As the summer heat begins to wane, football aficionados can rejoice. Not only are the airwaves aglow with preseason pigskin, but store shelves are lined with the latest iteration of Madden NFL football. Gamers expecting revolutionary changes to the perennial title might be disappointed- Madden’s strategy has always focused on subtle refinements over the game’s extensive career. Yet, the overall finesse shown by NFL 10 means the title deserves a place alongside the revered ’94 and ‘04 editions, in the Madden Hall of Fame.
Madden 10’s most significant addition is the incorporation of the Pro-Tak animation system. Since the series went polygonal in the PSone era, the game has relied on a rigid motion capture system to recreate realistic, albeit limited, player animations. Regrettably, this also meant that the complexities of football were neglected, as tackles terminated each play. Madden 10’s addition of a branching animation system makes games feel much more dynamic, as player’s try to garner additional yardage towards a first down. The Pro-Tak system elevates Madden’s ground game substantially, as your backs behave in a more realistic and gratifying manner. The only setback to the new system is the infrequent player who will glide unrealistically for a step or two, resembling a surplus NHL 09 athlete.
Two significant changes have been made to Madden 10’s online component. First, players can now enjoy a co-operative game over the internet- an addition that’s long overdue. Secondly, the game’s online franchise mode allows player to either host or join a 32 team league. Gamers can now draft players, initiate trades, and even run a fantasy draft via the web or a free iphone app. For Madden fans who a part of an active online community, this functionality will be worth the price of admission alone.
The title’s Superstar mode, which allows players to step into the virtual cleats of a budding NFL pro, has been simplified in many ways. After gamers construct a character from a myriad of talent and appearance options, they take an I.Q. test, and are entered into the draft. After players are signed, they are given a weekly schedule, which they may participate or simulate. The designers have omitted 09’s daily drills, opting for a single weekly practice event. Unfortunately, these training sessions didn’t appear to affect any of the player’s stats, rendering them slightly superfluous.
Madden 10’s graphical improvements attempt to emulate a television broadcast, with immensely successful results. Each contest’s pre-game shots show delicately rendering venues, filled with fans carrying banners, foam fingers and flashing cameras. Players now cast shadows on other players, and are outfitted in well-rendered shoes, gloves, helmets and jerseys. When running in 1080P, the game occasionally approaches photorealism, with its detailed field textures, and well articulated athletes. The level of visual expertise is even carried into the game’s user interface, which has been given a pleasing overhaul. Unfortunately, a few graphical niggles exist. While the game’s animations are overwhelming spectacular, there is the occasional unrealistic movement. Kickers look exceptionally robotic after a exiting from a field goal attempt. Cutscenes are marred by slow-loading objects, making sidelined quarterback talk into imaginary phones.
By combining a substantial amount of auxiliary materials with a refined tackling game, Madden NFL 10 offers an amazingly comprehensive package for football fans. Following the examples set by the 16-bit and 32-bit generations, this fifth incarnation (fourth for PS3) of the series works out nearly all of the new console kinks, and presents a graphically accomplished, sophisticated simulation. Players shouldn’t be surprised if Madden 10 becomes this hardware generation’s pinnacle of pigskin polish.
Madden NFL 10 was reviewed on retail Xbox 360 code.