After a short run against the Washington Redskins, the dreaded notice came up: “B. [Brandon] Jacobs is going to be evaluated by team doctors.” The New York Giants subbed in their smaller, faster running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, while I sat on the edge of my seat, wondering if Jacobs was going to be okay. After two or three plays, a graphic informed me that Jacobs had suffered a strained hip, and that I could put him back in the game -- although the risk of re-injury was “medium.”
Madden NFL 10 (PS3 [reviewed], 360 [reviewed], Wii, PS2, PSP)
Sports simulations need to offer great gameplay, to be sure, but to provide a top-notch, accurate simulacrum of a sport, I always say that a game needs to get “the little things” right. This fastidiousness is demanded by sports fans, and with Madden NFL 10, EA Tiburon delivers the goods. Hand towels for quarterbacks; team-specific colors on cleats and gloves; Super Bowl patches on jerseys; proper placement of single-digit numbers on certain teams’ helmets -- these are the kinds of details that Tiburon has added this year, and while they may seem insignificant, they each bring Madden one step closer to the NFL.
Pro-Tak allows for up to nine players to be involved in a gang tackle. Players can procedurally be added to a pile, and the player being tackled still has control over what happens. In my Brandon Jacobs story, I was able to break free because Jacobs has very high “strength,” “break tackle,” and “trucking” ratings, and because I kept pushing the right analog stick forward. Just like in the NFL, a running back can keep his legs moving, and if he’s strong enough, he can move the pile to get those few extra yards for a first down. But if the pile is moving him backward, and he’s still up, the referees will blow the play dead.
In other words, the ratings matter this year. Not only that, but teams will play like their real-life counterparts. The Vikings will run it down your throat with Adrian Peterson, while the Dolphins will sprinkle in the wildcat with Ronnie Brown. You’ll have to adjust your game plan for each game, just like NFL coaches do every week.
With all of Tiburon’s tweaks and additions, Madden NFL 10 is the first entry in the franchise on current-generation consoles that I can unequivocally recommend. Yes, we say each year that “this is the best Madden yet,” but the improvements that Madden 10 offers over Madden NFL 09 are vast. In fact, aside from a new console generation, Madden 10 might provide the most significant year-over-year upgrade in the 21-year history of the series. Even gamers who have been wishing for a sequel to ESPN NFL 2K5 will be impressed, and for a football fan, buying this year’s Madden is a no-brainer.
For better or worse, change represents the Madden franchise. Madden NFL 09 was an attempt to make the simulation approachable. The persistent difficulty modifier Madden IQ was introduced, as well as the mulligan option, Rewind. While these changes to the core game have been kept, the emphasis has been reduced. This Madden represents a change of direction, a complete U-turn from the casual-infused version from last year. This one is all about realism, and please, fuhgeddabout how scary that word sounds. Madden NFL 10 isn’t a snore fest. It has plenty of pop and more zing than a typical Texans vs. Raiders match-up.
Scribble the realism in as a result of the new procedural animations. Players can slip tackles, push through blockers, and evade with realistic fluidity. And if there are too many players near the ball, well, the carrier is going nowhere. The right stick is the catalyst to this new system. For example, you can use the right analog stick to steer the big boys in the trenches around or through offensive players post-snap. Not only is it more fluid, but it’s a more intelligent method of getting to the ball handler than the aged mashing the shoulder buttons and hoping for a snappy victory route. It’s the inverse for the running back. Bruisers can run through a crowd, struggle for that extra yard and realistically evade grabbing hands with a slight flick of the stick.
If I do throw six INTs, it’s because I’m using a garbage QB, and we all know there’s plenty of them in the league. This game reflects that. The rankings system has been overhauled. Bad players have bad rankings and the mediocre to good ones don’t have outstanding stats, either. This is across the board -- most proven players are where they should be for once. I still have a hard time swallowing that Mark Sanchez’s 78, but future roster updates should smack him down if he plays like the rookie that he will be this year.
The online stuff works -- both the exhibition and the online franchise stuff. I’m no fan of Madden online. Players can still relentlessly fiddle with routes and shoot whatever gaps they desire in zone coverages, as well as “game” man-on-man stuff. I just don’t have the patience to play against the Madden elite, so I haven’t explored the mode as much as I have everything else.
Overall Score: 9.25 -- Superb (9s are a hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title.)
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