The NFL has long prided itself on parity. Each new season has little, if anything, to do with the year that preceded it; players come and go with astonishing speed as 5-11 teams become Super Bowl competitors and champions fall apart. In many ways, the Madden games of the PS360 generation mirror this erratic arc. They’re (almost) always entertaining, but dedicated franchise fans still haven’t been given a truly definitive high-definition gridiron experience.
The good news is that from snap to whistle, Madden 10 is the best football we’ve played yet. Pacing is more realistic than ever, allowing running backs to see and exploit holes; meanwhile, your quarterback can settle into an actual pocket and fire a pass to an open receiver in a manner eerily reminiscent of real-life Sundays. While the old Madden standby of backing waaaaaaaaaay up to throw a long bomb can still be done, it’s less effective than it used to be. That alone is reason enough to cheer wildly.
EA has been touting its new “Pro-Tak” system ever since they started dropping hints about Madden 10 several months ago. It may be a terrible marketing name, but as an in-game mechanic it works beautifully. Collisions between ball carriers and would-be tacklers are more realistic and violent than ever, featuring rapid changes in direction based upon the momentum of attacker and attackee. Ballhandlers have plenty of opportunities to get out of tough spots, while defenders can gang-tackle like the real thing.
So the most important aspects of Madden are superb - what’s the bad news? That lies in many of the so-called bells and whistles on the periphery of the virtual gridiron. The presentation is haphazard in many ways, from an abomination of a halftime show (complete with hyper-repetitive “analysis” from lifeless voices) to a sideline full of zombified players all wearing ‘00’ on their jerseys. You’ll be constantly exposed to the same animations ad nauseum, from quarterbacks talking to their coaches over the phone (which magically disappears mid-scene) to coaches yelling at players after a turnover. Each of these gets more annoying with every game you play, along with the other myriad hiccups you’ll see.
Complaints aside, Madden 10 offers the most bang yet for your football buck. Between offline and online franchises, a create-a-player mode, online multiplayer, and a series of Madden moments scenarios, there’s something for every flavor of NFL fan. As you’d also expect, the dizzying amounts of adjustments you can make before the snap are old hat to Madden vets but will befuddle newcomers; these days, that simply comes with the territory.
While Madden 10 is our favorite football game of this generation, it suffers from trying to do too much. We love the new gameplay engine (more, please!) but could’ve happily done without most of the presentation “improvements” that get more irritating with each game. We’re still waiting for our Hall of Fame experience on next-gen systems, since Madden 10 doesn’t quite reach that level.
Aug 18, 2009