EA Sports continues to experiment with its sports lineup on the Nintendo Wii. From the family-friendly Freestyle label to the Wii-specific All-Play versions of last year's crop of EA Sports games like Madden NFL 09 and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09, it seems like the publisher has yet to hit its stride on the Wii. Things have been revamped again for Madden NFL 10, including a brand-new graphical treatment and an even more simplified control scheme.
Because previous versions of Madden on the Wii were essentially ports from the PlayStation 2 version of the game, the look was never impressive. While Madden 10 is no visual stunner, it definitely received different treatment than its predecessors did. It's not quite fair to call the graphics "cartoonish," but there is some exaggeration in the player models--from the rotund linemen, to the wedge-shouldered linebackers and running backs, to the skinny wideouts. Stadiums, too, have gotten a graphical treatment; they aren't exact replicas of your favorite teams' stadiums, but expect to see notable landmarks (such as the pirate ship in the Buccaneers' stadium) in there.
New controls in Madden 10 aim to make the game more approachable than ever before. While previous versions featured Wii Remote and Nunchuk-specific controls for certain on-field moves (like moving both controls up in order to catch a ball, or moving the controls forward to make a tackle), things have been simplified considerably. This year, all you need to do is waggle the Wii Remote, and your player will make the correct move. Swatting balls as a cornerback, making a tackle as a linebacker, and driving forward with a stiff arm as a running back can all be controlled with a simple waggle of the Wii Remote.
A new passing control scheme will also be in Madden 10, one that looks to work pretty well for football novices. In the past, you'd choose your receiver by moving the D pad and then flicking the Wii Remote. This year, the system has moved to a more point-and-shoot-style scheme. After the snap, you'll move a cursor along the screen; to throw to a receiver you simply target the player you want to throw to and then press the A button.
For complete Madden newbs who might have trouble identifying open receivers, there's also a color-coded system that will identify with a receiver is open (by turning the icon and player green) or covered (by turning them red) when you pass over them with the cursor. Just because you're throwing to an open receiver doesn't mean it's an automatic completion--a bad throw or a good play by a defensive back might be able to break up the play. On defense you can use the cursor system to choose individual defenders and change up their assignments, such as sending in a middle linebacker on a blitz in what would otherwise be zone coverage. Of course, all of these new control setups on both sides of the ball are merely options, and EA told us that control layouts from previous games will also be in Madden 10.
This being a Wii game, the developers behind the game told us they are focusing on creating a variety of multiplayer modes that emphasize both competitive and cooperative play. They wouldn't go into much more detail than that--expect to hear more about the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo--but they did confirm that the five-on-five team play mode from previous years is returning, as well as the minigames that have been part of past Wii Madden games.
Time will tell if this version of Madden will be the one that strikes the Wii audience. It bears mentioning that the original Madden for the Wii (Madden NFL 07) won GameSpot's award for sports game of the year, so there is a pedigree there for a fun and freewheeling football experience. Here's hoping this version of Madden lives up to its predecessors. Look for more on the game at E3.