It’s that time of year again where the new football season is upon us and that means that a new Madden title is hitting store shelves. Fortunately this year’s version of Madden is one of the best versions that has been released in a long, long time. There are a lot of new features this year as well as some improvements on already existing features. While this game still has room for improvement in some areas it is definitely the most complete package to date. With stuff like the new Pro-Tak animation system, interactive fumbles, a quarterback pressure alert and more you will feel like you are in the game. One of the goals set forth this year by the development team at Tiburon was to try and make this game feel as authentic as possible. If it takes place on Sunday then they wanted it to take place in the game. Whether you want to play offline or online you have a number of different options that will be sure to keep you busy. You of course have the franchise mode and the Superstar mode. You also have the quick modes in case you want to practice, do some of the mini games, relive some Madden moments, take the Madden test or do the virtual trainer. You can fool around with the rosters with stuff like depth charts, free agents and the roster breakdown. There is also the Madden shop where you can buy cheats for your offline franchise such as one called “Game Day Instincts” which will have your coaching staff be “in the zone” for one game with all of your players receiving a 5% boost to all of their stats for that game. The catch here is that this can only be used once per year, per franchise. The game play in this years version of Madden received a lot of attention this year. One of the big things is the new Pro-Tak Animation System. This is where you can have up to nine man gang tackles. Anywhere from three to nine players can engage in a gang tackle on a ball carrier. Defenders can add on to the pile to take a ball carrier down, while offensive players can add on to drive the pile up field. The ball carrier is able to break out of gang tackles, however, that is dependent on the abilities of that player. There is also the new interactive “Fight for the Fumble” sequences. If your player fumbles the ball by a group of players then everyone is going to try and jump on it, just like in real life. The way that you would get the ball back is through a mini game. It is a rapid button press game where you need to button mash whatever pops up on the screen. First you might need to press “A” continually and then it will quickly switch to “X” and then back to “A” or whatever the case may be. If you win this mini game then you will recover the ball. This new feature sounds great in theory, however, I think it is going to annoy a lot of the more hardcore Madden players that are out there. Especially if you have to do this multiple times a game, it is going to get very old, very quick. The gameplay itself has been slowed down a bit making it feel more realistic and closer to what you would see when watching your favorite team on Sunday. This makes it easier to time your running routes and to be able to hit those open pockets more accurately. There is also a new quarterback pressure alert system where your controller will rumble when a defender gets near you while you are in the pocket. In addition to that they have introduced a new injury system this year. When one of your players goes down and out you get to pick whether they continue to play or sit on the sidelines. It is a risk vs. reward system because you might be able to keep one of your star players in the game, however, if he is injured he is susceptible to a much more serious injury and you could risk losing him for a lot longer than you would have originally. The presentation of the game has also been given a major overhaul this past year. For starters there is a new scripted scene system. If your quarterback throws an interception you might see the coach on the sidelines screaming at him or coming back from halftime you might see fans getting snacks at the concession stands. There are also many stadium specific exterior shots such as tailgating parties and things of that nature. There is an actual half time show where they show you highlights from the first half as well as talk about what is happening around the league. In between games there is a show called “The Extra Point” where they discuss what transpired in the league over the past week, the players of the week, the upcoming weeks schedule as well as giving you a preview of some of the upcoming games. There are also some suspenseful moments in the game as you will see referees discussing whether you actually crossed the goal line or you might see the chain gang running out on to the field to measure whether or not you got that crucial first down. The commentary on the other hand is still in need of some improvement. It feels very fragmented like they recorded their lines in different rooms and then it was just spliced together in post production. There were even times when I was playing that the commentary wasn’t relevant to what was happening on the field or it was just flat out wrong. There were many times where I had to quickly throw the ball before getting sacked and the commentators suggested that I should have held on to the ball a little longer to improve my chances of getting a completion. The only thing is that if I had taken their advice and held on to the ball any longer I would have been sacked. The commentary on the shows like “The Extra Point” needs to feel more natural as well. It feels so compartmentalized when you are watching it that it takes away some of the authenticity that EA was striving for with this year’s title. Visually the game looks outstanding. There are new broadcast camera angles, user selectable camera options and some hand held camera effects. Snow and rain will also land on the camera lens just like in real life which is another small detail that adds some more realism to the experience. I mentioned Franchise mode earlier and one of the biggest additions is the new online Franchise mode. The online franchise mode will feature similar feature sets to the offline franchise mode in addition to live drafts, player transactions, league message boards and more. You can have up to thirty one of your closest friends participate and go through a season like you normally would only playing against your friends this time and not the computer. There is a potential problem with this mode though. You need to activate this mode in order to use it and the way you do that is entering a code that is printed on the back of the instruction manual. What that means is if you are renting Madden or you bought a used copy then you probably won’t have that code and be able to activate that mode. In those instances EA has made it so you can buy an activation code from them which I am sure is going to anger a lot of people. I could be wrong but I don’t remember them talking about that little detail when they were hyping up this new addition to the game. Also, for the first time ever, there is two player online co-op where you and a buddy can play on the same team at the same time. You can be the quarterback and he can be the receiver or however you want to do it. Unfortunately at this time you can’t play online against two people but EA has said they are looking into that for future iterations. Overall Madden NFL 10 is a fantastic title. It is one of the best Madden titles released in quite a long time. The game play has been slowed down to give it a more realistic feel and you can tell that the developers worked a long time on trying to make everything seem authentic. The presentation is very slick and it should help immerse gamers into the season they are playing even more. If EA can just fix the commentary and some other minor tweaks then we could quite possibly have the perfect football title. Score: 9/10 TomGameStop It’s almost that time of the year again – time for hardcore Madden addicts to put their skills to the test against the best of the best in GameStop’s annual Madden tourney! Round 1 kicks off on August 22nd – find the closest participating store and get practicing! http://www.gamestop.com/gs/tournaments/mddn10/default.aspx Good luck! Jackzilla This game sucks. The A.I. blocking is a joke, the tackling is horrific, your QB barley gets hit and he will lob the ball in the air and the D line can glitchout and be in the backfield instantly.