So the annual EA Sports update of their long running franchise was released on the xBox 360 on August 14th 2009. As usual there were a whole raft of new additions as wells as improvements and in some cases simplifications of options in the game.
The usual modes are here with franchise mode being the most important where you assume control of all aspects of your team. Your goal is simple, get to the SuperBowl and win the Vince Lombardi trophy. A nice new touch in this mode is the addition of the in game half time and full time shows plus weekly wraps featuring NFL Network's Alex Flanagan and Fran Charles. The Super Bowl presentation is an pretty good with a flyby from the United States Air Force Thunderbirds with a rendition of the national anthem.
In superstar mode you take on the role of a singular player from day 1. You are an NFL player beginning your career as a rookie having been drafted. You just your physical attributes which will determine your skill sets and eventual your position. There is also the historic match scenarios in which you take over a team in one of thos historic moments and attempt to recreate history.
As usual with this franchise EA ensures the look and sound of the game is as realistic as the platform can offer. All 32 teams are included as are the stadia including Wembley for the annual International Series event. The soundtrack is a mixture of hip hop and heavy metal but not really for me.
In all honesty I could extend that phrase to the whole game. I've played a number of these games over the years and have enjoyed them as a challenge, however this one has left me bored and frustrated and to a degree confused. Additions such as the chain gang seem to serve no purpose whatsoever.
And then there is Tennessee Titans Running Back Chris Johnson. Now as good as he may be, in this game he is unstoppable. Literally. He runs, he scores and there is nothing you can do other than to try and outscore him.
It is good to see the curse of the Madden cover with Troy Polamalu being ruled out for the season with injury. Next years cover features Ben Roethlisberger. Ooops!!
In conclusion, it's pretty disappointing. Over complicating what is a sport and a game I love and turning it into a tedious way to spend an afternoon. It's on sale at most retailers at the moment around the £18 mark, but given that there have been numerous reviews in most of th trade magazines similar to my own opinion, you'd be better off waiting for the new version. Perhaps the developers will have taken notice of the complaints and made drastic improvements.
Madden, the longest running games series ( Im pretty sure ) is back and better than ever.
On the pitch things are not so different from the previous years effort but theres a lot you may not notice that adds a lot. Tackling has been upgraded a lot from Madden 09 and now you get to see nine man gang tackles and defensive line moves have been made more intuative and mapping them to the directions of the right stick makes it easier to try and bull rush or swim past the o-line. Unfortunatly the interception problems from previous years have made it to Madden 10 so expect the secondary to pick the ball off as if its made of metal and they have magnetic gloves on.
On the other side of the ball everything is how it should be except running can be either too easy or too hard depending on the skill level you play at.
Before the snap you have a lot of different plays you are able to call and all are set out in an easy to read way so you can always find a suitable run, pass or blitz to call.
Graphics and Sound
As usual EA do their usual high quality job here, everything from the stadiums to the kits to the players are very well done with very little clipping during moments that get very busy
The sound is pretty good on this game, during the game the crowd gets into the action but the commentary gets dull quick. The menu screens music isnt all that great but you can add your own mp3s
There are a few on offer including the usual friendly match and online.
Be a Pro
This is where you create your own player in any position and try to become an NFL legend . Everything can be setup how you like it from your height to how big your shoulder pads are.
This is where most of my time is spent. This is where you pick your team and play through seasons trying to win the Superbowl. It can get a bit tricky in the off season where you have to re-sign players, draft new stars and sign free agents, the way contracts are done in the sport can take some getting used to and dont be shocked to find out you manage to overspend on players and go over the wage cap. One of the best features of this or any game is the in-game tv show that shows highlights of yours and cpu games of the week, it really does add a lot of realism to your franchise game.
Another good but not quite great feature is an option to let the game work out your skill level for you. Instead of the usual easy, hard , hardest setting you can use something called my skill which rates your performance during games and adjusts in the areas you are either poor or good at. For example if you find your running all over the other team , cant throw to players and stop the computer from scoring on the ground you can expect your next match to play completely different as the game makes notes of your skills at the certain parts of the game.
Having been almost 15 years since I last played a Madden game when I had no idea what American football was, or for that matter, dare I say it, who John Madden was. Though 3 years following NFL and watching as much of it as possible, has got me into a bit of a fan of the sport (though I won't pretend to be a fan of any particular teams). So of course with that in mind and with money in my pocket, Madden 10 was high on my shopping pile of games I wanted, so when it was in Gamestation for less than £30 it didn't take a genius to get that money on the table and thank the shop attendant.
Whacked it in the Xbox 360 disk drive and set off a franchise (the bulk of the game). Left it to do an auto fantasy draft (which took around 10 minutes sadly) and set off with the Patriots, after finally getting through the rather menu heavy set up it was time to go. Wow was the first thing to come to mind when I'd finally got to a match, the graphics we're amazing realistic and brilliant, gorgeous, though admittedly not quite photographic quality, it wasn't far off. They were sharp, crisp and detailed, it was glorious.
As I'd loss the toss I was kicking and a quick click of the A button brought up an instruction side bar that taught you how to kick (aim with the left stick for direction and height; then use the right stick to add power). So off I went playing defence and it seemed like the game was simple to control but yet I still don't think I've mastered the controls, or even slightly, the ability to switch between players and move them was incredibly easy and pretty much the way in which the game should be played.
Finally getting on offence the game really hits home on it's simplicity, with options of picking plays by type or formation and the plays were incredibly easy to run. The control of the quarterback (for those who don't know much about the sport, he's the one who acts as the "play maker" on offence, the guy in control and the ones who are often responsible for winning games) was so intuitive, easy and almost impossible to fail at. Though I was playing with the easiest settings progressing down the field was arguably too easy (though I when I stepped up the difficulty playing defence was much more difficult) and games with 3 minute quarters were seeing scores of 49-7 (7 Touchdowns to 1). Though going a full season was enjoyable having no close games probably said it wasn't challenging enough on easy (second year will be played on a higher one).
So back to the game, the commentary was decent, though limited as it always is with video games the commentary never seems to fully fit the timing of the game, though on the whole it is pretty solid, especially when compared to games with a similar feature. The in game music (which plays on the numerous menu screens) is actually quite a good selection as well, including Nirvana and Disturbed, Korn, 2Pac, SOAD and Slipknot. All of which are well known and highly thought of by people so it's not a bad selection.
The game is also playable online as well as mulitplayer and the "superstar mode" though having not tried any of them (poor internet, family not interested in NFL) I've not tested them and probably won't be going to. Though if the single player mode of the game is anything to go by the multiplayer versions will be equally brilliant and fun to play that will come across as being simple originally before the person realises how complex some parts of the game can be. Though it must be said passing plays are the dominant offence as the rushing plays seem to be slow and difficult.
Overall the game is simple and easy to play though perhaps not the longest lasting it does have a variety of game modes, including some mini game type modes (such the 60 yard dash). It possibly does have plenty of life span to a true NFL fan but to someone who he no "team" (anyone want to advise one?) it limits it slightly. Despite being pretty and simple the game possible needs other people to fully enjoy it with.
The Madden Curse Strikes again
In recent years there has been the rumours of a Madden Curse, which has seen every player featured on the cover have bad look. John Madden had been on the older game covers until 1999, when Garrison Hearst appeared on the PAL (European) release of the game, this has continued with people like Michael Vick (who was injured later in the year after the game he was the cover star of, and was latterly arrested for his part in a dog fighting ring), Vince Young who lost his place in his team and has struggled to get it back. The 2010 game features Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu was injured on the first game of the season...