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Review: Madden NFL 10

You might have noticed that the Madden NFL series has been going for a VERY long time. Madden NFL 10 is the 21st entry in the series, and just like every other Madden game this generation, it aims to improve upon last year's iteration in enough minor ways to make the new version worth a purchase. In some ways this new Madden fails to improve, but it manages to do just enough to warrant some attention from longtime fans and noobs.

There are some really nice things that Madden 10 does to enhance last year's game. There has been much hoopla surrounding the new "Pro-Tak" animation system that has been implemented in the game, which allows up to nine players to pile onto one ball-carrier in a tackle. Almost all the other animations in the game have been rebooted this year as well, so catching, throwing, running, and (especially) tackling look better than ever before.

Other presentation elements like the new menus system are simple, but elegant. Whereas previous games in the franchise have all too often relied on flashy menus that weren't very functional, Madden 10 introduces a crisp, easy-to-navigate interface. Simple touches like the fact that your controller will now rumble whenever your QB is in danger are great, and your linemen are now much better about forming a protective pocket around your QB. The stadiums in the game look awesome, and all sorts of new information-filled tickers make players feel like they're controlling a Sunday game on their TVs.

The addition of an online franchise mode is a welcome one indeed, but the new web-based system is not without kinks in the wire. If you fill up some of your open slots in your franchise (there are 32 slots for humans or computers) with computers, you will oftentimes find that the AI will accept REALLY stupid trades. Also, there's a weird problem in which "Player of the Week" awards don't scale according to how short your quarter-lengths are. What this means is that if you play Madden 10 with 5 minute quarters, you're unlikely to ever win a "Player of the Week" award because the computers are playing full-length quarters and naturally piling up more yards, touchdowns, etc.

Of course, there are some problems that have been with Madden for a long, long time, and many return in NFL 10. It's still way too easy to "go for it" on 4th down if you're an experienced player, the commentary is absolutely abysmal, blockers are still stupid in certain situations, the computer defensive passing AI is still over-powered, injuries happen too often, and the same old referee animations play entirely too frequently. Naturally the crowd looks ugly when shown up close, but I doubt that's something they'll ever bother to fix. All of the problems listed above besides the ugly crowd issue need some attention, but at the same time none of them are really that big of a deal. It would just be nice to get a Madden game that fixed such long-standing issues.

All the old modes like Franchise, Superstar, Quick Game, etc. are still here, they're still a blast, and they still combine to form the best football game available. Full slider control has returned this year to make everything involving player skill or difficulty level customization better, and a button-mashing minigame called "Fight for the Fumble" will now sometimes happen whenever a fumble is contested via a massive dogpile. It's really impossible to reinvent the wheel when you have to put a version of the same game out every year, so the little touches are nice. They're probably not enough to warrant a purchase of this one if you bought Madden NFL 09, but I doubt that'll stop millions of people from buying this year's edition anyway.

The millions of people that buy Madden each and every year buy it because it's a fantastic virtual version of NFL football. Yes, there are numerous problems that plague the series, but with each iteration the games get better. Madden NFL 10 is not perfect, but it is the best edition yet in a great series. While I stand by the idea that those who purchased '09 won't be getting their $60 worth out of this one, those who haven't visited the series in a while (or ever) can feel confident that they'll be getting a product worth well more than the asking price when they buy Madden NFL 10

Players:1-2 players local, 2-4 online

Platform(s):Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, iPhone

Developer:EA Tiburon

Publisher:EA Sports

ESRB:E for Everyone