Speaking of celebrating, there are a few cut scenes where a player will celebrate or teammates will celebrate with him, only he's not the player that actually scored. That seems odd to me. Another oddity occurs at halftime or when the referee is calling the penalty, as you will sometimes see players walking right through the zebra.
Injury cut scenes are available as well. Some of these include doctors and players looking on, and players limping off the field (haven't seen a stretcher yet or an ambulance running over anyone). Speaking of injured players, the commentating team will, on occasion, say the player won't be coming back this game, only to see him on the very next series.
Commentary in general isn't too bad. The commentators will say certain stats a player has gotten to during a franchise, for example. Collinsworth also talks about some interesting team-specific things during certain periods of the game. There are also still some weird commentary anomalies. The weirdest one that I've heard a few times relates to the punting game. The duo will say the kicking team did not get a good bounce on a punt, only the punt will be pinned at the 1-yard line. That issue aside, crowd noise might be the best in the series, especially in a surround-sound environment.
One thing that really annoys me is the way the CPU handles the extra points and field goals. You cannot set up for them. By the time you see the team line up, they are kicking the ball. You have no time to adjust and attempt to block the kick.
Another thing that stands out to me is the stat overlays. After virtually every single play, there is a stat overlay. If an offensive player is involved in a big play, stats of that player will be shown. If it's a defensive play, stats of that player are shown. During franchise mode some of the stat overlays will show where you rank in total offense, passing, and so on. It's a very welcome addition.
At the team select screen, you can choose various combos of pants, helmets and jerseys, so there shouldnít be any complaints here. Teams also play like their real-life counterparts. The Patriots and Colts are pass happy, while the Viking and Chiefs like to run the ball -- and they will stick with that game plan even if things aren't going well. Of course late in the game, running teams will have to adjust their playbooks if they are down.
If the AI is up big and has the ball with under two minutes remaining, I have on occasion witnessed it still airing it out. But let's not get too excited about this because I've only seen it on occasion. One other thing that annoys me happens near the end of the game: The game displays the player of the game before the final whistle. The problem is that there have been countless times where I have made a comeback to win a game after the player of the game graphic was already displayed. So they should probably just display it after the game is over.
I need to talk about the actual gameplay. On offense it really does feel different when walking out on the field against a defense. It seems like almost every game there is a new wrinkle, especially with divisional opponents. I'm not sure if the developers programmed it that way or not, but I'm telling you it seems to be there. Playing the Eagles on the road was no picnic -- never have I been so dominated by the AI in any football game, ever. The Eagles were blitzing me from all sorts of angles, and I never knew where they were coming from next.
But while the AI had no issues getting pressure on me, I could not get much pressure on the opposing QB (this is where the slider guys can work their magic). I have tried a few slider settings, but haven't played around with them as much as I'd like to. For the record, I have not recorded a sack while using a defensive lineman. When blitzing with a linebacker, I have had more luck, but it still seems to be very hard to do. If I'm using DeMarcus Ware, I expect to get a little pressure with him, but I have yet to do so. I can understand this when controlling a regular player, but superstars should be more effective. Again, I haven't played too much with the sliders here, so upcoming articles will tell the story.
But at least the AI lets me set up my defense before making the snap -- I usually have five to seven seconds to adjust before the AI snaps the ball. I have not seen any super-human linebackers or unrealistic swats by the defensive backs either.
Also on defense, you can spotlight an offensive player to draw more attention to him. You can use the defensive lockdown feature and make sure your best defender covers the opposing teamís best receiver.
Pro-Tak really isn't a gimmick, it makes Madden feel like football. No longer do I see players just standing around when a player is getting tackled right in front of them. It's real football, and I'm so happy something like this was implemented. I also think it will help in other departments of gameplay next year. There are still times, however, when momentum and physics take a backseat, but the game has still come a long way. In case you are wondering, the most players I have seen interacting with each other during a Pro-Tak sequence is six.
When running with the horses like Jacobs and Barber, it is simply put, amazing. Going inside the tackles and bruising the linebackers and safeties just feels great, because of the way the game shows off the sheer power of these guys. But then you have the quick and shifty "All Day" which is a totally different animal that the defense has to deal with on a play-by-play basis. Finding the holes and getting skinny just feels right, along with the great Pro-Tak animations and breaking out of tackles.
The Wildcat is fun with Miami, but for most other teams itís something you may run on occasion. One cool thing I've seen is that the refs will blow the play dead if a player doesn't go down while players are forcing him backwards. QB sneaks have also been tweaked. So instead of an automatic first down, you can actually get stuffed.
All in all, Madden NFL 10 has brought the fun back to the running game.
Does the AI throw the ball deep? Thankfully, yes it does. On more than a few occasions, I've seen the AI throw deep, and most of the time it's because I'm locked into man to man with no safety over the top. When I'm passing the ball, I'm seeing the defensive backs jamming the wide receivers, which causes them to get off of their routes, and leads me to go to my next read(s). I like that element because it forces you to really scan the field, making decisions before the pressure is on top of you. But on the other hand, sometimes it feels as though it is too easy to bump the receivers off their routes.
Screen passes are sort of hit or miss. I've had a few where the play actually developed like it should, then others where linemen seemed to be lost and the running back seemed to forget the play. On the plus side, I like being able to loft a pass over a linebacker and under the safety.
I have yet to run back a punt return for six, but I've had a few kickoff returns go the distance.
As a final note, I'm currently involved in an online franchise with a few developers and other sites. I'm currently 4-1 and have yet to see any glaring issues. The stats are fairly basic -- no QB rating being one thing that I've noticed is missing. I haven't tried any trading or any out of the ordinary things -- just trying to get my game in for the day. It seems like the developers are advancing the franchise to the next week at the start of each new day, so I'll get more information on this mode as we progress further into the season.
The bottom line is that this game has improved drastically in one year, and I haven't been this excited about Madden in a very long time -- I'm sure many of you feel the same way.
The next article will cover franchise mode, so check it out a little later this week, along with maybe a few other things.
Some of this stuff is already in the old maddens, like the game mvp has always been messed up.
What are the biggest additions?