In the past, attempts to bring hardcore sports gaming to the Wii has been met with abject failure. Traditional baseball and basketball games have mostly been disasters, whereas simpler, more casual games have been hailed as excellent works. And even EA’s well-received Wii Madden titles have been at their best when shying away from the Madden series’ roots as realistic simulation football. Therefore, it seems like a no-brainer that with their newest installment, Madden NFL 10 Wii, EA would embrace what has been successful in the past and bring Wii gamers a casual football experience that is best for group gaming.
For the most part, Madden 10 is a great success and a model that most other sports games on the system are likely to follow, but it’s not without its faults. However, if you can overcome those, you’ll be treated to one of the best sporting experiences on the Wii this side of Wii Sports.
The first thing you’ll notice is the obvious graphical departure from the other versions of Madden released this year. The characters are now all very exaggerated and cartoonish-looking. For instance, wide receivers are all skinny to the point of being practically emaciated. The style very much resembles that used in a lot of modern day children’s cartoons with big shoulders and skinny legs. Instead of forcing the Wii to try and display visuals of the same quality of the graphical juggernauts PS3 and 360, they created a whimsical art style that is less demanding on the console. It’s a great solution to the problem of being pitted against systems that are obviously capable of much more. Plus it’s just one more way EA tried to make sure this game wasn’t intimidating to newcomers.
EA obviously put a lot of effort into making sure this is a game that will be fun to play with a group of friends over, but some of the attempts fall a bit flat. This is most apparent in the showdown mode, where up to four players square off in different games to determine who is the best at Madden. When four players are present and only two are playing in a game, the other two players have the opportunity to bet on matches in certain ways that can earn them points even when they’re not playing. For instance, players can wager on who will get the most passing yards, or the most field goals. At first glance this sounds like a great idea, but it’s a bit half-baked, really.
There’s not much you can do to keep someone entertained by watching other people play a video game, and this does little to assuage that. The attempt is admirable, but the task is simply impossible. One of their better attempts to promote camaraderie between players is the “benching” system which takes place in the Road to the Super Bowl mode, which allows four players to seamlessly jump in and out of a season. Taking a hint from the classic party game, Rock Band, if one player starts doing very poorly, the game will penalize, and “bench” that player. Players still on the field have to attempt to get their friend back into the action.
The potential for co-op gaming is great, and this mode is great for that, but it becomes painfully obvious very quickly that this is a very shallow season mode. You can only pick from full season, half season, and playoffs only variants. And in those small seasons there are no trades, training camps, or anything else to take away from the games. The gameplay is fun, but everything gets old with time, and without anything to break up the action this becomes tiresome quickly.
In another attempt to up the fun dosage for party-esque situations, they’ve included “game changers” to the showdown game modes which dramatically shift the focus of the game. For instance, you can turn on the “fumblitis” game changer which means that every time a ball carrier is tackled, he will fumble (up to three times).
Depending on how you want to look at this, it’s a positive or a negative. On the one hand, it’s a fun way to change the pace and get everybody involved in every play. On the other, you’re not really playing football anymore once these are turned on. This could be exactly what you want, to take a break from the average game, but once you have to plan for three consecutive fumbles, or turn on “it’s alive” (where every tipped ball and dropped pass is a live ball), you have to play the game in an entirely different way. It’s more intense and more involved for casual football fans, but don’t bring any old strategies, because they’re not welcome.
The controls have been stripped down a lot from previous installments, and it works to the game’s benefit. Whereas in past games some complained that there were too many moves to remember and most just ended up flailing wildly, Madden 10 simplifies the motion commands down to the motions that actually feel like you’re doing them (e.g. flick the Wii Remote down to try to swat a pass out of the air).
In terms of gameplay, there’s a lot that’s new and exciting. Foremost is the addition of the Call Your Shots feature on defense. It works really well, and with only two clicks you can manually reroute any defensive player to play any role you choose. You can change his path from blitz to zone defense with just a point and click. It works great in practice and adds a nice amount of strategic depth to a game that sorely needed it.
The best addition to the package, though, is undoubtedly having a 5-on-5 mode available in most game types. Let’s face it, 11-on-11 football is pretty confusing, and there’s a whole lot going on. It sort of defeats the purpose of scaling things down for the casual player if they can’t understand what’s going on. So, for the casual fans, 5-on-5 has been added, and it’s by far the best way to play with a group of friends. Not only is it an easier and more exciting game to play, but each one of you gets to make a difference in the outcome of each play, rather than playing as the defensive end who gets two sacks a game on dozens of attempts.
Determining whether or not Madden 10 Wii is worth your money essentially comes down to a simple question of what you’re looking for in a game. If you’re a football fan who loves simulation and fine-tuning his team to strategic perfection, you’re going to want to stick with the tried and true Madden formula on 360 or PS3. If you’re looking for a fun game to play with some friends who aren’t really all that interested in football or are relatively new to football, then Madden Wii is a good buy.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
This version features a complete graphical overhaul that serves to highlight the game’s friendly attitude towards newcomers. A very good fit, though not exactly impressive. 4.0 Control
Mid-play controls are simplified and work well. Calling your defensive routes with the pointer is easy and fun. However, menu navigation can be tough using the pointer. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music has nice variety to it, and it works well within the game. However, the commentary isn’t as sharp as we’ve come to expect from Madden. More John Madden, less Chris Collinsworth. 4.4
There are tons of great modes here for you to explore, and there’s a lot of opportunities for fun and unique games when playing with friends. Solo play can be a bit lonely, but multiplayer shouldn’t be missed.
4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.