The Madden NFL Series: It’s What’s on the Outside that Counts!

“Highest Rated Madden NFL Ever!”
This is the badge that Madden NFL 10 bears on its cover, along with the first ever dual cover athletes Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t… According to the back cover of the game Metacritic.com thinks so. But why should we care? What does that even mean? I suppose if all the other games were a 2 out of 10 and this was 3 out of 10 it’s still true right? Definitely the highest rated ever.

But why is it the highest rated ever? It might be the prettiest. The graphics are wonderful, no doubt about that – don’t remember ever seeing a football game with a presentation this well put together. Props to them on that aspect. The Conference Championship logos on the field in the playoffs are awesome, along with the Super Bowl presentation at the end of the year. Even the flyovers at the beginning of games are great; but is that what makes it the best ever? Hell, I can release my own game tomorrow, call it the highest rated ever and not be lying.

When it comes down to it, how many of us that have played through a full season, checked out the superstar mode (or what’s left of it) and tinkered around with the rest of the game have come out happy? Or even satisfied? Less disappointed than last year? I don’t see that figure being too high. I have had serious considerations of going back to Madden 09. At least I could track my greatness with the rings on the menu screen.

First thing’s first: Franchise Mode – the only reason I buy Madden… so i can lead my Chargers to NFL glory (as we’ve all seen they can’t do it themselves…). Anyways, I thought this piece of the game was pretty good – or at least on par with previous Maddens. Being able to import draft classes and scout the upcoming prospects is nice – although it seems that the only real connection the players have to their college days are their names, height and weight. Why is this? Why are things like speed lost in the transition? Players don’t get slower after they graduate… C.J. Spiller will not be running a 4.6 at the combine before the draft. The only other thing I really have an issue with is attempting to sign/re-sign players – why can’t they just state how much money they want? I’m pretty sure they don’t play this guessing game in real life… All in all, this is a pretty well rounded realistic mode though, very entertaining and includes most of the important aspects of running your team.

Superstar mode is next. Sort of. Remember the days of having a “Hall of Fame” status? what about on-field influence that changed with your play? Yeah, me too. Too bad those days are long gone, like just about every other feature in this mode. You can still import your legend from NCAA or pick a current rookie… but that’s about it. The only thing left to do is play. Literally. You are assigned a generic agent and given generic options when speaking with him. These options don’t change and can only impact your ego negatively it seems. I guess there are no “good” superstars anymore. This mode has been stripped down entirely and either needs to be rebuilt or done away with completely… don’t mock us with this overly simplistic junk.

The only other real facet of the game left untouched is the actual gameplay itself. Which all in all, isn’t that bad. If you liked Madden 07… or 08 or 09. Honestly, I don’t find it much different. The new “Pro-Tak” animations are kind of cool, glad someone over there realized that playing defense and tackling isn’t a one man job. One new feature that is terrible though is the “fight for the fumble”. Seriously? This only gets interesting if you get to be Logan Mankins and hit certain button combinations for low blows, headbutting and the occasional arm bar (only available when playing as Herschel Walker). I’m not sure it matters if you even press the buttons as the appear on the meter – the end result seems random anyway. And by random I mean the user loses 65-70% of the time. What they really need to implement is a physics engine. I may be asking too much, but that would seriously make playing a football game infinitely more realistic – which most users would consider a definite upgrade. It would be nice to beat the coverage down field for a deep ball once in a while or have a legitimate jump ball where your receiver jumps (imagine that?).

There are a lot of good things about this game, don’t get me wrong. I’m not releasing a better video game any time soon. However, for as long as this game has been produced and for as much money as it seems to rake in – being the number one selling football franchise and all – there really should be more consideration for improving how the game plays. The special effects and graphic upgrades are nice (they really do look great), but what would improve this game most would simply be overhauling the fundamentals and making it play like a real football game.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to meet with Logan Mankins on what else we can put into the fumble scrums that he won’t be sorry about.