Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Madden NFL 10 (Wii) Review

If you recall last year, I wrote my Madden NFL 09 All-Play review in letter form. I'm not doing that this year since things have gotten better on the Wii front for Madden. Here's my assessment of Madden NFL 10 for Wii.

Pass or Play?

The Madden NFL franchise is one of the largest mainstream video game series in history. Every year without fail it lights up the sales chart. That is, except on Wii. The folks at EA continue to try to figure out the Wii audience, and even they admitted that the repackaged All-Play for the Madden crowd was not the way of doing it. This year, however, they have opted to give the Wii version of Madden a stylized approach to cater to the lower horsepower of the Wii compared to the HD versions. Is this year's Madden for Wii one that scores big yardage, or is this a game that's been sacked for a safety?

Besides the Play Now function that puts you immediately into a game against your opponent, Madden 10 for Wii features many modes for play, but already you'll notice that Season and Playoffs are nowhere to be found. In their stead, a Road to the Super Bowl mode has been replaced with them. However, this mode is purely for multiplayer as trying to play on your own can actually have you benched if you're not doing up to snuff. This means you automatically forfeit the game, so if you don't have nearby friends, you're not going to have much fun here.

They're lining up in a Chorus Line formation.

Instead, you can try out the classic Franchise mode which is what Road to the Super Bowl tries to imitate but fails. In Franchise you have your pick from any of the countless NFL teams, take them through training camp, pre-season, season, and hopefully play-offs as you trade players, manage your team, and try to make your way to the Super Bowl. Bizarrely enough, this as well as the Superstar mode are locked away and must be unlocked in order to play them. If you didn't have access to the codes, you'd be out of luck.

There's your traditional Madden modes, and then there's several play modes encouraging multiplayer play. 5-on-5 returns this year featuring a quarterback, running back, and two receivers where the goal is to get to the end zone before your four downs run out as there are no first downs. This mode is perfect for pick-up-and-play since games usually last five minutes as opposed to the more time-consuming standard football matches. New to Madden Wii this year is the Madden Showdown where players can play normal ball or football with a twist. There's a tug-of-war inspired game where every down is that side's fourth down as each side inches its way toward their opponent's end zone, a game where fumbles are very common, and many more.

The quarterback's wide open for assault.

Mini-games return, and these are not only open to training camp modes but also multiplayer competitions. There's a game where you have to pass the ball to the correct quarterback while dodging balls that are shot at you attempting to "sack" you, there's a field goal kicking competition, a rushing to the end-zone game, and many more that, with 5-on-5, are a blast to play with friends. As for playing with friends or even strangers for that matter from across the globe, online play is present and accounted for. If you already have an EA online account, you're good to go. If not, you need to sign up or you're unable to hop online and play. Regardless, no friend codes will be a sigh of relief to a lot of players. Online play runs smoothly, and the only real problem is a lack of adequate player matching. Many times you'll face someone way better or way worse than you, and the game does a poor job of matching players up with opponents of something resembling their skill.

Who are you lookin' at?

This year Madden features two types of controls for passing. One assigns each of your receivers to a direction on the Wii remote's d-pad. Just hold the direction for the desired receiver and make a throwing motion. The other is brand-new and no doubt inspired by Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer games, utilizing the Wii remote's near-saving grace, the pointer. You simply move the cursor and point to where you want to chuck the ball, hoping a receiver is open and not tied up in traffic. This mode requires more skill to pull off, and it can be difficult discerning your players from your opponents with the camera zoomed out as required. Additionally, for both offense and defense, flicking the Wii remote up when at a ball will catch it almost every time making interceptions easy pickings more often than not.

Defense is easier, too, and not dumbed down easier either. I never did like playing sports games and having to cycle through a large number of players just to get the one I wanted. With the pointer, this is no longer a problem. You just point and click at the player you want to control, and bam! There it is. Punting and field goal kicking is simple as well. It's more grueling than picking a direction and pressing a button for sure, but it's still simple. You hold a button down and flick the Wii remote up to kick the ball. The stronger the flick, the harder the ball is kicked.

Them cheatin' Patriots are at it again!

As for play-calling, it's much better this time around. You don't have to point at the play you want, giving away your strategy to the other team in local play. Instead you can press a direction on the d-pad. Why this was overlooked last year is amazing. If you aren't familiar with play-calling or are just indifferent or lazy like I am, you can ask Madden to give you a play to run. Thankfully, he never requested to run a Tough-Actin' Tinactin QB Sneak at any time. Guy is still sane.

This year's Wii version of Madden features a unique graphical style to it with exaggerated definitions. They aren't overly cartoony and they look quite nice with a decent amount of fluid animations. Stadiums are filled with your traditional 2-D cardboard spectators and the sidelines are filled with three-dimensional players, coaches, and technical staff. The interface of the game is sleek and smooth and boasts a great presentation. Even the menu has been beefed up, though it's a bit cumbersome to navigate with just the Wii remote. Since John Madden retired, the commentating team is brand-new, and they both do a decent job of calling the plays, sharing insight, and giving rare comedic moments. The soundtrack is full of rock, hip-hop, and rap, perfect for smashing one's head in on the gridiron.

Players this year got a stylistic overhaul.

This year's version of Madden for Wii is a definite improvement over last year's misstep. There still needs to be a balance between single-player and multi-player content this time around, and there a few modes missing that are present from the HD versions. Regardless, Madden NFL 10 for Wii gets a solid recommendation for those wanting a unique football experience and may be burnt out on the traditional console versions. Even as someone who isn't that interested in all the intricacies of football, Madden NFL 10 scores a touchdown but not quite the extra point.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

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