Madden NFL 10 Review

By Michael D'Alonzo - Posted Aug 10, 2009

Madden NFL 10 isn't perfect, but it's deeper, more challenging, and more realistic than ever before, and more so than nearly any other football game. This is a whole lot of game, and it should keep football fans everywhere very occupied for the next twelve months.

The Pros
  • Excellent visuals and realistic presentation
  • New tackling physics
  • Robust Online Franchise mode
The Cons
  • Some frame rate and lag issues
  • Clunky save system
  • Good things buried in the nav

It's an end-of-summer ritual and the single question that torments the video game store employee year after year: "Yo, you got that Madden?" Yes, it's almost fall, it's almost football season, and therefore, it's time for another edition of the Electronic Arts juggernaut that is Madden. I got Madden, and after over 20 hours of gridiron glory, it’s got me, too.

Consistently the most solid football property on the market over the past 21 years, Madden doesn't need to do much to re-cement its place as an annual cash cow. But it’s admirable to see EA Tiburon striving to bring a deeper, more realistic, and more immersive experience to the die-hard football fan with each successive release. And the good news is that, for the most part, they succeed in doing just that. It’s not perfect, but Madden NFL 10 is the finest edition of the series to date.

Madden NFL 10

The Following is a Presentation of the National Football League...

Madden 10 looks fantastic, from the locations, which look as spot-on as they do on TV, to the vivid weather conditions. These visuals are completely unmatchable. A lot of attention has been paid to ensuring that the presentation seems authentic, with fantastic halftime highlight packages, and even a weekly wrap-up show, the Extra Point, hosted by NFL Network's Fran Charles and Alex Flanagan. In the booth, the play-calling team of Chris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond do a decent job with voice acting, though it would be nice if there was more of it.

Of course, this isn't real life, and you notice that every now and again. There are glitches in a few spots, whether it's the strange animation that makes it look like a player is running without moving anything above his waist, the dark void in the mouths of the players where teeth are supposed to be, or some nasty collision detection, there are glitches here. Throw in some choppy frame-rates -- very frustrating in a game that's so timing-oriented -- and you will wish that these trivial details stand out against the gorgeous visuals.

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Coach Wants To See You...Bring Your Playbook

Madden 10 isn’t just defined by what new things it brings to the party, but also by which older things got to stay and which ones got the heave-ho. Over the years, the Madden series has been home to some great innovations (The Madden IQ Test, which is still here) and some truly awful ones (QB Vision, which is not). Among this year's innovations include Pro-Tak (procedural tackling), which allows for up to 9-man gang tackling, and steerable piles based on the player ratings of the running back and the defenders involved in the play. What it means is that running is not such a cut-and-dry event anymore, where the slightest contact would likely end a play. This time, if you're running with Brandon Jacobs, the animation and the gameplay allows for the fact that he's a load who can carry a pile an extra couple of yards, which can mean the difference between a third down conversion and a punt.

The same technology is in play with the new "Fight for the Ball" feature, in which a fumble can change hands numerous times between when the ball is popped out and when the referee signals possession via a button-mashing minigame. It’s not frequent, but it's fun when it happens. The folks at EA Tiburon are also touting some new mechanics which dictate that defenders -- defensive backs, most appropriately -- can't blindly intercept passes if they're not looking at the ball. It doesn't mean that passes are easier to complete. In fact, you will find that the AI defenders close on the ball quicker and more aggressively than ever before, making it harder to just sit in the pocket and bomb away.

Some excellent pieces of Madden 09 have been retained, such as the Madden IQ Test and Madden Moments, but unfortunately, they’re buried in the navigation, and harder to find than they should be. Also, Madden’s save system really needs an overhaul at this point. Currently, it can lead to losing out on progress that you've made in the game, especially if you play for a long period of time and jump from one aspect of the game to another. Even an occasional save prompt would be nice.

On the positive side, the Playmaker Icons which littered the field over the past few years have gone the way of QB Vision. No longer will your player have a stamp that looks like a rocket, or Mercury's wings, or a waffle iron, which just served to confuse everyone to begin with.

Madden NFL 10

With The 1st Pick In The 2010 NFL Draft, The Dallas Cowboys Select...

Let's talk about online play in Madden 10, which is the main area that EA Tiburon has really beefed up the action. The new Online Franchise mode allows you to create a franchise on your console, with as many as 31 of your friends, and take the micromanagement of running the team to your computer. It allows for trades, game management, waivers, league message boards, and more. You can hold a draft for your league, as well, and the feature set extends to the iPhone and iPod Touch, which means that millions of Apple-loving Madden players can literally access teams and leagues whenever they want. Think of it as being able to have “a little fantasy football with your fantasy football,” meaning that you can not only play these games with your controller, but you can touch every part of your team whether you're close to the console or not.

Also new this year is Online Co-Op, which allows players to join together to play together online. Make no mistake about it, co-op is quite difficult, often times frustratingly so. I played co-op alongside another Madden veteran, and it was tough to complete a single pass, let alone play a whole season of meaningful games together. Playing co-op online can be a very satisfying experience in theory, but it can also be a very frustrating one in reality.

It's A Game Of Inches

In the end, it's the little things that make Madden 10 so rich and rewarding. Defensive gameplay has changed to allow pass rushers to make more satisfying and logical moves at the line of scrimmage. Kickers, even at their strongest, can no longer just boom kickoffs through the endzone on every attempt, and field goals are not quite as automatic as they used to be. You, as the head coach, will get to call injuries on the fly by seeing how putting a player back in the game can affect his season and even his career. Clock management is more realistic and difficult to master than ever before. Even the Wildcat formation is here. All of these elements add to the realism. It’s harder, but in logical ways (and like football), you have to keep a balanced attack on offense, defense and special teams to ultimately be successful.

Madden NFL 10 isn't perfect, but it’s deeper, more challenging, and more realistic than ever before, and more so than nearly any other football game. The addition of Online Franchise mode has made the game even deeper, in meaningful ways, and the changes to the gameplay presentation and mechanics are, on the whole, very good. If you can get the hang of online co-op, it could add even more depth, as well. This is a whole lot of game, and it should keep football fans everywhere very occupied for the next twelve months.