VGJ Preview: Madden NFL 10

In years past, the Madden franchise has become all about adding the big new feature to get both headlines and a theme for the back of the box. That is not the case this year as there is a new team working on the game, new focus on refinement and a new mantra: “Fight For Every Yard”.

The new team working on Madden has taken a page out of the FIFA team’s playbook. Rather than go for big gameplay additions, like the Vision Cone and Lead Blocker, the team is focusing on making the game more authentic by adding small refinements rather than those big changes, which have all been removed for this year’s version. Back are things like the full accompaniment of officials, Super Bowl patches on uniforms as well as a host of new tweaks to make the virtual football field feel more like the real one.

The key to football is the way in which the players interact when colliding on the field. Over the years, it has become more and more evident that football video games did not handle those interactions, especially the more complex ones with many players involved, very well. That is no longer the case as EA has implemented what the new Pro-Tak (short for “Procedural Tackle) system in Madden NFL 10. This system, which is a mixture of canned animations and real physics, allows for all new levels of realism. Amongst them is the ability for gang tackles and goal line piles of up to 9 players at a time. This system is also being used for things like line play as well as stopping quarterbacks from being 99% through their throwing animation, getting tackled and tucking the ball because the game cannot process the two animations at once. This year the ball will be thrown. Even if it is a lame duck throw that goes 10 yards into a linebackers waiting arms.

Another improvement regarding the quarterback position is what happens immediately after the snap. No longer will players constantly be getting sacked by defensive ends breaking the line down. So players will not have to snap the ball and drop back 20 yards. The pocket will be more defined thanks to the Pro-Tak system. While in the pocket, players will not have to keep one eye up field and one eye on their quarterback to avoid sacks. The controller will rumble when your QB is in trouble and, with the quick flick of the right stick, you will be able to take a step in any direction to buy yourself an extra moment.

While I’m sure that long time Madden players will weep for the departing weapons and rings, they will cheer the added realism. From the line play to the depth of field in replay snapshots, Madden NFL 10 moves ever more close to EA Sports’ “If it’s in the Game. It’s in the Game.” slogan. This is all before we find out some big online multiplayer features which were teased but will officially announced at E3. Either way, this year’s Madden really looks like it will reestablish itself as the king of the gridiron.