#2 of 2009: Madden NFL 10

Posted January 2nd, 2010 at 11:36 am

The ranking of games in the best of 2009 list is based primarily on the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title. Some other factors include whether advertised features were fully delivered on, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is a personal take on the games. The analysis is weighted largely towards those which I had the most fun with while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the others.

This was the year that the Madden franchise finally realized its potential this generation. While much of Madden 10 was just establishing itself for the future in terms of technology and new features the gameplay came right along making it one of the most enjoyable offerings in the series’ history.

The most beneficial change to gameplay that really made this year exceptional was slowing down the game speed. That resulted in one of the most balanced experiences between offense and defense that the series has been able to provide. The default use of accelerated clock made the pacing much better as well allowing for longer quarters to be played thereby producing more realistic stats. My full impressions of the game from around release can be found here.

One of the most discussed new elements came with the Pro-Tak animations. It did end up making a big difference without being overwhelming like many new features have been in their first attempts in the past. Between the game speed and Pro-Tak it was a stunning shift going from NCAA Football 10 to Madden 10 and really accented just how far Madden had come in a single year.

It was also really interesting to me how much the small details affected my overall feeling of enjoyment. Things like being able to mix-and-match uniforms and secondary accessories ended up factoring in a great deal. It provides fans more of a connection to their team and players. This is an area that the MLB: The Show franchise has excelled in and the Madden team took notice and it paid off.

Bringing in more presentational elements to Franchise mode really added a lot. The “Extra Point” show and Franchise halftime show were really cool though there is a lot that could be done with them to make them better. Adding video highlights is probably the most obvious step to take next. And I would still love having cutaways to games in progress like the old days!

One of the big additions this year was Online Franchise. Though the mode was touted as including everything people would expect, it lacked crucial elements such as contracts, CPU trade logic, and the ability to trade draft picks. There were different thoughts on how to work around those omissions but it really took a lot of effort and there was no ideal way to do so. There were also issues with tie-breakers where the wrong teams made the playoffs.

Despite all of those things it was a step in the right direction after a few years languishing with sub-par league structures. The potential is there and hopefully next year Online Franchise will be identical to offline. Ultimately it needs to function exactly the same so just a handful of users can play in one instead of relying on a full 32. That is why Online Dynasty in NCAA Football was so much more successful right off the bat. For more check out my full detailed write-up on Madden 10’s Online Franchise mode.

Online co-op mode was the other online addition for this year. Thankfully EA didn’t promote it all that much because it wasn’t very compelling. It was difficult to adjust to and some design decisions were puzzling. The suggestions that it would be a way for people to learn Madden really didn’t come about as it would be hard to imagine anyone getting better at the regular game by playing the co-op mode. Bringing in more users by making it 3vs3 would probably make it a lot more intriguing and that is probably what will happen next year.

Overall Madden 10 saw its online usage skyrocket. That was probably less about the new modes and more about the general improvements to the game and how much people were enjoying it. Online has also become much more stable with the lag and disconnect issues of the past few years having been largely overcome.

On to some general things that bothered me while playing the game. The absence of sideline catch animations was a big one. They were blogged about and I even pointed out that they weren’t triggering while at E3 but they never worked properly even following the patches. The weather effect on field goals was too strong with very makeable attempts coming up short. There was difficulty getting sacks on QBs as they would get passes off at the last split second too often. The CPU running game was inconsistent and ineffective at times. There were also instances where the clock would keep running late in games when it should have been stopped. Despite my mentioning these issues they were all relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.

Madden 10 took heavily into consideration community feedback in both of the patches that released. Given that there were no severe issues that required patching immediately EA was able to take a little extra time on the first patch. The biggest problem that was corrected was the holding on field goal attempts. That patch actually caused a few issues including turning the numbers on the back of some helmets into solid squares. The second patch took a while to arrive but fixed those, made a few additions such as helmet stickers and new uniforms, and adjusted a few things to make the gameplay experience better.

The AFL downloadable content was a pleasant surprise as it didn’t just add in the uniforms but also included a retro presentation style, field art, and new ‘Madden Moments’. With additional content coming in the way of Madden Ultimate Team still to be factored in Madden 10 definitely provided a ton of value. Far more than it has before for anyone that didn’t dig in deep to Franchise or play a lot of ranked online games.

One disappointment in the post-release support came with the roster updates which were going strong and then suddenly dropped off. There will be a total of 12 updates for Madden 10 compared to 18 that were released for Madden 09. The rosters for Online Franchises haven’t been updated since October. At the very least there needed to be better communication but really the updates should be consistent and regular. A good compromise would be weekly roster changes but bi-weekly or monthly ratings changes.

The increase in sales this year can probably be most attributed to the boost that came from price drops for the 360 and PS3 but also the good word-of-mouth. While it opened down 3% the following months have picked up and it is now up over 5% year-over-year. That should be a good indication that consumers have responded to the changes and improvement in quality.

In a lot of ways Madden 10 felt like the beginning of something big. New modes such as Online Franchise and the presentation additions have so much potential going forward. There was no game I put more hours into this year which goes to show how much more fun I had with it than previous iterations. Last year Madden finished 7th on my list because there was little about it that compelled me to keep playing it after a few weeks. Madden 10 brought a lot more to the table in terms of features, modes and gameplay enhancements.

#2: Madden NFL 10
#3: MLB 09 The Show
#4: FIFA 10
#5: The BIGS 2
#6: NBA Live 10
#7: Madden Arcade
#8: NCAA Football 10
#9: NBA 2K10
#10: Fight Night Round 4
The Worst of 2009