Madden NFL 10 Impressions

Posted August 10th, 2009 at 1:17 pm


Madden has remained the most highly anticipated sports franchise in the US despite releases this generation that are looked back upon with disappointment. This year for Madden 10 the development team took a more serious approach focused on authenticity, presentation, and gameplay enhancements. After getting time in with it at E3 I didn’t really have a great feel for how it would ultimately be received and what longevity it would offer even though many of the improvements were evident.

After playing the game for a few days I have already put more time in with Madden 10 then I did with 09 in total, which I could also say the same with about any other sports game released this year. Considering that Online Franchise hasn’t even started yet it is clear that I’ll be playing Madden for a long time to come.

Those of you following along on Twitter know I’m having a blast with the game. While I have a list of issues they are all relatively minor and have not detracted from the enjoyment I’m having. So now I’m going to list off some of the positives as well as the negatives I’ve come across. Online impressions will have its own posting later this week, but so far the experience has been good outside of ranked games needing to be lengthened. Overall it is remarkable how great the game has become in just one year.

Graphically the game is absolutely beautiful. I marvel at some of the images on screen and it isn’t limited to just one thing. Bright colors, great weather effects, great lighting, and improved player models. Hopefully next year they get progressive lighting in. All things considered I think this may be the best sports game in terms of visuals ever with how much it has to process.


Obviously the presentation got a lot of work this year with the addition of a bunch of cut scenes, halftime highlights, and Extra Point franchise show.  What has surprised me most is I’m not skipping through most of these things. The only one I tend to click through is the QB walking up the line of scrimmage. It looks great but I’m too impatient for that one. I like that the scenes run behind the play call screen because I don’t miss out on them that way. One thing I’ve noticed is a lack of replays. Now that may be due to the game setting I’ve been playing on being Hardcore, but I would still expect big plays to be replayed right after. Instead it just cuts right to the play call screen which takes out some of the emotion of that big play.

The halftime highlights and halftime franchise show along with the Extra Point show need some work, primarily commentary during halftime and highlight clips in the Extra Point. However they advanced enough with these two additions in one year that I’m more interested to see where they go with them than how they might be lacking right now. I’ve noticed a few errors in the show such as displaying an incorrect score where I had won in OT 31-28 but it showed 31-27 and Alex Flanagan introduces the “Top Two Players” but actually says “Top Two Plays”. While they show scores around the league at halftime it disappears way too fast, usually I’ve only read the first or second or tried to glance and find how a division foe was faring. Same goes for how fast they cut away from the top players and stats from around the league. What I really want next year for Franchise is cutaways to games in progress with highlights as well as a ticker of scores from around the league!

Having the ability to mix-and-match uniforms is an understated but great option. I’m a little perplexed why the Seahawks have their default home uniforms with white pants considering they’ve never worn that combo at home and only when forced to on the road. It bugged me in pre-release screenshots but at least I can fix it and use the correct combo in every game. I knew this would be a popular feature when at E3 almost every game being played used either alternates or some crazy combination of parts. I can’t forget to mention how awesome it is having team colored gloves and shoes too!


I’m enjoying franchise mode so far mostly because of all these things that tie in with it. I’m not someone who is going to break down stats or progression (though you can browse my Twitter page for some post week six league leaders). What bums me out is the lack of the Extra Point show in Online Franchise.

The reduced game speed is absolutely a big reason why the game plays so well this year. I love being able to see plays develop, holes open, or step up and buy time in the pocket. Being able to move around in the pocket feels so good finally for someone like myself who has always leaned towards pocket passers. It seems pretty balanced this year between pocket passers and scramblers. Poor accuracy QBs have a tough time and instill very little confidence throwing the ball around.

The Wildcat is absolutely a blast to run. This isn’t because its over-effective. I’d say I’m only getting 5+ yards out of it 1/3 times and the rest I’m getting stuffed. I have yet to complete a pass out of it. Trying to read the defense and decide to hold and run or hand it off is something I really enjoy. So I’m finding I mix in Wildcat plays about five times a game.

More than ever I love throwing the deep ball this year. I’ve always been a West Coast Offense type player and rarely thrown deep, but with the new game speed I’m able to read defenses better. In my franchise I’ve had three or four deep bombs to Ted Ginn because of this. I’ve seen the safety move away, watched Ginn on the outside beat the DB, and then lofted it up for him to go get it.

I’m really enjoying the change of the defensive line/interaction moves to the right stick. Rarely have I played as the defensive lineman in the past or manually blitzed. I’ve found it more effective to sit back in a zone. However I’m now leaning towards trying to get pressure on the QB and the right stick moves feel really natural.

I’ve gotten good statistics out of 12 minute quarters with 15 second accelerated clock. QBs are not overly accurate, as shown with my Pat White experiment. Even the good QBs have the occasional bad throw. What is great about that is some of them are overthrown or just missed. It isn’t like before how the only incompletions came from INTs, bat downs, or drops.

The weather really does affect the game and potentially strategy. Players slip in the rain or snow. If the QB slips during drop back, which I’ve seen maybe once or twice per game, they can’t throw until they’ve got their feet back under them. If a WR slips his icon disappears so you have to wait then as well. I’ve also seen defenders slip so that could be taken advantage of. In bad weather I’ve had both defensive battles and games full of big plays because the conditions.


The CPU run game is inconsistent at best. I’ve had little worry in shutting their run game down, though they do stick with it and continue to try. Up until my last two franchise games I don’t think I had played a single game where the CPU rushed for more than 60 yards. But in those two franchise games I was gashed for 210 and over 150. So it is possible they gain yards on the ground even then they were off a handful of big plays, a few decent runs of 5-10 yards, and a bunch of no gains or losses. I literally feel confident that I could stop four straight CPU runs on the goal line with a base 3-4 or 4-3 defense.

The pass rush has been a big topic since E3 but I’m finding it pretty balanced. There are occasional instances where the CPU gets a ton of time to sit in the pocket. Basically it doesn’t collapse and he can just stand there for 5+ seconds. The ability to hit the QB as he’s throwing takes away some of the frustration that may have caused though. Blitzing is very effective for the first time I can ever remember because you can pressure the QB into bad throws and not just pressure them into making accurate throws quicker.

Speaking of the passes when QBs are hit, while I like the addition it is seen way too often. A good percentage of incompletions come from this happening as well as either INTs or dropped INTs. I’d rather some of those occasions the QB either get the ball out a fraction of a second quicker or tuck it in and take the sack. It’s just repetitive to see it happening several times a drive.

Another thing I see way too much of is the mid-air collisions where receivers are undercut and flipped. There should be other animations for contacting receivers while they’re in the air like that.

I’m not finding turnovers to be a problem but there are a lot of dropped INTs which look bad. Some of them are just floaters or hit them right in their hands that anyone should catch let alone the DBs that also drop them. Now, if they were catching them all, I’d be complaining that there were too many turnovers. But something has to be done to improve on this. I’d like to see animations next year where the WRs try to prevent the INTs by breaking them up in certain situations instead of just going into their catch attempt animation. That would be one way to make things look better.

The CPU does tend to throw 1-2 terrible looking INTs a game. I’m not even talking necessarily about the wounded ducks that come from getting hit while throwing. But these are either baffling decisions, hail mary type throws, or I’ve even seen some odd looking floaty passes that made no sense. I’ve seen this out of premiere QBs like Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers. Now the CPU is only throwing 1-3 INTs a game, but it is those UGLY ones that I remember and have a problem with.


Sideline catch animations are non-existent. Wasn’t there a blog dedicated to them? Well I’ve lost out on several catches because of it and so has the CPU. I mentioned this at E3 and unfortunately it wasn’t addressed.

I’m a little baffled on the challenges also. They may not be included in online games which is a bummer, but also offline games I’ve gone to try and challenge and the option just isn’t there!

I’ve also noticed something that potentially needs to be fixed in a patch. Late in the 2nd/4th quarters the clock is not stopping when a player goes out of bounds. I haven’t narrowed it down completely, but it seems like the clock only stops if the player runs out on his own. If the player is knocked out or dragged out the clock keeps running. This could potentially kill those last minute drives where time conservation is so crucial.

One other problem that will probably be patched is how often holding penalties are called on field goals and extra points. I’m not a fan of being penalized for something out of your control that is seemingly random. Apparently upping the holding slider makes it even worse and almost guaranteed to see the penalty over and over. That is unfortunate for those people who are looking to get more holding calls during regular plays.

FG kicking power is down this year. I’ve been begging NCAA to reduce theirs because it isn’t realistic to have college kids easily nailing 58 yarders. Madden may have downgraded kick power too much though. The big-legged kickers in the NFL can hit from 57 or even farther, but it almost seems capped at 50 or so this year. I’ve come up short with full power on the meter on 50 yarders and that is in good weather. In bad weather conditions you’re lucky to get the distance on a 42 yarder. Long kicks should be more difficult but they shouldn’t be impossible.

Commentary needs some work mostly due to how dry Tom Hammonds is. Chris Collinsworth still does a good job of coming across naturally. It’s bad enough that Hammonds is so monotone but mispronouncing player names really gets to me.


One issue I’m unsure on is how the CPU utilizes their weapons. Playing the Falcons it seemed like Tony Gonzalez was completely ignored. He should be a pretty big threat for them but I don’t believe a single pass was thrown his way. Against the Chargers I only saw Darren Sproles in the backfield twice. I can’t say definitively that the CPU doesn’t use their weapons though. I’ve had games where they’ve gone heavily to their explosive guys.

Something that I still don’t understand why EA forces on the user is where they are defaulted back into the playbooks. I hate being sent into Ask Madden on 4th downs and being presented with only kick blocks and no normal returns. I hate being defaulted into special teams or goal line after changes of possession. I hate being defaulted into the dollar formation and I can’t even identify when that happens. Please just send us back either to the formation selection screen or the last used formation on a 1st-3rd down.

I also want to know why do we have to guess if the opposition is doing an onside kick? There are situations where it is a coaching decision and not obvious. But unlike all other plays that show the package (you see if the opponent picked Wildcat for example) you get no indication if they are kicking off normal or going for an onside attempt.

EA Sports World highlight videos are pretty bad this year. Not only the poor quality in playback, but we’re still limited to a handful of camera angles with no free roaming one and the highlights (at least on the 360) many times seem to have the start and end trimmed off slightly. I also wish they had added in the screenshot feature considering how great the game looks.


Probably the biggest feeling I come away with after having played Madden 10 extensively is how it is more than ever a thinking-man’s game. It is less about the “sticks” and more about being able to read defenses, call the right plays, and ultimately execute. There is nothing more satisfying to me than succeeding in this way. Madden has moved towards feeling more like a football game rather than a video game.

The game has an addictive feel and that has not been the case in several years. In the three days I’ve had it I’ve probably played upwards of 20 hours so the value is certainly there. It is clear to me I’ll be playing it for a long time assuming Online Franchise delivers as advertised and is hopefully even improved upon. Madden 10 is definitely a game to be excited about, and following with the general response to the game thus far it seems I’m not alone in that sentiment.