Madden NFL 10 Online Impressions

Posted August 12th, 2009 at 1:32 pm


Online play has been a mixed bag for Madden over the last few years. It is one of the most heavily played games online yet it lacked consistently requested options and features and also was plagued by disconnects and occasional lag. For Madden 10 the biggest addition is obviously Online Franchise, but also there is Online Co-Op and smaller but relevant changes like the ability to set your depth charts to use in the online games.

The Online Franchise servers just went live last night so unfortunately I haven’t been able to mess around with it yet. The plan is to go into that tonight with one or two other people, maybe play a game in the season, and sim through the first season. Taking a look at all the options, stats, and progression that take place. However I have been able to get some time in with the general online games as well as Online Co-Op.

The whole online area, like the rest of the game’s menus and navigation, has been revamped. While it might take a little time to get used to it is another refreshing change.


  • Online Menu: Play-Quick match, Mini-games (training camp games) Invite Friend, Xbox Live Party, Custom Match, and Create Session. I really like the Invite Friend option. You can set up your game with whatever parameters or type of game you want and then just invite from your friends list. Depth Chart lets you set them for any or every team that will carry over to the online games, though of course with every roster update you’ll have to re-do them. Community is where you find the Leaderboards, Profiles, Stats, Lobbies, and On Demand News.
  • Online Franchise: This is where you access, create, or accept invitations.
  • Friends List: Shows your entire friends list which I’m not sure what the value of would be. You don’t see whether they are even playing Madden, so its easier just to pull up the 360 friends list. Maybe on the PS3 this is of more use.
  • Elite (DLC): This is where you enter the code for access into the Elite area where there is a separate leaderboard for All-Madden ranked games. Due to MS and Sony regulations there can be only one type of standard ranked game, so this is one way around that.
  • Madden Competition: Not sure exactly what this is, but probably a hub for various competitions that will be run by EA throughout the year.

The online games have had absolutely no lag and felt identical to offline. I’ve never been able to say that about either of the two football titles out of Tiburon. Even though the game hasn’t released yet and only a handful of people online possibly attributing to the good performance, in the past issues were present even pre-release. The only difference I’ve seen is that the kick meter is slightly off and you have to push up a fraction of a second earlier then you normally would. My opponents and I missed several 40+ yarders because we came up short due to not having made that adjustment yet. In a few games I’ve also seen an occasional pause/stutter (you can get an idea of that from the Titans-Jags video later in the article) but outside of that they’ve all been good experiences.

Ranked games initially were set to five minute quarters with accelerated clock. EA is in the process of changing this to seven minutes with accelerated clock due to the early feedback. Those first settings offered such an abbreviated experience forcing people into playing differently due to being rushed. Essentially a two possession lead could mean no chance at a comeback. I’ve seen people discussing how they or their opponents didn’t see the ball for the first time until late in the 2nd quarter. Conceivably a full half could be run off on one extended drive. Going to seven minutes isn’t what I would play at but it is understandable for the more compact games that ranked generally represents so it makes for a reasonable compromise.

If the concern is about each game being too long then they should really look at adding in some substantial mini-games. Going back to NCAA a few years ago I really enjoyed the OT Challenge because it could be played in 5-10 minutes if you didn’t have time to commit to a full 45 minutes plus. What would be perfect for this is bringing Madden Moments online and letting people play out those scenarios against other users.

As discussed on The Madden Voice last night, Ian and the Madden team deserves a lot of credit for sticking by accelerated clock. Of course it is an option for unranked games, but the idea behind it is to cut down on the exploits that were being done because you now have limited time at the line of scrimmage to make changes. What some people used to do is come up to the line and execute multiple hot routes, put players in motion, and so on. Not only was it done to take advantage of exploits which made the games no fun for opponents, but having to sit there on defense for 20 seconds a play was tedious and boring. It is a good sign to see the EA team working to provide an enjoyable and realistic experience even in the world of ranked gaming.

It seems that the game speed online is faster than it is default offline which is a bummer. Immediately I noticed this because turnovers and sacks were happening more often as the gameplay felt more rushed. I think you’ll see the difference in the online videos vs the ones I’ve posted from offline. I really prefer the default “slow” game speed and hopefully they’ll switch to that. It just doesn’t make much sense to me why offline and online would have different defaults. Unfortunately there is no option to change game speed for unranked games, though I do believe the option is available for Online Franchise.

The Online Co-Op actually turned out to be pretty fun despite the design flaws. Along with Jerkfacefave we played two games. No lag was experienced, considering its limited to two users connected in that shouldn’t be a surprise. When it was discovered that the mode would just be two users vs the CPU it was explained off as potentially being a way for people to learn the game. An online practice mode would be much better, if anything the co-op would probably make you worse at the game because the camera angles take so much adjusting to. Playing as QB in co-op is nothing like playing the game regularly.

The host ends up being in control of more aspects than the person who joins in. The host is defaulted into the QB on offense and picks all the plays on both sides of the ball. The other user can choose to control anyone and is never locked into a position. The host can control someone else on offense after getting rid of the ball. So if the second user is not the RB on a run play, the host would end up controlling them after the ball is handed off.

It all works alright. As the second user the play that was selected comes up on screen momentarily after breaking the huddle. This actually bothered me because at that time I’m wanting to possibly change the player I’m controlling. Maybe in the future they could just dock the picture of the play smaller in the corner and out of the way or something. You can still pull up the play art using the trigger as usual. The camera angles work decently well on defense until the ball gets past your player. Since the camera doesn’t spin around or adjust based on where the ball is it becomes easy to get lost. Of course if the camera spun that would probably be disorienting anyway. On offense it seemed to work pretty well with receivers and running backs, but the QB view makes it very difficult.  So personally, I might rather have the game played from the default view or the “wide” camera option that was added this year.

So all in all the mode makes it either tough to play or challenging depending on how you want to look at it. In the first two games we got absolutely smoked. I think the combined score was CPU Broncos/49ers 77, and our Ravens/Seahawks 17. This was on All-Pro difficulty. I did play another with Nix that was more competitive but still a struggle.

I still see this as the beginning of some big things. I do believe we’ll see something like 3v3 or 4v4 in Madden 11. Considering I found the mode to be fun even with the difficulty of it and there being nothing on the line (unranked and only vs CPU) that makes me excited for an expanded Online Team Play type mode next year.

Overall its too early to really assess the state of online play for this year. We should know a lot more by the end of the weekend. Keep an eye out for an Online Franchise write-up with screens and videos to come possibly tomorrow!