Despite being called Madden NFL 10, this edition of Madden is actually the 21st installment of the EA Sports franchise, and it has been developed by EA Tiburon. In something of a first for the series, two athletes are also featured on the box art and it's not the only thing that's new this time around.
After receiving criticism last year for the game being stale, EA Tiburon have added a host of new features, as well as attempting to improve on what's already existing in the game. This means that the Superstar Mode and Franchise Mode have been given a fresh paint of coat, as well as a few other amendments. This doesn't necessarily mean it's been changed for the good though. While letting players create their own Superstar to be drafted into the NFL, it just feels really detached. It does give the experience of playing as a solo NFL player, but since quite a lot of the action is skipped, there is very little match commentary and quite a lot of the time, the player's character might not even be directly involved. If for example, the player chooses to be a Quarter Back, there's a good chance that the coach will choose to use running plays, which effectively means the player does nothing. It is possible to call audibles as the Quarter Back, but in other positions it can feel really isolated. It may be a true experience of what it's like to be a player in the NFL, but that doesn't mean it's fun. Especially if the coach just doesn't pick the player to take part in plays. An entire match can effectively be skipped, despite the player wishing to play.
The Franchise Mode is exactly what the doctor ordered though. It has been revised further to make it a much truer simulation of the NFL season, with new and improved signing decisions, as well as player progression and regression. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once all of the different areas are understood it can be a lot of fun. It is possible to ignore most of it and just play though the season, but that takes away from the fun of truly creating a dynasty. It can also be enjoyed online, with up to 32 other players. This includes live draft picks, as well as message boards for the league. In an innovative move, this also doesn't have to be accessed through the game, as players can see things on the go via the web. However, this comes at an additional costs so it may not be for everyone.
The actual gameplay of Madden can't be faulted on the offensive side, at least. Playing as the Quarter Back is an enjoyable experience, as is the level of control a Quarter Back has on the influence of plays. The only gripe about the audible system is that sometimes it can be a bit slow, and when there is a play timer counting down, it can get a little frustrating. The actual controls are very responsive though, as playing at the Quarter Back revolves around selecting a receiver by pressing the corresponding button. It's a method that's been used in Madden games for a long time now, and it's one that works. Playing as a Running Back is also enjoyable, as the game has made it much harder to make lengthy running plays. This means it's a lot more satisfying if the player manages to break though the defensive line to get a good gain.Unfortunatly, when playing as defence it's not as enjoyable. Because the defensive side of the game has been improved so much, if the player chooses to select an End, they are then in a fight to sack the Quarter Back, or take down a Running Back, but it doesn't feel like anything the player does actually makes a difference to whether they succeed or fail. The same doesn't apply for selecting Defensive Backs though, as if the player attempts to just run, they will stumble and fall over, meaning the Receivers are free. Unless the X button is held - which makes the Defensive player effectively go into auto-pilot - any selected defensive player will stumble around and create gaps in the Defensive. It can be exceedingly frustrating, because it's possible to completely shut down the opposition by effectively doing nothing - it doesn't feel like anything the player does actually affects the play in a positive way.
The actual tackles themselves look fantastic. The addition of PRO-TAK technology can really be seen to make a difference as players fly around everywhere. It also allows for up to nine players to be involved in a tackling frenzy and it makes for some interesting pile-ups. One of the new mechanics which doesn't work so well though is Fight for the Fumble, which makes players mash buttons to try and gain the ball back. It always seems like it's pre-determined though, as the team who makes the early running nearly always seems to get the ball back.
The presentation of Madden NFL 10 is very slick. The players look detailed, as well as the stadiums themselves. They also react nicely to the various weather effects that take place throughout the season. There are a few niggling issues though, as many of the specific sequences are just repeated and re-used. For example, when the coaches shake hands after the match, they use exactly the same animations, but different models. There is also a scene which shows the Quarter Back on the phone, but they all look like Tom Brady. The audio, while for the most part good, also has some glitches. During the actual play, players sometimes shout, and it's exceedingly loud in comparison to everything else. The addition of The Extra Point show helps to make the experience much more authentic, as it allows players to re-live their greatest play throughout the first half.
There is a very good level of replayability with the title, but it should be said that playing this game with a limited knowledge of the NFL is exceedingly difficult. The game assumes a lot and it could drive off new players, who are trying to experience something different. Having said that, this game is for fans and the modes available in the game reflect this. As well as those already talked about, it's also possible to play online with your buddies, or even play on the same side. There are also a host of mini-games which can be enjoyed, as well as the Madden IQ test, which will help set the game to an accurate skill level.
After receiving criticism last year for being stale, this year's Madden had a point to prove, and it proved it. A lot has changed about the game, and although some of it wasn't necessarily in a positive way, there is a ton here for those who are passionate about the NFL. The graphics are crisp, and there are plenty of play modes to keep people occupied, as well as a ton of stats.
Madden NFL 10 makes sure that the Madden franchise stays on top in the world of American Football.