(editor’s note: a review of the Xbox 360 version is available here)
The Nintendo Wii, as we all know, cannot compete, graphically speaking, with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. As we have been told plenty of times, Nintendo’s idea was to create a more fun experience for everyone; to create a system where everyone could simply pick up a controller and play. While I don’t believe it has been a successful endeavor in every genre across the board, almost without exception I would rather play a sports game on my Wii than on any other system. The Wii, with its motion-based play is able to approximate sports moves exceedingly well, which adds a little bit extra to my enjoyment level.
With the Madden franchise over the past few years, EA Tiburon has made a very overt decision to not have the Wii edition of the game remotely attempt to look like the PS3 or 360 editions. The graphics on the Wii version are exceedingly cartoonish and with very exaggerated features. It feels like a choice made to remove the ability to compare the Wii edition with the others rather than an attempt to play to the Wii’s strengths and circumvent its weaknesses. The graphics look good for the Wii, but are definitely not the game’s strong suit.
While online play, mini-games, Madden Showdown, Huddle Up, and Road to the Super Bowl all return as modes this year, the heart and soul of Madden – and one place where this year’s version is quite good (and revamped) – is in the Franchise mode. It is here where any serious player of the game will spend the majority of their time – building a franchise, playing week to week, and seeing the dollars and trophies roll on in through the years. Very importantly, and unlike last year’s version of the game, you do not have to unlock the Franchise mode by doing other things in the game first – Franchise mode is placed front and center just like it ought to be.
The new Franchise mode now provides you and your chosen team with a campus and several advisors to tell you about the different aspects of the franchise (fans, money, team, and an assistant to keep the advisors out of your hair). Each advisor sets a goal at the beginning of the season (have such-and-such a record by year’s end, have “x” number of fans visit the stadium, net “y” dollars). You won’t instantly lose the franchise mode if you don’t hit your advisors goals, but your campus gets prettier if you make them and you won’t risk getting fired. The game also tracks your long term progress in the mode with the goal of creating the best franchise of all time.
Your campus consists of four separate areas. First, there is the stadium, where the games take place and you can check the standings and schedule. Next, there is the hall of fame, which allows you to view the expectations, check your legacy score (which is how you know where you stack up all-time), and look at your awards and the upcoming Pro Bowl. Third up is the front office, which as the name suggests allows you to make all your front office roster, franchise, and gameplay settings decisions. Lastly, there is the practice facility where you can try out plays and players and tweak your playbook and philosophy.
One of the main innovations you’ll see this year outside of the Franchise mode – and certainly the most loudly proclaimed one – is “GameFlow.” GameFlow is a system of situational playcalling wherein you can either have the game call a play for you or choose from an extremely pared down selection of runs, short passes, long passes, and special teams plays (four of each). The selection can be tweaked prior to the game and certainly ought to be as not doing so can lead to downs where all four of the runs you are allowed to choose from are variations on the draw, a terribly frustrating experience if you and your back are more fans of the outside.