Madden NFL 10

September 23, 2009

Every year EA comes out with a new installment in their Madden series and every year gamers ask why they should purchase what might amount to just a roster upgrade for the previous edition. With EA going the extra mile in their attempt to make Madden NFL 2010 worth purchasing, things are different this year.

The biggest two additions to Madden this year provide a much more robust online experience. This time, in addition to being able to play single matches one-on-one online, you can also play cooperatively online with a friend against the AI. Madden also finally gives players the ability to play in an online franchise mode against up to 31 other players. Every player gets to pick a team and those not chosen by a person will be controlled by the AI for the duration of the franchise. Don’t worry if the rest of the league drops out, you can convert it from an online franchise to an offline franchise and continue where you left off.

While there were only a couple major additions to Madden this year, there were a host of other tweaks and changes that EA made to the Franchise and Superstar modes, most of them for the better. In Franchise mode the entire user interface has been altered, putting the focus squarely on each week’s game. The new interface also makes accessing the various windows and stats much easier and it just feels sleeker and less cluttered. Within the games the commentary is higher quality than it was the previous few years with less repetition from the broadcasters than you would normally expect to hear. One of the changes I appreciated most made it so you cannot just skip over an injury and not realize it happened. You will be given a message box telling you who was injured and letting you know your staff is determining how severe it is. Later in the game you will be informed how serious the injury is and given the option to put the player back in the game, despite his injury, with a corresponding risk of getting injured even worse. The nicest touch in this feature is the game will tell you who would replace him and what his overall rating is. This way you know exactly how much you need, or don’t need, to risk re-injury.

The gameplay is also improved in a major way compared to the last couple editions. Tackles are now more realistic than ever because they are no longer pre-animated and canned. They are calculated during the game so they now look realistic, gang tackles are finally possible, and dogpiles actually happen. Even breaking tackles works better than ever thanks to the new tackling system. Gameplay balance is significantly improved over previous years. Interceptions occurring on practically every possession are a thing of the past. You are no longer guaranteed to catch a pass even if your receiver is open. Running is more realistic- huge gains are less common than before and fighting for every inch you can get is the order of the day. Fumbles still happen a tad too often, but less often than in previous iterations. Even the team ratings seem more balanced. You will have a much tougher time beating the Steelers or Patriots with the Lions than you would have in the past. It is still possible because Madden is a game of skill, but it will take more skill to win with a bad team than usual.

Unfortunately, not all the changes EA made to Madden worked out as well. The Superstar mode has been panned yearly for being clichéd and shallow, but not this time. This year it feels incomplete, tacked on, and buggy. In the past you went through the motions of a college star: going to the NFL Combine; hiring an agent; and getting interviewed by the media. How you did in the minigames that make up the Combine determined your created player’s stats and abilities. All of that is gone now: you manually assign points to your superstar through sliders when you create him instead of going through the Combine; you do not select an agent; and even the email alert system from previous years is gone. While it was mostly used for spam emails from your “mother”, it did give you some useful information by keeping you up to date on the moves and decisions your coach and general manager made.

The gameplay in Superstar mode doesn’t feel up to par with the Franchise mode. It feels awkward and the improvements made to the tackling and balancing are nonexistent. To top it all off, there is no commentary or speaking of any kind during a game in Superstar mode. It almost feels as if you are playing the game with the volume off, except that you can hear the crowd and the sounds the players make. This makes actually playing a game in Superstar mode feel kind of eerie and off-putting. Considering the amount of detail and attention put into the Road to Glory mode in NCAA Football, it is disappointing to see the lack of quality in Superstar mode.

The graphics, as usual, are better than ever. The players look more realistic, the crowds feel more alive, and the new cinematic camera angles make it feel even more like the real thing. The soundtrack, however, is more of the same random generic rock and rap music.

Madden 10 is more than just a roster update thanks to the improvements in the balancing and gameplay. If you are a fan of professional football, and you love football games, then Madden 10 is a worthwhile purchase.

Pros: The gameplay is much improved over last year; the balance is much better; the franchise mode had some nice tweaks to it

Cons: The Superstar mode is incomplete and buggy; it is hard to actually finish a game online because more often than not, people quit when they start losing

Plays Like: Madden, NCAA Football

ESRB: Rated E- If you can watch football, you can play Madden

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.