Reviewed: August 22, 2009
Released: August 14, 2009
This is going to be a weird football season. It seems like Favre just retired (again) and here we are back with Madden NFL 10. Oh, wait... he just un-retired again. I’ll just let you know on the outset that I was born in Wisconsin so I was born a Packers fan. Though I live in another state now, the Packers are and always will be my team. So all the drama with Favre last summer and this summer was not a good experience for me. Now he's playing for a rival team. You have no idea how much I was looking forward to the roster update so I could knock his head clean off. Oh I was thinking of Blitz football not Madden.
Football on gaming systems has turned into a kind of "pick your flavor" event every Fall. It's EA vs. EA. Due to the bane of exclusive licensing, we really have no choice or competition. EA wins no matter what you pick. So the choice is college or pro football. The purists want the NCAA brand of football with hundreds of teams and all the bands, mascots, tailgating, soda and hotdogs. But most people seem to favor the NFL with all its big names, stadiums and exclusive satellite tv packages.
In the gaming world in past seasons NCAA and Madden NFL seemed to leapfrog each other with new features and better graphics. But the past couple years Madden has had the best of everything while NCAA gets things a year later while adding some unique NCAA features. This year NCAA Football 10 feels like it has stepped out of the shadow of almighty Madden and is standing on its own, while Madden has tweaked a few things and added more of a TV broadcast presentation.
When starting Madden NFL 10 you get the usual screens. Once you pick your favorite team you can jump right into a game with your team and its biggest rival. The menus are not themed specifically for your team, unless you are a fan of the Steelers or Cardinals. Someday when I win the lottery, I'm going to pay somebody a lot of money to sneak into Troy Palamalu's house and shave that mane of his.
When you get into the game you may find that the gameplay itself really hasn't changed all that much from last year. The biggest change comes with new Pro-Tak animations. All that means is you better be good at mashing buttons. You now can fight for fumbles, which includes three to nine man gang tackles and pile-ups. It's kind of fun when you have some friends over or play on Xbox Live, but thankfully it can be turned off. I found it to be a bit annoying during long franchise mode games.
Game modes include the usual Franchise and NFL Superstar modes which you can even import your star player from NCAA Football 10. The biggest change in this mode is for online play. You can setup a league of 32 teams online complete with custom Internet web page where you can make trades, manage depth charts, and view standings and stats. This is a really neat feature and I look forward to improvements in the next few years. Integration of fantasy football into Madden NFL could be a lot of fun.
Madden Moments has changed from being an overview of the past decades of NFL greatness to just being an overview of last year. Unfortunately that means we get game scenarios from last season to relive, but using this seasons rosters. We also get the usual list of mini-games and training devices to hone your skills for your online league.
The majority of improvements in Madden NFL 10 come more in the way of presentation. The look and feel between plays is where I see the biggest change. Fran Charles and Axel Flanagan from NFL Network bring the “Extra Point” weekly highlight show in franchise mode. Other additions include the chain gang rushing on the field to measure for 1st downs, ref's pull players off the fumble pile, and they even have fighter jets fly over during playoff games. There are some graphical glitches mixed in here and there – some black screen delays while the animations load – but overall these changes are welcome and will only get better in the future.
Xbox live play has grown with the aforementioned franchise mode. Additionally we now can play online co-op with a friend with position specific cameras. It really brings a sense of greater teamwork when a friend playing quarterback can toss a “Hail Mary” to me for that last second game-winning touchdown.
Now lets wade into the murky waters of classic team rosters. This has been the source of a lot of legal bills for EA lately. The NCAA players are suing for EA using their stats for classic teams. Former NFL players are suing EA, the NFLPA, and pretty much anyone else that touched Madden. But they are suing because EA used their stats for classic teams. The real question is who owns the stats - the player or the league? Another question is what constitutes a player “likeness”?
Madden NFL 10 has all 32 current NFL teams. Rosters can be updated via Xbox Live automatically when selecting a game type. The problem here is you must have Xbox Live. They locked the rosters to specific gamer tags so if you want to be nice and copy the updated roster with Favre and Vick to a memory card for your friends who don't have an Internet connection... you can't. To use the downloaded rosters you must be logged on with your gamer tag. This is a stupid oversight that makes it impossible to have a multi-Xbox tournament at a friend’s house if they don't have Xbox Live.
It's unfortunate, but NCAA Football 10 really buries Madden with available teams. They have over 300 teams available right out of the box, plus hundreds more are available online with EA's TeamBuilder web based software. Madden NFL has 32 teams. It's a pity EA hasn't implemented the same technology with their other sports games. It was fun a few years ago playing fantasy games of various Super Bowl Champions like the 1968 Packers against any of the Brett Favre/Reggie White years. But until the legal woes are sorted out we are likely stuck with current rosters.
Madden NFL 10 went “gold” (to the disc copy house) earlier than normal. There are several ways to look at this fact. Unfortunately, instead of the game being so bug-free and full-featured, we get a game not much different from last year, and one that has a few weird graphical glitches.
Overall, the graphics are without a doubt the best Madden has ever looked. The proof is in the details. It seems like a lot of little things have been tweaked, right down to the sideline photographers who clearly are using Canon L series lenses. When you play in the snow, the quarterbacks have hand warmers as part of their uniform and players leave footprints in the snow. But we don't get much of the unique little items for certain teams such as Packers players doing the Lambeau Leap. The graphics are still the best we've seen in Madden, but leave me craving even more.
Not much has changed in sound design from last year either. Tom Hammond and Chris Collinsworth call the game. While they do a good job, there are still annoying repeat phrases every game -especially if you throw the ball a lot. Chris Collinsworth repeatedly comments on getting flipped. We still only get brief audio clips of John Madden when you have him pick a play. It might be time to freshen the air with some new commentary next season.
The overall atmosphere during the game hasn't changed much either. You occasionally get specific cheers, but every team seems to have the same player or fan yelling, “What are we doing?” The crowd effects in Dolby Digital surround sound really put you in the stadium and in the game, and the spectacle that is the Super Bowl doesn't get any better on a video game. In-game music includes 35 songs from some big name artists. EA really dropped some money on music licensing with songs from Beastie Boys, Alice in Chains, Pantera, Public Enemy, Black Sabbath, Kid Rock, Slipknot, Iron Maiden and 2 Pac. You can also do your own custom play list as usual.
Madden NFL 10 has the usual 14-page basic manual and a long list of items for download on Xbox Live. You better invest in some Microsoft Points. EA knows how to squeeze a few more dollars out of Madden fans. Online Franchise mode is activated with a one-time-use code that comes with your new Madden NFL 10. But if you are borrowing it or bought it used, it will cost a high 800 points to play online with 31 of your friends. I've read a few articles recently about the game manufacturers getting upset with stores selling used games.
With NCAA and Madden, EA has chosen to make certain features only available with a code, forcing gamers who bought used copies to purchase extended features could potentially recoup some of their “lost” profits from the used market. As long as this practice of reselling certain features stays for online features that don't cripple the core game, this practice seems like a reasonable way to keep the used market from completely eroding the publishers income. Other minor enhancements like a star player or instant healing of player injuries cost 80 points. So you might want to set aside some money in your budget or start playing 1 vs 100 during prize games online.
There are 1,000 points for your gamerscore up for grabs with Madden NFL 10. 24 achievements are available including 3 secrets. The majority of achievements require that you play with a minimum of 5 minute quarters and in All-Pro difficulty. Madden NFL 10 is no pushover for you achievement hogs. There are several “secret achievements” as well. The easiest of which is going to “create a player” and making your players birth year 1954. For you Simpsons fans, if you go to the Create A Team mode, make your city Springfield and your nickname the Atoms and you'll unlock the “Safety Inspection Required” achievement. There is another secret, but you can figure that one out yourselves.
Madden NFL 10 is a good game. It's the best Madden game yet. But it's just not that huge a leap from Madden 09 to recommend an upgrade. The gameplay is about the same, the graphics are a tiny bit better, but overall there just isn't anything monumentally impressive. If you like NFL football and don't have a previous Madden game, this is a must buy. But if you have Madden 09 and are wondering if you should upgrade... save your $60 or buy NCAA Football 10. I'm playing NCAA this year.