Madden 10

posted August 21, 2009 12:08:00 AM CDT | 43 comments

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If there are two constants that have stood their ground for much of 2008 and 2009, it’s both the economic recession and EA’s relentless releases of their yearly sports line-up. To be honest, the publisher’s will to milk their sports titles wholly eclipse their drive to actually innovate and move away from its multi-million dollar comfort zone. Maybe it’s because they’re just damn good, or maybe it’s due to the lack of competition, but EA SportsMadden franchise has been stagnant for quite some time. Unfortunately, Madden 10 doesn’t break traditions. In fact, Madden’s latest outing is comparable to an artist who doesn’t show signs of growth; the game constantly recycles the same old punchlines, enlists the 808s of overplayed producers and teams up with the collaborators called upon from previous years. On the flipside, Madden 10 is no wack artist. Despite the less-than-impressive list of changes, it still manages to be a top-tiered sports game that sits atop many others.

Visually, there’s a certain sense of a refined presence. Trading dirty old pairs of Adidas kicks for slick, polished-right-to-the-studs Nikes, Madden 10 ups the ante in terms of bravado. The game feels more like a Sunday match on ESPN as jets fly over the stadium, spectators buy hot dogs and statistics courtesy of Sprint, whizz around the screen to update you on the latest numbers. It’s definitely arguable that EA took its time to shine Madden 10’s graphics and squeeze more polygons to the player models. The crowd looks better, prominent athletes such as Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu actually look more than just generic footballers with helmets on this time. The top-notch ESPN-esque presentation and the new coat of paint put on many of the prominent players all add to the overall atmosphere of a Sunday Night Football match. 

The animations have also been increased. Quarterbacks have their own throwing styles, and receivers are now able to commit to more spectacular game-winning touchdown (TD) catches. One match-up had my Patriots against the Steelers’ defense on 1st and Goal. As QB Tom Brady threw a quick one to connect with Randy Moss in the end zone, Moss leaped up near the edge of the box to catch for a TD reminiscent of Santonio HolmesSuper Bowl-winning grab. The new Pro-Tak mechanic allows up to nine buff teammates to tackle the opponent’s ball carrier. Look out for an injury warning if you’re Romo. Remember the time when Jay-Z traded in his white-tee-jersey combination for a white-on-white suit with Louis Vuitton shades? That’s what Madden 10’s done; it’s replaced the old getup with a sharper, more refined look.

The obvious flaw with Madden 10’s audio isn’t its never-failing soundtrack, but instead its repetitive drivel of a commentary supplied by the robotic Cris Collinsworth. Seriously, apart from a few "new" lines, the man cries out the exact same calls as last year’s Madden. The difference between '09 and this year’s Collinsworth is that he was a breath of fresh commentary 365 days ago. Slap the same audio loop from the man and you’re basically listening to Madden 09’s remarks. As for the star-studded soundtrack, EA Sports have always supplied a great deal of care for the tunes you’ll be humming along to before you "fight for every yard." Madden 10’s no different. It doesn’t break moulds by enlisting the out-of-season Plaxico Burress to spit a few 16s, but sufficiently provides tracks from artists such as Iron Maiden’s "Aces High," Black Sabbath’s "Paranoid," Public Enemy’s "Shut ‘Em Down" and Nas and Puffy’s classic duet "Hate Me Now." If there’s a chink in the chain, I really can’t recall. Madden 10’s got everyone covered, ensuring that no gamer or Madden enthusiast will be left in the dark to find a song that suits their eardrums. It’s just too bad most of the damn time all of us will instead be listening to Cris Collinsworth’s droning "observations."

Madden 10’s a great football game, there’s no doubt about that. It has come a long way graphics-wise, incorporating more detailed player models, various new animations to make the experience more realistic, and ESPN-like presentation during the matches to polish what was already a great looking title. Stupidly repetitive commentary mar down the football fever a little, as this could’ve easily been remedied by recording a dozen more lines.

The only gripe I tend to have with the latest football foray is that it doesn’t do much to change the playbook, as gamers will be paying the full $60 for something they arguably already had since August of last year. An analogous illustration may help to demonstrate the issue. If Joe Budden was to release more than five Mood Muziks a year, it could either bore listeners or impress critics with its level of high-quality consistency. Hell, as it is, even if we awarded a low score for Madden 10 half of China would still blitz their way to the nearest Game Stop to buy the game. That’s not the case though. It’s a damn fine sports title and you’d be dumb not to pick up the only football game around as Vick returns to NFL from his stint on Scooby Doo.

By Jeff Effendi.

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