Review: Madden NFL 10 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)August 13th, 2009 | Written by Danreb Victorio | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360
Madden NFL 10 is, without a doubt, the biggest release of the summer. Why wouldn’t it? It signifies the official start of America’s favorite sport. Each year, Madden’s development team over at EA Sports presents a different focal point in the gameplay that then become staples over the years. But this year’s edition provides a couple factors to make this the most genuine football experience to date.
The slogan this year has been “Fight for every yard,” and that statement fits this game quite well. Thanks to the new Pro-Tak system, ball carriers—mainly the tailback have to be quite skilled to avoid tackles. While the trucking “highlight” stick is still a factor, gang tackles of up to eight guys can get piled on the ball-carrier, further emulating the experience of bigger guys like Marion Barber or Brandon Jacobs taking other big guys on while reaching for the first down marker.
This new Pro-Tak system has also enabled the developers to re-do the game’s fumbling mechanic. While fumbles are about as frequent as they are in every Madden game before it, they are definitely a lot more lively in this year’s game. When a fumble occurs while there are a handful of players in the area of the football, a short minigame will occur in which you must rapidly tap a given button on the screen. During this time, more players will be around the football and eventually the referees will decide who gets the ball. This is a welcome addition as this occurrence happens in about every football game, and every previous game in the series just had the fumbled ball roll into random players’ hands.
The ability to fight for every yard and fighting for every fumble are welcome additions to the game, but the most alarming change to the gameplay is that it has become a more realistic experience. While the pace of the games has noticeably slowed down, it relieves the game of its former arcade-like feel. Both offense and defensive play are a bit more balanced, making it both harder to run and pass the ball. As an added touch, when your QB is under pressure, your controller will start to rumble, like a ticking time bomb telling you it’s time to get rid of the ball.
While the changes in gameplay definitely enhance what looks to be the developer’s focus on realistic gameplay, EA Sports didn’t do too much with the rest of the modes. The Play Now, Franchise, Hall of Fame, and minigame modes all make a return and have experienced little to no change. The menus are as flashy as ever, but with that, they’re a bit harder to navigate, mainly because each option comes with a plethora of sub-options to choose from. While it’s good everything is streamlined and looks nice, navigating through so many menus can be a bit overwhelming.
The Franchise mode attempts to create a more realistic armchair experience by having a special show at the end of every week called The Extra Point, which like its halftime show counterpart, goes over the best plays of the week. But unlike the game’s new halftime show, almost none of the highlights are useless. On top of that, the game awards special performers with Player of the Week awards.
For armchair quarterbacks who play Madden’s Franchise mode religiously trying to make their Raiders the best team that ever walked the earth, the job will be almost more impossible thanks to the game’s free agency logic revitalization. Free agents now take into account multiple teams’ depth chart and talent on the roster and in turn, those factors have a significant impact on which teams they’ll sign with. On top of that, the development team has also messed around with the game’s draft classes and threw in some sure busts in the first round and some promising talent in the later rounds. The developers have promised to deliver a realistic football experience for all parties, and it looks like they’ve accomplished that feat.
The most exciting addition to the game’s franchise mode is the ability to finally play online. Players from around the world will use various teams in the NFL, and the player who acts as “commissioner” can oversee certain games and how they’ll roll with each team’s owner. In turn, it provides for a more controlled atmosphere, and player of the week awards can actually be earned without the fear of inflated stats gained by CPU players.
Even though EA Sports has acquired the rights to ESPN’s menus a few years ago, they still haven’t made any use of the acquisition. The game’s menus seem to emulate more of the NBC look, which makes sense, because that’s where Madden announced games before his retirement this summer. Aside from the game’s menus and various ticker visuals, the development team has gone leaps and bounds to deliver a more realistic-looking game. The depth of the field is fantastic and the pre-game presentation features fans walking into the stadium. On top of that, the little things such as sweat towels and handwarmers have been added to the players, furthering emulating what you see on the TV every Sunday. If there’s any complaint one can really make about the player models, it’s that long hair stills looks immovable and the quarterbacks continue to walk around looking intimidating despite not playing well.
Being a bit nitpicky, the sound is probably the worst factor in the game. While the game starts with an epic video of the talents of cover athletes Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald, the rest of the sound is pretty close to awful. The color commentary by Cris Collinsworth is as authentic as you’d expect in any game, but his voice is just annoying. While that part is more due to personal preference, Tom Hammond’s play-by-play commentary is even worse and shows absolutely no feeling to the game of football. It almost makes players wish that Al Michaels or even the radio announcer from Madden NFL 08 came back. In fact, considering Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth are the A-Team on NBC, they should be on board.
Despite what anybody says about the game, hardcore Madden fans will pick this up on the midnight following its release. But for players really wondering whether this year’s game is worth the pickup, it really depends on the amount of time you’re willing to dedicate. If you have a solid internet connection and have the time to dedicate to the game’s impressive franchise mode, Madden NFL 10 is a must-buy. But if you’re a more casual gamer just wanting to play this game for a bit, you might be better pressed to get last year’s version of the game. Either way, this year’s “back-to-basics” approach works well and it looks like Madden has finally found a comfortable home and identity this generation.