to show people filing into the stadium, buying merchandise, taking photos in front of the stadium as well as the Half-Time reports, which show a run-down of the games stats during half-time, all make it seem as if you’re watching a game live, rather than playing it.
Stats also become a big part in the actual playing of the game, especially with the inclusion of the new “Pro-Tak” animations, which allows for up to nine players to be involved in a gang tackle. I mainly played through Franchise mode with the New York Giants, and on many occasions Brandon Jacobs, the running back for the NY Giants, blasted through a lot of tackles due to his high “strength” and “break tackle” ratings. To test out these stats, I also played as a number of other teams, testing out the running game, and it is very apparent when you’re playing with a weaker running back as they go down almost immediately making it very hard to manoeuvre where the tackle is heading (which can be done by pushing forward to counter the defence trying to push you back) never mind break the tackle. Another instance of this was when Quarterback for the NY Giants, Eli Manning, was injured and had to sit out the rest of the game (luckily on one quarter left) and he was replaced by a 74 QB who had much lower deep throw accuracy. Where as Manning might have had a chance to make the throw, this new quarterback didn’t stand a chance and the throw went completely off target. The new, deeper ratings system makes it much easier to organise your team to suit your playing style and makes it that much more satisfying to get a first down or even a long dash to the end zone.
On the Field play is improved as well. Wide receivers run their play route more predictably, defenders only mark their man rather than running to wherever the ball may be (although if you throw it deep, chances are a lot of the defence will try to stop you). If you do stupidly throw it deep on a bad play, the defence will knock it away or take an interception more easily, so you will need to survey the field before your Quarterback’s pocket collapses.
But back to Franchise Mode. This is essentially the main mode of the game. Here you take a team of your choice through the regular season, into the playoffs and, if you do well, on to the Superbowl. This mode has a lot of tweaking to make the team your team. Trading players, improving players, improving the coaching and checking up on the health of injured players. This mode is worth the purchase of the game alone. There is so much here to mess about with and then you finally get into the football.
I do have a few problems with the game though. Madden 10 does a lot to make the game run as smooth as possible, but at times, especially during running plays, my running back seems to clip through a crowd of people which sort of dampens the realism. Little glitches with the added features such as the QB’s phone suddenly disappearing through to the fans in the stadium doing robotic movements also help to dampen the experience. The ideas are good on paper, but the execution seems a little sloppy. The Half-Time show and the End of Week update Show seems a bit robotic too, although it is a nice touch to make it feel as it is a real NFL broadcast.
Madden 10 has online capabilities but, after previous experiences with online Madden games, I feared to try them out because they usually end up slaughtering me, so I like to adjust the opponent AI to my liking in the offline modes. However, there are still plenty of things to enjoy online.
If you want to get into American Football, Madden 10 is a great place to start. The improved gameplay adds realism but doesn’t take away the user-friendly experience is a definite asset, especially to a beginner. Most Madden games don’t add much to the game to warrant a purchase every single year, but the amount of tweaks in Madden 10 is definitely worth a look at the very least. It’s safe to say Madden 10 is the best Madden yet!