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Madden NFL 2010 Review

By now we all know what a behemoth the Madden franchise is and the impact it has had on sports gaming in general.  Some cherish it and some loathe it, but it’s the only licensed NFL game available, so play it you must.

I remember a time when football gaming was competitive.  Visual Concepts and Sega had released ESPN NFL 2K5 for $20 and EA Sports must have been straight spun.  But alas, no more.

Soon after that I read in utter dismay that EA had monopolized football gaming through an exclusive and costly NFL license.  In the years that followed, all the Madden reviews that I read couldn’t help but mention that EA was just dialing in their biggest and most lucrative franchise and that the series never really stepped it up from year to year.

While I agreed with these reviewers whole heartedly, I never stopped playing Madden.  It was firmly lodged in my gaming subconscious from the days of the early 90′s on the Sega Genesis to the late 90′s on the Sega Saturn to every other console after that.  I would never abandon it.  I loved NFL 2K5 for the strides the developers took to give EA a run for their money in regards to gameplay, presentation, and fun-factor.  But by no means was there ever a “bad” year of Madden, and it was often just a case of misallocated focus.  But, in the end, it was never the best it could be.

With that said, Madden 2010 is by far the most impressive rendition of football gaming EA Sports has created in years, but one can only hope and wait for what will someday be a truly complete and epic John Madden NFL Football experience.  Fingers crossed right?

**Before I get started on my review of Madden 10 I just want to note that I have been playing on an 2005 Xbox 360 that has already seen the three red lights.**

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Presentation:

Receiving a positive and fresh overhaul this year, the whole look and feel of Madden NFL 2010 has a TV style sheen to it.  Each game information about the stadium is given and there are some animated tie-ins that show tailgating, consumerism, and social banter.  The in-game advertising is present once again but it would have been nice to have more of a variety instead of the same brands we’ve seen for years.  And I’m not talking about Snickers.

I would have liked to see some major networks (ABC, NBC, FOX, EPSN, NFL Network) involved in the process with each game being broadcast by the corresponding network with all the appropriate graphic, such as that stupid FOX football robot dancing around (never gonna happen).  Now that’s what should be the future of Madden, right? I swear I just cursed myself.

There could even be the specific announcers for each network.  While this review is traveling down a wish list path already, I can’t help but think about all the possibilities.  If EA truly wanted to champion an all great version of Madden NFL Football they wouldn’t have to make one every year.  They could release roster updates and other downloads, and a perfect game of Madden wouldn’t require you to buy one every year.  Would you pay $100 for a Madden NFL game that lasted you 3 or more years?  Not that EA would ever do this (-$$$), but it’s not a bad idea to ponder from a non-technical/financial standpoint.

At the end of the day – let’s make that day be Sunday – the TV-style presentation is truly evident and a nice leap in the 2010 version.   But with EA’s big slogan of the year being, “If It Happens On Sunday, Then You’ll See It In The Game”, what happens if I see it on Monday Night Football?

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Graphics:

What you’d expect for the most part. Madden 10 doesn’t look all that different from years previous.  Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but you won’t really be taken aback by anything that’s happening on the screen.  The animations have been touched up this year in addition to the inclusion of the new “Pro-Tak” system that allows for up to 9 man gang tackles to occur.  Some of the momentum animations are a bit puzzling in terms of aesthetic, but you’ll get used to it.

Player models look standard and solid as always with some minor improvements like animated quarterback hand towels thrown in to spruce up the realism.  I would have liked to have seen some more attention given to the field and how it changes over the course of the game.  Divots, chunks of torn up turf flying off the back of the offensive line’s cleats or stuck in a players facemask are all absent.  Plus I’ve yet to see a field that has a partial baseball diamond on it.

Wind is another gripe.  While is has it’s apparent effect on the ball during field goal attempts, you can’t tell it’s there during regular game play.  I hope I’m not complaining about the impossible here, but hopefully my comments can be taken as constructive criticism at the very least.  Rippling jerseys, trash on the field, crowd reactions, or even bellowing gusts from the blimps POV are all ways to convey a windy football game and these too are absent.

In terms of the instant replay feature, I noticed that the resolution on manual replays had dropped significantly, as I remember them looking better in past Maddens.  While I’m on the topic of instant replays I really don’t understand what EA’s problem is.  First of all the frequency of replays is weak and second it never shows an instant replay right after a touchdown is scored.  **Note: Madden just received an update over Xbox Live and I just saw my first two replays after a touchdown** Doesn’t that happen all day long on Sunday?  Isn’t that the time we want to see a nice angled replay the most?

To add insult to injury when I attempt to run a manual replay often times it doesn’t even finish playing out.  Just before the ball carrier crosses the plane of the endzone the replay is halted.  WTF EA?!  You’ll also notice that this happens during the highlights at halftime or post game as well.  It’s super annoying and takes away from the feeling of achievement and satisfaction after a great touchdown is scored. One last thing about replays is that it also seems like it can’t make up it’s mind.  It will flash the NFL logo indicating that it’s about to show a replay, then it immediately flashes the logo again and there is no replay.  Easily my greatest disgust with this game, but I’ll stop now.

Frame rate issues were in abundance on my old machine and it was bothersome to say the least.  It seemed to happen the most at kickoff.

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Sound:

Another aspect of Madden 2010 that isn’t going to win any (sound design) awards, but is fairly competent in its own right.  From the blaring hum of the crowd and stadium announcer one-liners to the on field chatter from the players and coaches I can’t really think of anything missing.  Except for creativity that is.

Madden was one of the first games I can remember that used licensed music and some bands have even blown up (Good Charlotte blah) due to the exposure.  This year’s collection is really quite good.  There’s a bunch of late 90′s jams in there from Korn, Rage, Helmet, Public Enemy, as well as some awesome new stuff including Set Your Goals.

The Dolby Surround Component could be a bit stronger in terms of variety.  There should be more of a 360 degree sense of immersion attached to whatever player you are controlling.  For example, you are a halfback running down the left side of the field .  On the right you should hear the offensive and defensive lines clashing and fading in volume as you run further away as well as oncoming defenders and blockers trying to catch up to you.  On the left you should hear the sideline team and staff, either for or against shouting and jeering.  And while all this is happening you should hear 360 degrees of crowd noise.  I know that this is a review, but I can’t help but use this platform to get some of my ideas out!

IGN’s review blatantly disliked the on-field commentary, but I didn’t really think it was any better or worse than subsequent Madden’s.  I like Cris Collinsworth a bit less now, but I’m always going to talk shit back to the TV no matter what.  Other than that it was noticeably fragmented and spliced at parts which you’d think would have been fixed by this stage in the game but…

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GamePlay:

As always, a staple of the Madden experience has been about the gameplay.  That is no different this year.  You can tailor the speed of the game to your liking, which is a nice feature to see what works for you as a slower game will give you a bit more time to decide what move you want to pull off before the tackle animation takes over.  The spin move is far less effective this year leaving the side-to-side juke and forward press on the right analog to put your head down as the best offensive moves.  The stiff arm works well, but timing is key and you have to really anticipate the approaching tackler.

No longer does momentum carry you out of bounds on a screen pass (except for the AI).  It’s totally fixed and makes those type of plays useful again.  Sometimes while catching the ball, the animation takes over to an unrealistic effect but it usually works out in your favor so I can’t complain about that.

The right analog has also been added to quarterback controls to help you evade sacks in the pocket.  It’s really awesome that that has been implemented, but I just can’t seem to remember it’s there.

Also included this year are errant passes from quarterbacks who get hit in the pocket.  This opens up for some realistic-ish interceptions and odd catches by the offense.  EA has also included a button mashing fight for the fumbled football feature that’s cool and unexpected when you witness it for the first time.  Reminds me of the days when controllers had turbo buttons.

Other than that, everything you’d expect is intact and the game plays great.  Solid gameplay is synonymous with Madden and this year it’s definitely no different.  It’s just as fun as always and the randomness and unexpectedness of pro football really makes every game different.

Replay Value:

There are literally tons to do here.  Between franchise on and offline, superstar mode, online co-op, practice and Madden Moments, there’s no way you are going to exhaust this game anytime soon.  Franchise mode is really deep as per usual and you could spend hours on end just noodling around your off-season.

Online co-op is a bit janky due to some camera angle constraints, but is a fun alternative to playing with close friends (you can play with random strangers).  It’s great that the online franchise companion iPhone app has finally arrived but I can’t seem to access the app with my Xbox Live Gamertag so I can’t really tell you how it is.

Beyond that, you will definitely get a bang for your buck with this year’s Madden and something you’ll easily be playing into 2010.

Final Endings

Through all my gripings and delusional wish list manifesto-isms, Madden NFL 2010 is the best football game we can play on this generation of consoles.  Is it the best EA can do?  No.

EA still has a long way to go in my opinion to create the definitive football gaming experience, but I haven’t given up hope by any means.  I really think that other developers deserve a shot at the NFL license as it will only make football games better for the consumer.  Hopefully some of my ideas are taken into consideration and thanks for reading!

Oh, one final thing.  The Madden shop is ridiculous and exemplifies what is wrong with American sports.  Allowing you to buy upgrades and boosts for teams and players in specific games is like sanctioned steroids.  That’s why the New York Yankees will always be one of the best teams because they have the most money to BUY the best players.  Where’s the sport in that?

Pros:

  • Pick up and play- What you’ve come to expect from a Madden game
  • Online Franchise Mode
  • Great replay value

Cons:

  • Lame instant replays
  • Sound design could use some creative improvements
  • No real surprises-What you’ve come to expect from a Madden game

Buy it here for $58!



Jeff B