The biggest sports game of the year, Madden NFL 10 is now officially released, hitting store shelves at midnight Thursday. Most of you probably have a good idea on whether or not you're going to buy the game. For the fence-sitters out there, unsure if this year's Madden is worth the investment, we've got a couple of things for you today. First off, is our full review of the game, with senior editor Giancarlo Varanini breaking down the game in text and video.
If you still haven't made up your mind, we've got a Q&A with Madden 10 designers Larry Richart and Mike Scantlebury detailing some of the changes in this year's game. In addition, Homer Rabara and I put together a video of some of the other important additions to Madden 10. Let's start with the video:
Madden NFL 10 Q&A with Larry Richart and Mike Scantlebury
What's new with player fatigue this year?
The first thing you will notice with fatigue this year is after a very long run your player will usually have to take a breather. If a user wants to go to the same player every play of his drive they will notice that the player will get subbed out if he has gotten the ball several times in a row. This will place greater value to backup running backs and receivers. As the game progresses you will notice that a player that has been carrying the load throughout the game will have to take even more breathers so users will have to utilize their timeouts and they won't be able to overuse their star players as much. On defense, users will no longer be able to take a D-Lineman and use him like a Safety or Linebacker all game. Defenders fatigue more realistically so sprinting all over the field with your best defensive lineman is going to result in him being on the field less.
How does the new ratings philosophy in Madden 10 affect player fatigue? Are you noting players who have extraordinary endurance?
The most noticeable Stamina ratings disparities lie in the RB and DE positions. Big bruiser backs like Brandon Jacobs will have less Stamina than other smaller backs in the league. Players that get subbed out more frequently on Sunday like Marion Barber and Willis McGahee (and other RB's that are in backfield by committees) also have lower Stamina ratings than other starters so you will notice those players getting subbed out more. Defensive Linemen that are subbed more frequently or only subbed in for specific situations (i.e. pass rush purposes on 3rd & long) on Sunday like Raheem Brock and Adewale Ogunleye also have lower Stamina ratings so they are used more realistically as situational players instead of full-timers.
How can a Madden 10 player avoid problems with fatigue beyond turning it off completely?
We have a slider located in My Madden in Game Options that goes from 0 to 100. The slider is defaulted to 50. But if a user feels the Fatigue is way too excessive, they don't have to completely turn it off as they can knock it down to 10. If they think it's just a little too much, they can bump it down to 40 instead. The user can adjust the slider until they get the feel they are looking for to have the game experience that they desire.
IN THE POCKET
What are the big things people need to know about playing quarterback in Madden 10?
First off, from a visual standpoint, just about every starting quarterback in the NFL will have their own unique throwing animations, under center stance, shotgun stance, and pocket style. There is now a distinct difference between players like Peyton Manning, who holds the ball high in two hands and throws over the top, compared to Tony Romo, who holds the ball low in one hand and has a quick, three quarters type delivery. Another difference this year is the addition of five new QB specific ratings that help distinguish the strengths and weaknesses of each QB. We have added Short, Medium and Deep Pass Accuracy as well as Play Action and Throw on the Run ratings. These ratings can have a tremendous impact on how your QB plays in the game so it's very important that you are aware of your QB's strengths and weaknesses when you play. For example, Philip Rivers is among the best at Short and Medium Accuracy but is in the lower tier of QB's in Throwing on The Run. Therefore, to be successful when you are playing with Rivers, you want to try and throw as many passes as possible from a standstill instead of throwing on the run.
So many Madden players are used to running out of the pocket as quickly as possible in older versions but, in Madden 10, the pocket matters. Do you have any tips for how to make the most of your passing game?
Staying in the pocket is very important to Madden NFL 10 just like it is in real life. Most QB's are much more accurate when they can set up in the pocket and throw with their feet under them. The new ratings also force you to try and play to your QB's strengths by staying in the pocket if you don't have a great throw on the run rating. We have also added a new QB Pocket Pressure Alert system that will let the user know a defender is near you by giving you a slight rumble on your controller. If you feel a rumble, you better get rid of the ball because the pressure is coming!
What is the defensive assist button and how does it work?
The Defensive Assist button (A on Xbox 360, X on PS3) will allow the CPU to take control of your user-controlled player to help keep him on his defensive assignment. This can help put him in the best possible position to make a tackle on a ball carrier by taking the proper pursuit angle or by keeping the defender in the correct area of his zone assignment.
Do certain positions work better for the assist button than others?
Generally, you want to try and use Defensive Assist with a defender that is in space and doesn't have any potential offensive blockers in front him. Because of this, you seem to have more success with Linebackers and Safeties as they usually have a better chance of having free lanes to the ball carrier.
Is there a "right" or "wrong" time to use defensive assist? In your experience, will defensive assist help you in online games against human opponents?
This feature will definitely help the less experienced players put themselves in the correct position to make a tackle or play on defense. One of the best times that we have discovered to use Defensive Assist is when the ball is in the air. Users have sometimes found it difficult to position themselves to make a play on the ball in the open field, so using Defensive Assist will definitely help position the defender to make a play without fear of giving up a big play.
What is the defensive matchups option and how does it work?
Defensive Matchups allow you to put any defender in man coverage on a specific offensive player. For example, if you are having trouble stopping a specific receiver like a Larry Fitzgerald or a Calvin Johnson, you can use Defensive Matchups to put your best defensive player on him to try and slow him down. No matter where that offensive player lines up, the defender that you assigned to him will line up in man coverage over him.
What's changed with man coverage this year?
This year defenders are able to see certain routes coming and adjust earlier. In previous years users would notice a lot of trailing by defenders in Man coverage. Certain routes were almost guaranteed yards. This time around you will notice defenders playing slants, drags, and Curls a lot tighter. Offensive players won't always get inside position on Deep In Routes and on Deep Out Routes as defenders will be in a much better position to make a play on the ball.
When it comes to improving something as complicated as pass coverage, where do improvements usually come from? Is it a matter of new animations, improving player "awareness" so that they're more observant of what's happening on the field, or other factors?
Well it's all of the above really. We have added brand new cut move animations for defenders to keep them in step with receivers, Adaptive AI Awareness improvements so that defenders recognize if the user has been running the same play/route over and over again will allow them to break on the receiver earlier to be in better position to make the play, and the other factors are just what you see on Sunday. How great defenders cover various routes in real life give us the blueprint for how they should cover the same routes in our game.
How can a player make the most of the man coverage improvements in Madden 10?
Users always have to remember to mix it up. Sometimes when people find out something has been tuned in the game they want to use that exclusively when they play. Then when someone beats their coverage they say "Man coverage isn't good." Utilizing various defenses is how you can keep a user and the CPU guessing and unable to catch on to what you are doing. Just like real life, you want to keep your opponent honest by giving them a variety of different looks. In years past, users at times have felt that calling man coverage was rather risky as many routes seemed to get separation on defenders. This year man coverage is much improved and when used with a combination of a variety of zones and blitzes, can be very effective in game.
For more on Madden 10, check out GameSpot's Madden NFL 10 Launch Center.