Madden NFL 10 Review

Madden NFL 10 Review

– Geoffrey Calver

There was a point in Madden NFL 10 when I was wowed. It was when I realized that the game had changed. That running was more difficult, that passing downfield was incredibly hard. When the IQ feature of Madden NFL 10 adjusted the AI to my skill level and Madden NFL 10 didn’t just feel like a fantastic game presentation, a fanciful version of the real game of football but had become, instead, like playing in the NFL, minus receiving actual bruises and broken bones.

Madden NFL 10 is a great game because it replicates the modern game of football so well. Over the years, rushers have become less relevant, passing has become more frequent, west-coast offenses have become abundant, and this is all reflected, well, in Madden NFL 10.

Each year, the team creating Madden revises the gameplay, introduces new features and updates the graphics, players, and more. But more often than not, the changes have been minor and the new editions have, as of late, felt more like roster updates with slight graphical upgrades. In fact, since the Xbox 360 came out, it has felt as though Madden has been trying to catch up with technology. The previous iterations of Madden have felt more like graphical upgrades of the PS2 and Xbox versions of the same game rather than new entries that take advantage of all that next-gen gaming has to offer. Thankfully, Madden NFL 10 is more than just an update. It’s a booster shot for the Madden franchise, a huge leap forward in terms of how it plays, how it looks, and what is offered with your purchase.

Madden NFL 10 features the slogan, “Fight for every yard,” and the slogan is apt for the gameplay. Madden NFL 10 can be easy if you want it to be, but once you ramp up to the more difficult settings of All-Pro, and All-Madden, you’ll feel as though you’re actually on an NFL field. This is particularly true in the fantastic Superstar mode.

SUPERSTAR MODE

Superstar mode pits you as a rookie entering the NFL. You can choose from three options when beginning a new career in Superstar mode. You can either create a new player, which allows you to adjust the size of your player, the position he plays, his name, his looks (although these can’t be adjusted much) and more; you can step into the shoes of an actual NFL rookie such as Michael Crabtree or Matthew Stafford; or (my personal favorite), you can upload your “Road to Glory” player from NCAA Football 10 and continue his career into the NFL.

Superstar mode, as I said before, is fantastic. You begin by taking an IQ test, and then are drafted. I played through superstar seasons twice as a quarterback and was drafted by the Chiefs and the Redskins. The camera view in Madden NFL 10’s Superstar mode is perfectly suited for the situation – the camera sits itself right behind you, almost putting yourself right in your player’s shoes. To compare, after playing superstar mode on Madden for a while I went back to NCAA Football 10 and hated that I looked out on the field from far above. Madden puts you right in the player’s shoes so that you feel as though you are on the field and you actually feel the pressure as lineman run at you on a blitz and you actually search the field for an open player, hoping that your throw finds its target safely.

Brett Favre looks good in purple, and the graphics in Madden NFL 10 are mostly superb

That said, I do have some problems with the superstar mode. First of all, I would like to have a player who feels more alive. By that, I mean that I would have liked to have been able to go through an interview process with the media, or a press conference after each game, choosing to speak in one tone or another, therefore influencing my ego. Instead, the Superstar’s ego in Madden NFL 10 seemed to be an independent beast all on its own. Nothing seemed to influence it. No matter what I did on the field I was known for having an “arrogant” or “The ‘I’ in team” ego. I just couldn’t bring my player down to “team player” or “true leader”. It would have been nice to have the control to make a player act as you would actually act in situations. After particularly tough losses I may have chosen to say, “we sucked” at a press conference, to blame the refs, or to simply tirade on my coach’s play calling. But, I had no choice but to simply play and hope that eventually, by not speaking too much to my agent and by not choosing to discuss “guarantees” to be in the playoffs and more, that my ego would go down and reflect the type of player I wanted to be.

Beyond that, I would have also liked to have had the stadium shake as a hostile away crowd screamed loudly on third down and I would have liked to have had the option to run audibles – instead, I just had to do exactly as the coach asked me to do. So, if it was third and eight and there were twenty seconds left in the game and I was on the sixteen yard line, in the red zone, and the coach wanted to run, I couldn’t audible a pass instead. I had to given in to his idiotic play-calling.

Finally, Superstar mode doesn’t allow a lot of exploration of stats. When I wanted to view Pro Bowl voting or MVP voting, I couldn’t. And that was frustrating. I love being able to see so many statistics in Franchise mode, and I would have liked for Superstar mode to allow the same amount of access to league information.

Despite the complaints, Superstar Mode is fantastic. It was awesome to create a player, or in my case, continue playing with my Road to Glory player from NCAA Football and watch as I led the Redskins to the conference championship game and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Madden’s Superstar mode captures the excitement of making it to the NFL, and allows you to imagine that you are on the field, the quarterback leading a game-winning drive in the final moments of a game, the receiver diving in the end zone to catch a last-second throw, the linebacker sweeping in and around the offensive line to wrap the quarterback and force a fumble. Superstar mode puts you in the shoes of an NFL star, and the difference between it and Franchise mode is that you aren’t in control. You play for the team that drafts you, you follow your coach’s calls, and that makes it fun, challenging, and absorbing. Furthermore, because you only play when you are on the field, you can finish a game in fifteen or twenty minutes instead of forty-five. Meaning, you actually are able to fit in that game between taking out the trash and helping to cook dinner.

FRANCHISE MODE

Madden’s franchise mode hasn’t changed much over the years, and that’s okay. There’s no reason to change something that works well.

Madden’s franchise mode will be familiar to players not only of Madden, but of any EA Sports title, from NHL to NBA Live and beyond. You assume the role of GM, Coach, and the players. As GM you make additions to the stadium, purchasing improvements, you hire coaches, you draft players, and you sign endorsement deals. As coach you choose plays, and re-order depth charts. You challenge calls and call timeouts. As players, you control the quarterback, you control the receiver once he catches the ball, you run as the halfback or fullback, you can take over any defensive position and you kick the ball as well. In Franchise Mode you do everything. It takes time to finish a season, but it is fun getting there, and it is simply put, addictive. You want to keep playing, to see how another season will go. To watch your players evolve and to see if your draft picks live up to expectations or not. It is great fun.

Franchise modes best aspects are the control you have on the field and off. Being able to play both sides of the ball and to choose plays gives you the greatest amount of control over the game – you honestly only have yourself to blame for a loss. And beyond that, the great part about Franchise mode is the ability to see and do everything. To draft players is fantastic. To choose a trick play that will stun the defense can make you jump out of your seat, and trying to manage a team while dealing with a salary cap is simply difficult.

Franchise mode is great, and most of its faults are not in the mode itself, but are part of the larger Madden game.

MINI GAMES

Madden NFL 10 features mini games, too. And a good number of them. First of all, there is the Madden IQ test. You run a bunch of running plays, pass plays, defensive plays and Madden figures out what your skill level is in each category, from Rookie to All-Madden and gives you a Madden IQ point score as a result. The mode, is highly stylized, featuring glowing players on an intentionally artificial playing field looking like something out of Tron. It’s fun and I found myself coming back to it every week or so to mark my improvement.

There are also mini games in which you choose two teams that compete against each other in events such as the 40-yard dash, bench press, running game, passing game, coverage, and more. The games are fun, but some, such as the bench press and 40-yard dash are mere novelties. I found myself, though, in love with the coverage game, in which you play a receiver and you have to beat coverage to catch the ball, racking up points for doing so. It’s fun and feels exhilarating to beat out coverage and run into an open endzone for a catch.

Madden NFL 10's gameplay is tightly tuned - this feels like NFL football.

Finally, Madden NFL 10 features “Madden Moments”. These are truly unique, and quite honestly, awesome mini games. Madden Moments puts you in the shoes of players in truly difficult situations. Initially you only have a few you can choose from – my favorite: it’s the Super Bowl, the Cardinals have just scored with two and a half minutes left and you lead Big Ben onto the field to try and replicate his winning drive. The tension mounts as the time winds down and you try your best to score and win the super bowl. It’s intense and fun and it makes you realize just how amazing those sorts of winning, last-minute drives, are.

TECHNICAL STUFF

The graphics in Madden NFL 10 are crisp and gorgeous. Fans even in the top rows of the enormous NFL stadiums stand out individually and the grass on the field looks better than ever. The new, pre-game presentations look good, but player models could use some work.

The sound in game is fantastic. Individual fans can be heard calling out from different sides of the stadium, the crowd roars as a play develops, and players can even be heard calling out encouragement or taunts to each other.

FAULTS

Madden NFL 10 is a great game, but it does have it faults, which extend to Superstar Mode, to Franchise Mode and to the mini games as well. Namely, Madden NFL 10 reaches for the stars with its presentation. It aims to please, to bring in new detail that makes the game feel more alive than ever. In between plays, quarterbacks chat with offensive coordinators on the phone. At timeouts, players sip water from cups and chat. Running backs pedal on a bike. Steam rises from their mouths. Yet, the details need work.

The phone the quarterback holds often disappears. The players who celebrate a touchdown often aren’t the ones involved in the play. And then, there is my perennial complaint against both Madden and NCAA Football – the lack of gravity given to playoff games and the super bowl/championship/bowl games.

Madden NFL 10 touts that it includes new presentation details. And that’s true. It’s great to see quarterbacks chatting on phones and I can easily forgive phones disappearing or players pedaling in mid-air instead of on a bike. It’s cool to see planes fly over a playoff game as the national anthem plays in the background. But what’s not cool is playing through an entire season with one goal in mind – the Super Bowl. What’s not cool is having a lack of celebration at the game. The Super Bowl is more than just a game. It’s a presentation on a grand scale. It’s a show. I would have liked to have seen players come tearing out of their respective team’s large, inflatable helmets. I would have loved to have heard the commentators discussing the implications of the game, the importance of the Super Bowl. I wish EA Sports would have spent more time developing commentary specifically for the Super Bowl and playoff games. I would like to have the commentators recognize the weight of the moment. I would like to see the pre-game celebrations, and furthermore, I would love to see the half-time show at the Super Bowl taking place in the press box. Watching a band play in the background. I don’t need to hear the music – I just want to see that the Super Bowl is happening behind me. Not just another game with the Super Bowl logo stamped on the field and on the jerseys being the only thing differentiating between the biggest game of the year and any other game. I would like to have some sense of the importance of the game.

I know I’m harping – but it bugs me year after year that I play all season long, which can take a couple of weeks on Franchise mode to reach the Super Bowl, only to feel letdown by the final act. The only comparison I can make is playing through a shooter. You’ve come so far, here’s the final act, and the story falls flat. There is no final boss battle, no true conclusion. You feel as though the game has quit on you after such an exhilarating experience to that point. Madden NFL 10 need only have the players rush onto the field at the end. It need only have the commentators shouting and exclaiming about how your team won. I want to see the MVP receive his trophy. I want to see the players picking up the Super Bowl and carrying it around. I want to see the confetti covering the ground. Hear the cheering of fans. After all, I’ve played through an entire season just to see that celebration. Just to feel the gravity of that moment. Anything less is a letdown. And Madden NFL 10 tries but just doesn’t succeed. The Super Bowl celebration features ten seconds of confetti, a small celebration, and no commentary on the Super Bowl victory. It ends like any other game and I’m left wondering why I should fight so hard to get back again for another season. Games are supposed to take you to another world. Unfortunately, I have to imagine what it would feel like to win at the end because Madden just doesn’t replicate it.

The stadiums look fantastic and the crowds are more real than ever.

THE FINAL VERDICT

Madden NFL 10 is a great football experience. The gameplay mimics real NFL football extremely well. The running game is difficult and requires finesse and timing. The passing game forces you to rely on the short game more than long bombs. The Superstar Mode does a great job of putting you in the shoes of a football star though it lacks some features when you’re off the field, and Franchise mode is deep, fun, and requires a good investment of time and effort.

The graphics and sound are excellent, though player models still need lots of work and I think are an important aspect of the presentation, and the new presentation improvements are generally a boon to the game.

The biggest problem with Madden is the lack of freedom within Superstar Mode and the lack of focus on the biggest moment in the NFL, the Super Bowl. But these distractions are not nearly enough to detract from an otherwise excellent game experience. The gameplay itself is fantastic, the graphics in general are beautiful, and the sound is better than ever. Madden is a deep, worthwhile addition to any sports gamers collection.

86%

You’ll love:

+ Realistic gameplay and new, wildcat offense

+ Mini games, in particular, Madden Moments

+ Fantastic new presentation additions

You’ll hate:

– Lack of celebration/fanfare surrounding the superbowl

– Lack of control in Superstar mode

– Some slight graphical issues