Tiburon's focus with Madden NFL 10 is bringing the player back into the game, focusing on the fans, and making the player fight for every yard. The game has a different feel right from the main menu, which has a new look for the 2010 version. Instead of the stylized menu with team specific players, it will feature real photos and posterized shots of great players. It’s really something that needs to be seen, but it’s completely different from anything you’ve seen out of Madden before.
EA hopes to bring true gang tackling to this iteration of Madden with a new system called "Pro-Tak". The system, built upon the game's new procedural animation system, will allow up to nine players to engage into a pile. This could be the running back, four defenders, and four offensive linemen pushing him forward. In this situation, the running back has "anchor points" to which other players can attach and interact with the play. At this point, it's currently a statistics game, but there will be some opportunities to directly affect the pile. Running at it and hitting the pile with the hit stick should provide the desired results on defense. It's an impressive system, but isn't quite dynamic yet.
In addition to these gang tackles, EA will be adding fumble piles. This won't happen on every play, but if a fumble occurs and members of each team dive on it, there will be a stylized fumble pile where each team can fight for the ball. The developers wanted to add more excitement to the fumble and not just have it fall into the hands of the first responder. This brings it much closer to the NFL, but Tiburon isn't quite sure how much player control will end up in this situation. It could be stats based or come down to button-mashing, but they haven't finalized the mechanic.
For the quarterback, you're going to see a realistic pocket develop with a good offensive line protecting the passer. Using the same procedural animation system that is used in the new gang tackle feature, offensive linemen will now move the pass rusher as expected. You'll see outside linemen engaged, ending up behind the QB with the inside pushing forward. This creates a real pocket instead of just holding the defensive linemen at bay or letting them through. A very welcomed improvement.
On the presentation side, Tiburon has made a few improvements that should satisfy the realism junkies. All seven referees will be rendered on the field along with the chaingangs. The Super Bowl will get some improvements in Madden NFL 10 with team specific endzones (a series first) and dynamically added Super Bowl patches to uniforms.
Technically, the graphics are basically last year's with one notable upgrade being shown off. In the replay system, the camera will utilize a depth of field effect and bring close players into focus in very high detail. It will also blur the background to give the illusion of true camera focus. It's a great addition to the replay system and should help improved the quality of uploaded highlights.
EA promises a wealth of multiplayer options for both casual and hardcore players with new options for competitive and cooperative play. Unfortunately, they aren't ready to reveal these features just yet. Beyond that, the gameplay seemed largely the same as Madden 09, which is fine. I don't expect them to change the formula too much. It'll be interesting to see which of these features become Madden staples and which only get a year in the spotlight (QB Vision, anyone?).
Madden NFL 10 will be released on August 14th in time for the 2009-10 season of the NFL. Expect much more on Tiburon’s game at E3 2009.