IGN Review of Madden NFL 10
The Madden franchise has gone through a series of evolutionary steps as EA figures out what works and doesn't on Nintendo's system. NFL 07 was the initial motion = controls PS2 port, 08 was a buggy but stronger evolution, bringing about the early concept of All-Play controls, 09 started the Call Your Shot phenomenon, and from where I sat a year ago it was pretty obvious where the franchise would be heading. Always keeping us on our toes though, EA has pushed Madden in a whole new direction with its 2010 offering, adding a new visual style, new modes, options, and features designed to make the Wii experience all its own.
Some of it works great, and other parts just don't seem to click.
The biggest obvious changes with Madden 10 on Wii is the visual style. Now using specific body types for positions, this more exaggerated "arcade-like" change applies to every mode in Madden. Remember the gritty 09 visuals EA settled on? Gone. New cameras are used, the characters are more cartoonish, and the result is a visual design that is sure to split the user base in half. I personally dug the 2009 look, but for the Wii crowd I can understand the move to a more over-exaggerated visual style. It certainly fits the "All Play" design that EA has going, but in the end the style looks more like a Grand Slam Tennis offering than Madden, and it does affect the authentic feel of the game a bit. I'm curious to see if the Madden audience follows EA with this change or dismisses it entirely.
On the interface side of things Madden is moving in the right direction, though I can see some hardcore players out there being scared off by the bigger buttons, casual-friendly look, and slightly tweaked design. The "cursor-scroll" system EA is using doesn't always work smoothly when selecting teams or options, but having IR control is of course a step in the right direction. 5-on-5 play is also added as an option, rather than standalone mode, and that's a huge step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned. You can play any of the new modes – as well as Play Now – with five players on the field instead of 11 now, and it's a fun addition.
On the topic of new modes, Madden NFL 10 is going in a whole new direction on Wii. Broken record time, but some people are going to love the changes, and others are going to hate them; plain and simple. Madden Showdown is hands-down the best offering of the bunch, pitting up to four players together in a party mode where players go one-on-one in smaller arcade-like games of Madden. Either 11-on-11 or 5-on-5 is supported, and settings can be changed to allow for turbo mode, "It's Alive" – which keeps the ball in play after a dropped pass – and lots of other game changers. Each game not only has the two rivals butting heads, but also a betting mechanic for everyone to engage in, so if your two friends are going head-to-head you can bet on who will win, as well as other stat-driven categories such as "most passing plays" or "most total yards" and the like. The winner of Madden Showdown isn't necessarily the best player, but the guy that knows his rivals better and can still march the field on gameday.
The other two modes are a bit less appealing, but still entertaining in their own right. Huddle-Up mode is basically a two player "girlfriend mode" like we saw in Call of Duty Wii last year. Player 2 has control over just a cursor and can use it to detonate and knock down the opposite team when hitting A. It can be set to three hits or unlimited per down, and while entertaining – and great for younger players or non-gamers – it's a pretty simple affair. You can only run back touchdowns off kickoffs so many times when you realize just how repetitive and downright simple the mode is. That being said, it's fun to be on offense, pick a running play, move yourself to lead blocker, and actually push the line while player 2 acts like a turret for a computer-controlled Matt Forte or Adrian Peterson. You're pretty unstoppable.
Road to the Superbowl is the final mode, and I have to say this one is a big letdown in the end. Up to four players can hop in and out over the course of a full season, and when playing poorly the game actually benches human co-op players and requires the teammates to buy them back into the game. It sounds like fun, and on its own it is. When you see what the "season" mode actually includes, however, it becomes painfully obvious just how shallow the mode is. You can go 5-on-5 or 11-on-11, but the only other options come with either a full season, half season, or playoff mode. There aren't trades, any team training, no franchise-like stat tracking or options, and no extended play beyond week-to-week gaming. Local multiplayer is a blast in Madden, and this is still a very entertaining package; it's just too small overall.
As for the other modes players know and love, Franchise, Superstar, and situational mode are included, but they're hidden away as unlockable bonus modes, and they come with a huge catch. Nothing is changed from last year, with just a simple team roster update piled on top of an old interface, old options, and no additions at all. The game even changes from the cursor-based menus and look to a plain white background with d-pad/analog stick controls only. This was obviously just an afterthought addition, or a way to downplay the unchanged status of Madden's core modes. Madden 10 rocks in the multiplayer category, but for single player use – even those looking to take the game online – it's 100% more of the same. If you want big additions to the franchise mode (such as online franchise play) you'll only find it on the HD consoles.
On the gameplay front there's a lot that has changed, but there's still plenty left to improve on as well. Playcalling has remained almost entirely identical, minus the new look, and the addition of Call Your Shot defense is great. CYS on offense is a bit more annoying to engage, having it tucked away on the 1 button and lacking a bit of the visual flair it had in 09, but it's still just as rewarding and easy to use as ever. On defense, simply engage Call Your Shot and you can drag defenders into new coverage zones, changing the play type on the fly as you do. You can even double team receivers in a matter of seconds, which is nice. Also changed is the ability to pull up a mini-menu by holding B pre-snap, which gives you access to specific on-field players based on who you have your cursor over, or general controls for the whole team. That's how you now change audibles, line shift, put a man in motion, or engage Call Your Shot if you don't want to hit the 1 button. It's a nice change, and one EA would do well to expand on in the future.
The Wii pointer has also become a huge part of the Madden Wii experience now, as the added cursor passing control option – which I personally dig – and cursor player select is added this year. It's a nice addition to be sure. On the flipside, the controls have again changed for 2010, moving away from some of what 09 did and focusing on a somewhat simpler layout which some hardcore fans may not like. Throwing is now done entirely by button, either with the A button when using cursor passing or the directional arrows. Snapping is now done with A – with no flick to snap you need to snap you lose the A button, so all character select on offense is done with the d-pad – all power moves are assigned to a flick of the remote, and specific moves are mapped to buttons. If you want to juke the nunchuk is no longer used , so you either tap Z or shake the remote and let the computer decide if you lower your head, stiff-arm, spin, jump, try to plow them over. The controls are easier for those just picking up the game, but I can't help but feel like I'm losing what I already perfected in 2009, as only a quick remote shake is being used in the motion department now.
I spoke on the visuals already, but it's important to note that while I personally don't dig the visual style EA went with it's not a game-breaking issue for me either. The visuals make sense given the casual, family approach EA is tying into Madden on Wii, and some people are going to totally dig it. Overall though I don't see hardcore Madden fans warming up to it. On the same note, I greatly prefer the broadcast team of Madden and Al Michaels over Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond. Just like on 360 and PS3 the Wii commentating just doesn't work.
In the end, it feels like there's just a huge list of things that could/should change to improve the design of Madden 10. Some of the on-screen icons (like drumming the controllers and all kick interface) still look old, tackling still feels last-gen with offense animation overwriting a big hit or dive (lots of sliding off people), path running can become glitchy with Call Your Shot, picking off a pass you're perfectly lined up with is still extremely tough, and while additions like the big hit camera and sprint effects look great the game still feels like previous years' Madden re-skinned yet again. Many of the added features – Spotlight Moments and post-touchdown celebrations – also feel pretty tacked on. In the case of TD celebrations the icons don't have specific art to them, so you never know what your player is going to do when you click them. There's still no seamless create-a-player option, making plays with the Call Your Shot interface seems painfully obvious but isn't included, and everything just feels like a first pass to what will be a stronger, more polished 2011 offering. Bottom line though, EA needs to decide if this is going to be a sim game with a friendly look, or a more arcade-like offering all around. Right now it plays like old Madden under a new skin. If the game is going truly casual, it's time to open things up with a totally retooled game of football that relies on big plays and a full-on arcade-like feel.
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