THERE’S A REASON why, year after year, Madden continues to be one of the best-selling titles across the board. But while it was always a top earner, it hasn’t always been a top game. There was a time when EA Sports became lazy with some of its top-selling franchises, choosing to release what amounted to be the same game each year with a new cover and some new rosters. Many feared that this would be especially true when EA obtained the exclusive licensing rights to the NFL. However, this hasn’t been the case in recent
years, with EA going all out for Madden’s 20th anniversary release last year, redesigning and reinventing the heralded Madden franchise.
Madden 10 sets a new standard for presentation in sports games, featuring all of the finicky details that fans have been requesting for years. The obligatory stats, as well as half time and postgame reports, are superb, showing the best plays of the game as well as wrapping up the action from around the league.
The commentary, an integral part of any sports game, is slightly sub-par, although not particularly noticeable. However, the graphics have certainly gone up a notch, with certain players bearing a noticeable likeness to their real-life counterparts, as well as a host of new animations that will be instantly recognisable to those who spent any extended period of time with the previous iteration.
Presentation is one thing, but if the game disappoints on the field, then what’s it all worth? Thankfully, Madden 10 is up to scratch here too. The AI has really been brought up a few notches this year, adapting very well to the style of game and the strategy you employ. They’re equally good from an offensive standpoint, making great use of their playbooks and really engaging a range of strategies. One of my favourite aspects of the gameplay this year is the unpredictability of the AI. One of my real pet hates, and the downfall of many sports games, is that every game plays out perfectly scripted. This year though, every game is completely different; one play that may be the money in one game will cause you headaches in the next. Like in last year’s game, Madden IQ is back to assess the AI to play at the level it feels right, but this can be adjusted depending on whether you’re up for a challenge or just a Sunday scrim.
The actual base gameplay has seen a number of tweaks that have resulted in a slower, simulation style of play. No longer will quarterbacks be invincible, able to jaunt around for 20 seconds before making an 80-yard play. Another somewhat entertaining addition is the new Pro-Tak system, where multiple players can pile on in a group tackle animation. It’s difficult to explain, but think ‘doggy-pile’ and you won’t be far off. The offline game modes remain relatively unchanged bar some minor tweaks to the Superstar and Franchise modes. The biggest addition is easily in the online department, with the inclusion of an online franchise mode, where 32 players can take on the role of GM and control their teams. There’s even an iPhone application available for would-be GMs to track stats, trades and the goings-on of their leagues.
What we’ve got in Madden 10 is quite easily the best football game ever produced by EA. The minor tweaks in gameplay are what stand out the most, moving away from the arcade feel of previous Madden games and introducing a far more simulator-style game. The franchise has been given a great overall facelift and the addition of an online franchise mode is one that will prove itself over the course of the year. Hopefully next year the offline modes will receive some warranted attention and perhaps some solid online team play, much ike the NHL series got last year. Any gamer with a passing interest in sports, let alone football, really needs to give this game a look.