Madden NFL 10ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: EA Sports
Madden has a long and storied history of being the definitive football experience. It sure helps though that there is no other football game on the market given EA’s exclusivity of the NFL and NFLPA licence. Regardless of business practices, Madden is a game that football fans look forward to every season and this year is no different. EA Sports has tried to tailor their sports games on the Wii for a large and diverse audience to enjoy. They recognize that the Wii is a system for a lot of ‘casual’ gamers, and they have made efforts to market their titles toward both the true sports fan as well as those casual types. Madden 10 definitely falls into this realm as there are some big steps to make it even more accessible this year around.
One of the biggest things to distinguish Madden 10 on the Wii from all other versions is the visuals. Yes, I know the Wii is a lesser powered console then the Xbox 360 and PS3, however EA didn’t even try to emulate the bigger console versions as the Wii version has its own distinct look. Again, I really figure that they are targeting the main Wii demographic, the casual gamer.
Players have a very cartoonish look to them with exaggerated features. There is no doubt that you can tell the difference between the offensive or defensive lines and any of the QB’s or receivers. The best way to describe them is that they are like ordering a meal at McDonalds: medium, large or supersize. I was somewhat taken back by the approach. What was evident though was that the game does move smoothly and the animations are pretty slick. From breaking a tackle, bursting through a hole in the opponent’s offensive line, to diving for that extra yard, all looks good on the Wii and it is enjoyable to watch.
In terms of where all the gridiron battles take place, they too look pretty darn good. You’ll find that the stadiums have been redesigned visually from something as simple as the turf to the surrounding environments; all look solid on the underpowered console. The there are bright colors, solid 3D environments, and an overall refined feel these elements. There is no doubt that the visuals are going to be a love it or hate it affair. For those wondering what I thought of it, I personally didn’t mind it, but then again I am not what you’d consider a diehard Madden fan. Regardless of my tastes though the game does move fluidly and people have to experience it to really find their feel for it and with this in mind I think you need to suspend any opinion until then.
Last year’s Wii version of Madden had Al Michaels and the big man himself, John Madden, do the commentary and it worked well. This year the job has been handed over to Cris Collinsworth and Tom Hammond. I enjoyed the commentary last year, as evidenced by my review of 09, but this year it seems that I don’t enjoy it as much. Maybe it is that I am just used to Michaels and Madden, or maybe it is that I have been tainted by fellow reviewer Trevor H’s opinion of Collinsworth, but I just wasn’t as excited. Don’t get me wrong, they do an admirable job of calling the actual actions, but I just miss the duo of Michaels and Madden. Again I think that this is going to be a matter of taste and you may enjoy the new duo on the Wii much better than I did.
Music is once again a factor in Madden, which is staple for not only this series, but any EA Sports game. This year’s EA Trax in Madden 10 is quite diverse as it features music from such artists as Kid Rock, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden to the Beasties Boys, 2Pac or Nirvana. I didn’t mind the music in this year and I think that there is enough variety of music to satisfy all tastes.
Finally, the sound effects in the game are a compliment to the on-screen action that takes place. From the sounds of defensive and offensive lines doing battle, the sounds of the ball flying through the air and landing in the open arms of a wide receiver, to the PA announcer updating the crowd, all is faithfully recreated in this very stylized version of the franchise. The crowd also plays a part in the game as they appropriately cheer during the big plays, and they make their opinion known during the broken plays or poor performance of their home team. Overall the total sound package does the game pretty well.
Given the focus on the Nintendo Wii, which we all know is aimed at the casual gamer; titles that have been released on the machine definitely have been adapted for such. This can take the form of Wii-specific titles that have been deliberate for the console as well as franchise titles from any publisher/developer which modified to take advantage or what the Wii offers. Madden 10 falls into the latter, given that the franchise is released across multiple platforms. It is clearly evident from the time you fire up Madden 10 on the Wii that one can see how the game has evolved into a very Wii centric version of the game. From the visuals, presentation, gameplay to the mini-games, it is truly a title that has been adapted to fit the confines and attributes that the Wii is known for. There is no doubt that there is going to be a clear division of fans, and I honestly think that the diehard NFL’er or Madden fan out there may truly have a tough time with some of the game’s changes.
First thing that I want to note, and one of the more interesting changes, which I see as a ‘tip of the cap’ to Madden 09 on the Wii, is that EA has allowed players to choose a 5-on-5 mode for any type of play, and it is not just a separate mode. It is now found in the options, and not as a standalone feature. This gives the game more choice as you can make your Madden more “arcady” so to speak as it opens up the field and makes for a more interesting type of play. Sure, purists may not like this, but overall having another option to play ANY of the modes makes for a more enticing experience and allows for a ‘spicing’ up of the game so to speak. Although this sounds like a simple change, it is not until you actually play it on a regular basis that you see what it can do to make the game’s experience that much different.
This year’s version has some notable new modes worth mentioning.
The first, and most notable, is “Madden Showdown”. This is a 1-4 player tournament were you and your friends can go head-to-head in an effort to become champion. Although you can play 5-on-5 and 11-on-11, there are some neat options to make this mode different. One of the most interesting is that you can utilize Game Changers. These are exactly what they say given that they make the usual game of football different. There are eight different options to choose from, including Tug of War (only one down to advance), Invisibility (players can just ‘disappear) or All Running Plays (self-explanatory). During Madden Showdown there are also Spotlight Moments. During critical situations the game’s camera moves in and the gameplay slows down to allow you to take part in what may or may not be influential plays of the game. Here mini-games are initiated and you will battle your way to make a difference. Finally, those not playing now have the option of betting on the games that you are watching, and depending how you do in picking the winner of specific categories (e.g. winner, coin toss, longest pass, etc) it will affect your ranking in the tournament. Overall the Madden Showdown is a pretty enjoyable and I think a lot of people will be finding themselves playing this more then they thought. Having a few friends over to enjoy your favourite beverage, and playing this mode, can make for some pretty good times.
The next addition is known as the “Road to the Superbowl”. This is a 1-4 player experience that allows friends to work together as a team in their effort to get through a partial or entire NFL season. Players can join or leave a team at any point during the season, so you don’t always have to have the same guys playing. Again, you can choose 11-on-11 or 5-on-5 modes. The main difference is that the latter is a shortened season of 8 weeks and not a full 17 weeks. Of course you can shorten these time periods on your own, or just do a playoff mode should you desire. You’ll find that not only is your teams performance part of the overall picture, but individual performance is considered too. Both of these factors are tallied together to come up with an overall ‘team’ score and this dictates where you fall on the leaderboards. Interestingly enough, should a co-op player not perform as well as they should, the CPU Coach will bench them and replace the player with a CPU player, and once your team can ‘turn’ things round you can then get the benched player back. For those that are looking for a deep franchise like mode within this mode maybe a bit disappointed as there is not a lot of depth as it is all about playing the games. That being said, this is once again not a bad mode to sit with friends on a regular basis (make it a weekly thing) and have some football fun.
The final mode worth noting is known as the “Huddle-Up” mode. This is a two player mode where the second player controls a cursor and can use it to knock down the opposing teams players when hitting the A button. You can set the number of ‘hits’ from three to unlimited per down. It is the most simple of the new modes. I found that this mode could be entertaining, in very short bursts. It was evident that you could do a lot of interesting things in this mode; however it did become quite repetitive. What was notable about this though was that I could let my 5 year old daughter play with me, and when I took control of the knocking down the opposing players, she had fun mindlessly running down, and around, the field. It made for some enjoyable daddy/daughter time while I was trying to review the game.
Of course what would be a Madden without the tried and true modes such as Franchise, Superstar and Situation Modes that were all available in past Wii versions. They make a return this year, but surprisingly they are unlockables. This caught me off guard as you’d think that they would have made some of these Madden staples open from the beginning, as they have been in the past. EA says that they will be releasing codes for each mode sometime in the near future. Regardless, some people may see this as a turn off. In terms of how they play, well they are not much different if at all from last year so feel free to check out my review of Madden 09 on the Wii (http://www.game-boyz.com/content/node/9686 ) which details these modes. Overall, those who played last year’s version of Madden on Nintendo’s home console will be very familiar with what is offered here.
When it comes to the overall gameplay and presentation, there are notable changes that have been made here too.
Anyone who played last year’s Wii version should know that there were two types of control schemes, a traditional one (buttons) and a Wii centric one (Wii Remote and Nunchuk movements). This year EA has tried to find a middle ground and has offered up something new. In terms of passing, they have implemented a new “Point and Pass” mechanic where you simply point at your receiver and press the A button. On defence you can now point and lock onto specific targets and your defence will focus on that particular player. When the action happens you need to swing the Wii Remote at the right time and your on-screen player will perform the most appropriate actions for the scenario (e.g. swat the ball, sack the QB or hit the ball carrier).
Overall the control works pretty well, and the new “Point and Pass” was more enjoyable then I thought it would be. I had visions of it being inaccurate or unresponsive, given the nature of having to choose receivers quickly when being blitzed by the defence; however this was not the case. After a slight learning curve I was able to choose my receivers with ease, and get a pass to them when they were open. As noted in my 09 review, I am not a huge virtual football fan, so a lot of my blown passes were a result of poor decision making on my part. I think that EA has found a pretty good common ground for all those to enjoy the game, but I can’t help but think the more advanced gamers, or true diehard Madden fans, may feel a bit cheated in that the control is aimed at the more casual then the hardcore. That is not to say it isn’t fun though and people of all levels should give it a go to see if they truly like it or not.
One of the neat features in last years Wii Madden, and it was exclusive to the console, was the “Call Your Shot” feature. Here you just pressed a button and used the Wii Remote to map out a receiver’s new route. Not content with just leaving this feature as is, Call Your Shot has been implemented for defence this year as well. Here you can now simply select a player and quickly change their defensive assignment by pointing to a different area of the field. With this new feature you can effectively change up your type of coverage in a matter of seconds. Now, I am not the most adapt at defence in a football game, but man this did help me seal up some holes that were discovered now and then. Overall, fans of customizing their plays on the fly will love the addition of the defensive Call Your Shot feature.
Of course online is back too, and as with last year’s version it is pretty well implemented. I am not going to go into much detail as not a lot has changed this year, so you can once again check last year’s review (Madden 09) and see what my thoughts and impressions were as there is no need for me to think any differently.
If I were to be concerned with any issue, it would be that Madden 10 is a sign that EA Sports needs to figure out where it is headed . This year’s version on the Wii still has some heavy sim-like elements, which would be expected given it is a Madden game. You can rely on your team specific playbooks with a large number of running and passing plays, along with the usual mind numbing number of defensive plays. However, on the other hand the simplified approach of the controls, the mini-games, the 5-on-5 option, and the very specific visuals, make the game lean more in the arcadish direction. It is my belief that EA should go one way or another, and satisfy the crowd they are aiming at. If you want to fully satisfy the diehard sim-fan, then you need to stick to the old school Madden approach and improve the simulation and hardcore aspects as much as you can on the Wii. If you want to wholly attract the casual crowd, you need to take out any sim-like aspects, and lean more towards a fully arcade-like title where there is no need to know much about anything NFL wise. Regardless of my criticism in this area, I do have to give EA props for trying to make the best of both worlds and a lot of people can still enjoy this game.
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