Madden NFL 10 Review

David Creech

EA Tiburon has been producing Madden for over a decade now, and some years we see incremental changes and other years dramatic. Madden 10 is largely composed of the incremental changes, despite the plethora of new features EA Tiburon added to the game. The overall gameplay is very similar to last year, and the appearance is only better in some of the aspects. Is a great soundtrack enough to push the game into the buy category, or will the achievements convince you only to rent it?

Great detail on the stadia and the crowds filling them.

The online co-op is easily the biggest selling point out of the box this year, with far more promised than delivered. Co-op means just that… you can play with a friend (or a stranger) against the AI, but one thining the game lacks is to play against other co-op teams. The host is the only one able to call the plays, although of course with chat you can coordinate if there are disagreements in strategy. The camera in co-op is reminiscent of Superstar mode from a few years back, and often leaves you wondering what happened on a play. Still, with a good partner, you can have a bit of fun and maybe learn from a master. With three achievements tied to this mode, the chances of finding someone to play with are pretty good. Perhaps next year they can add in the 2 vs 2 option and go back to the sky cam view, which would make this one of the best ways to play the game.

The PRO-TAK engine is perhaps the most notable impact to gameplay. Tackles are much more interactive, albeit much more final, and it is rare to run through a tackler, as instead you will likely be dragging them along until enough pile on top to drop you down. There is a noticeable difference between heavy running backs and the lighter wide receivers as well, as the wide receivers tend to hit the ground much faster with little chance of yards after contact. Part of this is the Fight for the Fumble feature, where if there is a pileup on the ball, you mash buttons to try to get the ball from the bottom of the pile. With two humans fighting it out this works reasonably well most of the time, but if you are against the AI you don’t really have a chance without a turbo controller. The last new feature is the revised half time show, renamed “Extra Points.” Generally it is well worth skipping, except late in the season in Franchise mode, where it starts adding progress reports that may interest you.

Returning this year is the Rewind feature, which is great when playing against a partner who has a significantly different skill level. You can choose to have this disabled (default) or parse out how many rewinds per game each player gets - up to an unlimited number. Each player gets the setting individually, so expert players might get one or none, while new (or younger) players might get 5 or more. Each down can only be rewound once, so this doesn’t permit unlimited mulligans, but it can be quite fun to have a 20-yard gain nullified by your opponent only to smoke them again on the re-do by scoring a touchdown.

O-Line? I didn't see one as I ran by...

The graphics are solid again this year, although no major changes are evident. As usual, the stadia are detailed, great crowd animations, the pregame details are very well done, and the player animations look stellar. Most of the improvements seem to be the little things, like uniform variety, attire on the coaches and in the crowd amongst other little tweaks. The only negatives related to the graphics are the loading screens where they show the player ratings, as represented by big ugly bar graphs which don’t really seem to match the rest of the gloss and flare of the game. The Snickers advertising is quite pervasive as well, but at least they tried to put some humor into it.

Madden 10 feels very much the same as last year when playing the game. The AI players are a bit quicker to react to called plays, and chase the ball carrier better than last year. However, the offensive line still can’t pick up blitzes, especially from the outside, and generally the defense is overpowered again this year. This lends to a faster style of play, with most successful passes in the three-five yard range, and running plays to the outside less likely to succeed. It is arguable that when playing the best teams in the NFL that this is pretty realistic, so this isn’t necessarily a negative. One little bit that comes across as very cool the first couple times but gets old fast is the referee conference on close plays. A bit of variety would have been nice, but there seem to be only three animations and the same audio each time. The ability to tweak almost every aspect of gameplay returns, with additional options and a bit better organization. From individual player stats to what types of penalties are called, everything can be changed to customize your favorite team and the competition.

The online experience is a bit less user friendly than prior years, with an updated menu system that is far from intuitive. However, once you get past that, the options are there to hook up in 32-player franchise mode, find a co-op partner, skilled or unskilled opponents, and a new elite mode for the best of the best. Note that the elite mode is not packaged with the game; you have to purchase this through the in-game marketplace.

Pile ups are new this year and quite well done.

The game comes with a very good soundtrack, albeit a bit heavier than last year: Alice in Chains, Killswitch Engage, Iron Maiden, Slipknot, Black Sabbath, and more. The dialogue in game is usually pretty on target, although it can get repetitive after playing a whole season. There is a lot more player chatter, and the crowd noises ebb and flow as the game goes on. If you are losing badly at home, expect to be booed by the fans! As stated previously, the Extra Points is worthy of skipping except when playing franchise.

The achievements lend this to be one of the fast 1000 games, and overall are just not well done. While requiring five minute quarters and All-Pro difficulty is a good start, the variety is not there and it is quite possible to get 1000 points in three to four hours. Most of the points come from beating star players in a certain way, such as forcing LaDanian Tomlinson to fumble, or snagging an interception against Peyton Manning. Throw in three achievements for online co-op, a couple secret achievements (all of which are pointless) and then a few to highlight the new PRO-TAK features, and there is your four hour game.

Overall, Madden 10 is a fun game, especially if you are a big fan of the NFL. If you are looking to boost your gamerscore quickly, it is definitely one to add to your rental list. If you are looking for a football game to play with friends for the next year, you can’t go wrong with this one. Although the changes and new additions may not be game changing, they do enough to keep Madden 10 fresh and playing with a buddy in co-op is always fun.

The audio is surprisingly good for a sports game. With the exception of the Extra Points feature, you might actually leave the sound turned up as you enjoy the game. Noticeably less repetitive than prior years and a solid soundtrack contribute to a winning score.

A solid experience visually, with good animations and the best pre-game show to date. Madden 10 leans a bit more towards grit than gloss, which detracts at times from the overall look of the game.

Madden is the ultimately playable game, with the ability to jump right in for new players but ramping it up for the experts with customized rosters and pre-snap player-by-player play calling.

There is not much new in the delivery, although the online menu system is definitely not an improvement. Still, a solid experience that is generally intuitive and easy to navigate. The loading times seem a bit longer than last year, but once you are in the game things flow quite smoothly.

Another pathetic showing this year seems to confirm that EA Tiburon have given up on making this aspect of the game interesting. The only positive thing to say is that some of the names have humor behind them.

Madden 10 is a good game, and the three to four hours for 1000 points is quite enjoyable. For fans of the franchise, there is much to be explored solo or with friends, but for the rest of the crowd, this will be a one-day rental as you move on to a more challenging game.

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