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Xbox 360 Review: Madden NFL 10

Every year for the last 20 years Madden NFL has been the game that you come to expect to set the bar for video football and with Madden NFL 10 this year is no different. And, as with prior versions, there are new features that will make your season more enjoyable and a more realistic experience.

Twenty years ago when the first version was being developed for the Apple II series of computers under the name of John Madden Football, the developers wanted to have six or seven player teams. Madden insisted on 11 players per team. He said "I'm not putting my name on it if it's not real." Through today that continues to be the philosophy and driving force of Madden NFL.

Madden NFL 10

Presentation

As I said, with each new version there are always new features to make your season more enjoyable. One area of improvement this year is with the presentation. The focus was defined by the mantra that they've had for years —  everything you see on Sunday, you'll see in Madden NFL. To this end, Madden NFL 10 has added an all new scripted scene system giving you a more realistic rendering of fans, coaches, and trainers, as well as a wider variety of other football familiars like tailgaters, concession stands, and even foam fingers.

Additionally, the UI has been redesigned with a new menu system for easier access, a real life crew of seven referees as opposed to the five of previous versions, a new play calling interface that now has a three-box style of play calling which retains functionality yet makes it more simple to use. One area that still needs work however is the commentary.  The commentary has always been a weak point in that if you play enough it all becomes somewhat repetitive.

While the audio may not be the greatest, the graphics this year though are top notch.  This is an area that is tweaked every year and this year's version may be the best yet. 

Additionally, the quarterbacks all have new ratings, a better QB avoidance system, and signature throwing styles that make them unique. When you add in all the specialty moves like jukes, throws, and tackles, this area of the game truly special.

One other new feature, entitled Pro-Tak.  This is a new animation technology that lets you drag defenders towards the first down marker, have up to nine-man gang tackles, fight for a fumble at the bottom of the pile, and even evade the rush using all-new quarterback avoidance actions.

The developers have also created a whole network interface that gives the look and feel of the sport channels such as the NFL Network. By adding interviews, half-time shows, and a new feature called The Extra Point Show, a weekly recap of what went on in your franchise which stars Fran Charles and Alex Flanagan, you get that feeling that it is Sunday.

Madden NFL 10

Game Play

The game playing aspect of Madden NFL 10 has also been revamped to provide more authenticity to the game. I spoke earlier about the Pro-Tak system, but there has been a major upgrade to the animation system. Almost 1,000 animations have been removed or replaced this year including super-leaping swats and repetitive facemask tackles. There are some new animations as well, including full-extension catches and over the shoulder basket catches.

In Madden NFL 10 there are two game-play additions; Online Franchise and Online Co-op. The offline Franchise Mode has been the bread-and-butter of the game, but in recent editions it had not received all of the attention that it should have. This year, that has been addressed and now the Online Franchise is the star of the package.

Online Franchise boasts a very robust feature set that includes live drafts, player transactions, and league message boards that are all controllable from within your console, through a web browser, or even with your iPhone/iPod Touch via a custom application. This gives you and your friends a place to compete and call home all year long.

On the other hand the Online Co-op, while a good idea, has some problems. This is supposed to allow you to team up with a friend online to work on game strategy and practice plays. You are able to change player positions after each play to experience the play from different dynamics.

It all sounds good, but the problem is that because the camera system is different and is closer to your player, you don't have the range of view you normally have. Thus on the defensive side, if you switch players, the camera moves very strangely and it becomes disorienting. On the offensive side the problem is not as bad, and though the overall idea is good, it still needs work.

Other items that make the game play better is a new AI game calling system that improves a computer opponent, a new injury system that allows players to play hurt, and a more realistic blocking system that now forms a more true-to-life pocket around your quarterback. The game has also been slowed down so you have more time to make decisions, making the system seem more realistic. Online, by default, it plays at normal speed, but you can always go into the game options to change it to another mode.

There is also an all new set of WR/DB interaction abilities that has the DB "jostle" and use his body for positioning as well as react to a WR's moves.  Additionally, five new QB ratings to ensure that each QB plays uniquely. These include deep, medium, and short passing accuracy, throwing on the run, and play action.

The fatigue system has returned and been revamped so that as the game goes on, players can get subbed out more just like in real life. There are eight levels of fatigue displayed now as opposed to just the stop-light coloring system.

Madden NFL 10

Bottom Line

With Madden NFL 10, as with previous versions, there are premium new features that are there to make you want to pay the upgrade price. The first of these items in this version is the much improved overall presentation. This affects the atmosphere overall and it really does make you feel like you are sitting in your easy chair on Sunday afternoon.

The second main new feature is the online Franchise Mode. This takes the game to a whole new level as you and up to 31 friends can create a league and play just like you would if you were a real owner. Here you can start off with a draft and then as the season progresses you can propose trades, sign free agents, and interact with your fellow owners.

Finally there is the Pro-Tak system that gives you that realistic gang tackling feeling. This is realistic because you can have anywhere from three to nine guys fighting on top of the ball carrier, with the defensive guys trying to take him down, the offensive guys trying to move him forward. What about the ball carrier? He can try to break away as well. It is all very cool.

Madden NFL 10

As I said, the graphics are probably the best ever seen in Madden NFL. There is some problem with clipping, occasional mis-rendering, and some texture issues that can make the players without helmets look bizarre at times, but overall it is great.

The soundtrack is really good, but, as I said earlier, the commentary at times it can get redundant, and many times Chris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond sound fragmented. Chris Collinsworth is one of my favorite all-time announcers whether it is the Olympics or Football, but here he does not sound natural.

The game play ranks up there with some of the best. Could it be improved? Of course, but the on field action; where it counts the most, is the best the franchise has delivered to date. As far as replay-ability, outside of the online Co-op issues, everything else should keep you entertained for a long time.

The other features like the Extra Point Show, and Madden Your Way just add icing on the cake and as I said before, they all come together to make Madden NFL 10 as real as possible. In fact this is by far the best editions of Madden NFL that has been produced to date and really gives the feel of watching a game live on Sunday.

Madden NFL 10 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: Nintendo Wii, PSP, PS2, PS3, and iPhone.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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