Well, earlier in the week I finally finished a Madden 2010 Franchise (Green Bay Packers). Every year I play the 30 seasons (averaging one game per season) and taking care of all the offseason tasks. Now, I present to you my summary of the Franchise experience for the latest version of Madden NFL.
Aside from the improvements to game play, there have been changes to the Franchise system. Don’t get me wrong, much has not changed. Having said that, the glaring bugs (including the showstoppers) from previous versions have been fixed – well, mostly.
Let’s start with the pros –
- The weekly wrap-up: Is quite nicely done, though by the later seasons, pretty much gets skipped.
- Trade screen/Trading players – this is a much nicer experience and CPU teams are willing to be a little more reasonable with value-for-value trades. Though, this can be costly if you don’t realise the salary cap penalties involved (see below).
- CPU’s draft signing (if you use it) is more intelligent. Yes, I can hardly believe I’m saying it! It still goes a bit bonkers at times (one draft it decided to draft 3 WRs in a row) but more or less signs the best players at positions you team needs. In prior editions it used to go stupid and sign 3 QBs, 2 HBs etc without any regard to what your roster actually required.
- Scouting Matters – revamping the draft makes it feel a bit more realistic. It’s harder to get by without taking a look at the upcoming talent. It’s certainly harder to “wing it” like we did in the past.
- Drafting/Draft Day – I love the new “Team Needs” info and shortcuts to the defensive/offensive breakdown, it helps very much in deciding where to draft (position wise) and removes the need to write notes on which positions you need to draft for (I’ve got pages of paper listing position strengths of old franchise teams!).
- Trading Block – Related to the point above, the CPU offers are now much more reasonable, in fact sometimes trading can be very beneficial, being able to trade for a much younger player at a skill position in exchange for low draft picks or older role model players.
So, now that we’ve made the token effort to provide some balance to the review, the negatives (cons) –
- Players degrade far too much/quickly (in OVR stat ratings) when they hit 30+ years of age, and in the face of statistical (and on-field) performances – I know this was widely discussed as a “feature” of this new release, but I think it’s too harsh.
Charles Woodson, Darren Sharper, Brett Favre and guys like them are performing at elite levels despite being far over 30 years of age, and under Madden 2010 their stats would be lucky to be in the mid 80s (OVR)? To be fair, not all 30+ players degrade badly, but a lot do – in the face of outstanding performances/seasons (any player who manages 20+ sacks in a season should get a pretty nice stat boost, right?).
- Press reactions/team morale – I’m not sure entirely if this has disappeared or not, but I couldn’t see much impact of the press or team morale. Most of the headlines in the Franchise home screen just were shortcuts to other franchise windows (sometimes not really related to the news headline in the first place!)
- Hall of Fame – I realise this is mostly cosmetic and doesn’t really do much but feed an ego, but when you’ve had a number of Hall of Fame qualified players go through your franchise, you like to see them end up in the hall at some point. Madden 2010 seemed to prefer players who spent their entire career with one team. Not very realistic.
- Player history/profile. Another cosmetic gripe – What the hell happened to this? In the previous version it would show you when/if the player was drafted (year, round) and how you acquired them. This was in addition to the awards the player had earned. It was useful to see which players you had drafted yourself verses free agent acquisitions, and added more authenticity to the experience. In Madden 2010 this information is GONE.
- Pre Season drills – Why did this screen disappear? It was great to be able to add a few more points to particular players and better reflects the real world reality. Some players spend extra time getting prepared for a season, and thus play better. We’ve been robbed of this invaluable feature!
- Roster breakdown. What happened to this screen?! What we get now (position-by-position breakdown) is really crappy and hidden (more or less), and takes ages to cycle through all the positions and see whether you have all positions filled. I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass what the other teams in the division have in a given position, just bring back the old roster breakdown screen please.
- Editing a player’s position – refusal to change position if it brings the roster under the minimum numbers for the position.
This is a patently stupid block, and NEEDS to be removed.
I can drop a player from the roster to have the same effect, so preventing me from changing a player’s position is pointless and frustrating. I need to go and sign a random player to the roster, then change their position to the the position of the player I want to change, and *then* I can edit the player.
This is so frustrating! For example, it complains sometimes when you want to edit a player and change him from a Left Guard to a Right Guard, or ROLB to LOLB, etc. Sometimes a LB has better stats as a DE and you’d like to be able to change that player and sign someone at a later stages. You should be able to edit a position regardless of whether it brings the roster count below the required level – end of story.
- Salary negotiation. (Free Agents/Draft Picks) Sorry, but this is incredibly frustrating. Yes, we know in real life high first round picks haggle over price, but in Madden NFL 2010 the initial salary is miles away from a number that the player is happy with. Seriously, you will be scrolling for a long time before you hit their acceptable figure. Why? This is time consuming and frustrating. I’ve left top players unsigned out of frustration and spite at times. Please start the initial salary offering closer to a figure the player will consider! Same applies to free agency.
- Salary cap nightmares. This year was especially difficult with respect to cap hits and penalties. It needs to be WAY clearer when a penalty is involved. Especially with regard to the Trading Block screen. The penalty is displayed on the initial offer screen and NOT when drilling into the actual trade screen (it displays as “No Penalty”. Thus, an ill-advised player can inadvertently kill their following season with MASSIVE cap penalties (this bit me to the tune of $80 million in cap penalties at one point – yikes!).
- Poor/inconsistent player progression. I realise the player stats have been recalibrated with this edition, but there still seems to be a pronounced player stat drag across the league as you get into the later stages of the franchise. In particular, when a player has had an outstanding series of seasons – I had a DE (a perennial pro bowl selection) who continually racked up over 12+ sacks per season including 22 sacks in one of those seasons – he never went above an OVR of 85 (which is not bad)..
That’s not consistent with his performance at all. Wide receivers/Halfbacks/Quarterbacks who performed at an elite level soared up into the low (OVR) 90s quite easily, by comparison. Also, I refuse to pay for functionality which should be
part of the game (inclusive), so I’ll not be purchasing any of that shameful stuff (like player progression “enhancers”) in the “Madden Shop”. We’ll come back to this at a later stage.
- Crappy “End of Franchise” experience. Given how long it takes to finish 30 seasons, you’d expect something nice as a reward for your persistence. Don’t hold your breath, because all you get is a lousy congratulations dialog. EA that sucks.
- Signing Coaches – This screen doesn’t give you enough information about the coaches available! What happened to the coaches’ stats (the strength/knowledge of offense, etc)? You don’t know who you’re signing half the time.
- Stadium upgrades – it would be nice for this to mean something to actual game play. Some of the upgrades should mean visible changes to the stadium (holographic goal posts for example) it would be nice for franchise stadium upgrades to do something besides affect your available cash (for signing coaches) and attracting free agent talent.
This is where EA Sports would have you purchase things using Microsoft points. In exchange, you get functionality akin to the old days when you could use Madden Cards to do things like boost a teams’ stats during a game. So basically, functionality we used to get for free now comes at a cost. I think this downright sucks, and I’m pretty ticked off with EA Sports about it.
Also, you have to “purchase” All Madden difficulty from the shop – this incenses me. All the functionality should be unlockable during game play – it’s simply ridiculous that EA are trying to make a buck of functionality we’ve enjoyed gratis for something like ten years.
So I think Franchise mode is going backwards. This years’ edition, whilst being relatively bug free (it still switches all the Franchise options to “CPU” from time to time!), has been stripped of heaps of extra “feel” and cosmetics. It is certainly going backwards. The previous (bug riddled) versions were actually better from a feature perspective.
It’s hard to see how they couldn’t just fix the bugs and give us the same experience we had in previous editions. Feature regression in a gaming institution of this size and magnitude is hard to swallow (especially at the high end retail price) so I think EA Sports has again ripped off the consumer, or at least the Franchise fan.
I really don’t give a rat’s ass about the online gaming or leagues or any of that stuff, and it feels like offline play is at the mercy of advancements to online play. If it’s not fixed in the next version, I’m officially ending my annual purchase of Madden NFL. EA: you’ve been warned. A boycott is imminent, stop killing this game!
Tomorrow: a review of rock band Green Day’s second Brisbane concert (part of their 21st Century Breakdown Tour, 2009)