Things We Liked
Highlight Real: You're probably sick of hearing this every time Madden hits the shelves, but this year's build is the most realistic yet. Really. Trust us. We really mean it this time. Thanks to a new animation technology called Pro-Tak, the players look and act like they would during a real game. Pile-on at the end of a plays, drag helpless defenders into the end zone, lose your footing while dropping back to pass in the rain. The CPU also gets an upgrade in areas like clock management -- when you're playing solo, you'll notice your opponent will bleed the play clock on fourth down in late half-time and end of game situations. All of these little wrinkles make the gameplay feel the most natural it has in Madden's 21 years in existence.
Copy Cat: Much in the same way just about every team implemented some form of the Wildcat formation into their playbook last year, Madden NFL 10 has added Tony Sparano's quirky set to the game. More than just a fun add-on, the formation comes in very handy on 3rd and Goal. Apparently EA really takes that whole "It's in the game" motto seriously.
Scrum's the Word: The new button-mashing mini-game that helps you fight for fumbles is awesome. If there's a loose ball near a big group of players, you can now influence who gets possession. As soon as the pigskin pops loose, you're prompted to hit a series of buttons as fast as you can in order to tip the scales in your favor. The only way EA can improve on this feature is if they include an eye-gouging option next year.
Fine Line: A new set of moves for defensive linemen will have you foaming at the mouth on defensive snaps. Using the right analog stick, you can now bust out swim moves and an assortment of other jukes to manhandle the opposing offensive linemen and knock the quarterback on his back. The new level of creativity infuses a much-needed element of aggressiveness to the defensive side of gameplay.
Online Franchise: That dull roar you hear is coming from wives and girlfriends across the nation as they find out about Madden's new Online Franchise mode. In case you were worried you weren't wasting enough time playing Madden, logging on and filling out an entire 32-team league with friends around the world should gobble up the last couple minutes of your free time. It's even got an upcoming iPhone app (out on August 18th) that's sure to ruin millions of romantic dinners before the 2009-10 season is over.
Break in the Action: Unlike Fox and CBS, the halftime shows during franchise mode in Madden actually serve a purpose. You get highlights from your game as well as a quick check-in throughout the league, including scores and stats of all the simulated action going on. You get an even more thorough recap of where your franchise stands on a weekly basis from the Extra Point Highlight Show.
To show we will stop at nothing to get you a crackerjack review, we taped an entire half of Madden NFL 10 game action for you:
Things We'd Change
Subtract the Ads: The one area that's a little too realistic in Madden is the constant barrage of sponsors. Prepare to have Snickers ads shoved down your throat, whether it's load screens or the cheeky "Chewse Wisely" graphic during the coin toss. Sprite also gets into the mix and the constant corporate logos can grow tedious. Especially considering how much time you'll want to spend playing Madden.
Quiet, Please: The soundtrack is a nice mix of recognizable hits and the crowd noise ebbs and flows with the action on the field. However, Chris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond (Did you ever think you'd miss John Madden's ramblings?) don't hold up over repeated plays. It feels like this comes up in just about every sports title -- the commentary gets repetitive very quickly and anecdotes are often misplaced during the action. Can we get a committee together to fix this across all sports games once and for all?
Mini-Games, Big Problems: The mini-games are a big bust. Confusing controls and boring competitions will have you scurrying back to manage your franchise. Do you in any way ever need to play the mini-games? No. So does it matter? Not really. Just had to throw it out there.
After 21 years, EA faced a stiff challenge: improve the world's most popular sports video game franchise. Somehow, they did. While in the past it seemed like EA was just piling on pointless bells and whistles, this year the developers focused on key elements of the game. The new Online Franchise mode adds replayability to an already addictive title, while the smooth action on the field keeps those millions of replays fresh.
-- Reviewed By Paul Ulane