August 15, 2009

First Impressions on Madden NFL 10

Jimmy James 70 Says If you’re anything like me, and you haven’t played Madden ’09 since last December, then I do not suggest picking Madden ’10 up and re-learning how to play while downing a pitcher of margaritas. The end results are not pretty and you might see some lopsided losses with final scores of 65 to 10; or some such thing. At the same time though, you’ll have lots of fun, and you’ll be itching to get back on the field to recoup your losses sooner rather than later.

Let’s start this review with the soundtrack, which is not for the faint of heart. The menu music, that noise you hear between games, includes an all-star line up of Iron Maiden, Korn, Nirvana, Cypress Hill, Rage Against the Machine and a bunch of others that the younger kids have probably heard of. I was happy to hear Black Sabbath and the Beastie Boys. Cause I'm old school like that. Oh. I forgot to mention Alice In Chains. Rock on. Now, the question is, are you ready for some football?

Madden ’10 has some new stuff and some old stuff; as to be expected. The controls are pretty much the same from last year except you can fight for fumbles by smashing buttons on the controller. I have yet to win a fumble recovery, but then again, I’m not anticipating when the button smashing might take place. This, I’m guessing, will take some practice.

My first impression, after about four hours of gameplay, is the incredibly enhanced graphics. The game runs much smoother over last year with extra animations before the game and between plays, there are more inclusive updates on injured players, the refs get their close ups when using the chains to measure yardage and to discuss a close play, and of course, how can anyone be disappointed in seeing the coaches go off on the players on the sidelines. All of it adds to the game immensely and immerses the gamer into the action. The animations that take place between plays are not gratuitous or unnecessary, and they do not interrupt the flow of the game. Really, they play in the background as you choose your next play. It’s all really very well done.

Madden ’10 comes complete with the Virtual Trainer, the Madden IQ Test, Mini games, Play Now and, of course, the Franchise mode and Superstar players. The mini games were fun to play through once but I’m not sure I’ll go back for second helpings. They provided some practice on refreshing my skills with the controls, but for long-term play, I doubt the mini games have longevity.

Use the Virtual Trainer if you're really having trouble with the controls. It will teach you and remind you some basics of football, such as, use your blockers and don't always sprint as a running back, stay in the pocket when you're the QB and let your defensive linemen protect you. The question is, will this virtual training help you during an actual game? And the answer is: No, it will not help you. Not at all.

As awful as I am playing the game, after taking the Madden IQ, my skills measured at the All-Pro level. After a few games, I'm sure this will drop. There's a big difference between the Virtual Trainer, the IQ test and an actual game. After running through all the training simulators I was ready to get on the field.

I was born and raised in Minnesota, so I have purple blood running through my veins. Naturally, I chose the Vikings as my favorite team. And guess what? My first Play Now match was against the Packers. How cool is that, or was it pure coincidence, that my first Play Now game was against a division rival? I was ready to let the blood run red on the frozen tundra.

Of course, the game did not take place on a frozen tundra, but rather the comfy confines of a dome. And yep, by half time I was losing 40 to 3 (playing with 15 minute quarters). Yikes. I was taking a beating. During that beating though I noticed the play calling is more advanced and streamlined. I really should have stuck to the more basic call playing difficulty level, but I chose the Advanced level and found myself heavily relying on Ask Madden and his opinion of running a Double Z or a Two Man Under... Just give me the option of running the blitz and I'll choose it every time. I think I'm secretly jonesing for the Madden arcade football game that I've heard rumored about on the Internets.

The sports commentators are pretty legendary in EA games to be redundant, and after awhile, downright nauseatingly annoying with their inane comments (or is that just sports commentators in general?). During the half time analysis I was told the Vikings held a slight edge in the game, despite the score being 40 to 3, I had to completely try and tune them out otherwise I'd run the risk of my head exploding. Too bad you can’t simply turn off the commentators…

So, I lost that first game 65 to 10. Ouch. My Madden IQ was at 500 and stayed at the All-pro level. How it did not drop drastically, I have no idea...

The second game I did not fair much better. I continued playing on My Skill level, except this time against the Lions, who basically blow donkey chunks. Anyway, I still lost, but not by nearly as much. What I can't understand is how my IQ raised to 522 and my skills went up on rushing, pass defense, and rush defense, even though I still haven't won a game yet. My passing skill did drop from 9 to 10, but I think that has more to do with the fact that the Vikings have a pro bowl running back on the team and are in desperate need of a good quarterback; but I digress.

For the next game, I'm picking the best team versus the worst team and I'm playing on the Rookie level. I'm really looking for that first win. Oh yeah, I'll probably go back to Advanced play calling. Intermediate was just too basic and did not provide enough options.

As for the Achievements, they are extremely specific down to such details on player, time left on the clock, and if the play happened in the end zone or if it was a gang tackle. This is not a game for easy achievement whoring, no, not at all.

I must get back to playing more football for Madden 2010 is addictive, competitive fun. I'm suggesting you pick it up sooner rather than later.