Madden NFL 10 Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

The Madden franchise has been a long-term success for Electronic Arts, the yearly updates refining and improving on the basic ideas established with the first game. It was the personal project of founder Trip Hawkins, with former NFL head coach and commentator John Madden helping to design the playbook. This latest offering has new modes and improvements, but does it still reflect the sport and give users a good game?

As with other recent EA Sports titles, this is a good-looking title. Late afternoon sunlight casts shadows across the stadium, raindrops glisten on the camera lens and coaches prowl the sidelines waiting for the next play. Players move fluidly and with real weight, short animations showing their delight or disgust at how a play has gone. The TV-style presentation that surrounds the game is outstanding too, from the Extra Point show in Franchise mode to the pre-game animations.

This is not a game that gives concessions to the newcomer, with the very terse manual expecting a certain level of knowledge, and diving straight into the Play Now mode can be daunting. There are tutorials and a practice mode, and the Virtual Trainer with its “3D hologram” style is visually appealing as it teaches you the basics. The Madden Test drills you in all aspects of play, giving you an “IQ” rating at the end. And for more short-term action there are the Madden Moments, key sections of play from the 2008-9 season allowing the player to see how they would fare in a difficult situation.

For long-term play there are the Franchise and Superstar modes. The former deals with every aspect of the team, from the draft to the play calling. Matches can be simulated to speed up play. In Superstar mode, similar to FIFA’s Be A Pro, you take control of one player. You can simulate the game until your player is on the field, and then take control. A Superstar can call for the ball, but there is no guarantee you will be directly involved in every play. But there is real satisfaction in pulling off a block or running a route even when you don’t get the ball. In both modes the calendar display can be slightly fiddly, but the level of statistical detail and the aforementioned Extra Point show giving highlights from around the league is cleverly done.

Just like Fight Night Round 4, the sound is a mixed bag. There are some nice tracks playing on the menu screens, and the way you can hear snippets of them in the stadiums is effective. Down on the field there is plenty of player chatter, but the actual commentary does become repetitive. Likewise the animations, such as the chain gang – there seem to be a limited number that are repeated, and sometimes can be quite stilted (the rival coaches talking at the end, the players walking off the field). These are minor complaints though.

The level of intelligence displayed by the AI players is good, with only the odd strange call (such as the choice of play when the clock is running down) and a tendency for catches that are just out of bounds. Play calling is comprehensive, with the ability to sort by play type, formation or player, with John Madden on hand to give suggestions. A minor niggle is the way the play calling menus are laid out, the analogue stick prone to switching category. The player controls have been refined, with the right analogue stick in particular adding to the level of control. This allows a receiver to jink sideways, a lineman to cut block or a pass rusher to swim past an opponent, the different strategies opening up play.

The learning curve is not steep but it will take time to become an effective play caller. The biggest challenge is on the defensive side of the ball, as missed tackles can lead to a breakaway score. Depth has always been the major selling point, with a complete season (including the Pro Bowl game between the best players in each conference) providing many hours of play. While I was unable to play online during my time with the game, the online co-op and franchise modes should extend its lifespan … until next season, anyway. Madden NFL 10 undoubtedly carries on the long tradition of exciting gameplay and great presentation, and should be part of any sports fan’s collection.