October 2009

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The Real Madden Curse is the Game

Every three years for the past decade and a half, I have purchased and played the latest installment of the Madden football franchise.

The game is one of the most popular games released every single year.  It is the only game that you can buy that features real NFL football and players.  This is due to an exclusive license.  For the time being, no competing products are allowed.  I mention this early because I believe this is one of its greatest pitfalls.  There is no competition, no benchmark (other than itself), and, for football fans, no other option.

This year, I purchased the Wii version of Madden 2010.  This marks the 4th console and 6th time I have purchased the game.

The gameplay is really fun.  No, really, it is  a fun game to play.  If this was the only mark of a game, this one succeeds.

I am not that easy to please.  Perhaps, that has do with my profession as a software engineer.  If I was a developer who worked on this series, the shame would be building.  Bugs that have been in the game for over a decade still exist.  The major issues I have are broken out and explained below.  All of these issues have existed for at least 10 years.

1.  The game cheats

There was a game that I played in Madden 2000 where my receivers dropped 25 passes.  The problem wasn’t that they were bad receivers, they were close to the best in the league, the problem was that I was winning the game.

Madden 2010 has the same quirky system.  The players don’t play according to their capabilities.  The players play as well as the game dictates they play.

Examples of this show up in Game of the Week games.  All of the sudden, blockers will just quit blocking, receivers will drop the ball on easy catches, players will fumble the ball more frequently, and the defense won’t drop an interception.

To make this flaw even more annoying.  There is actually a configuration setting to tweak these attributes.  You can modify how much your team fumbles the ball.  The players should play depending on their abilities, not a cheat-based system.

2. The commentating

No, my quarterback did not catch that pass, but that’s not how the commentators see it.  About 1/2 of the comments  the commentators say are incorrect.  It is possible to get booed by the commentators when after making a play on 3rd down to get into field goal range.  I play the game with this feature turned off.  I’m glad they included that feature.

3. The AI

The AI is miserable.  It doesn’t seem to grasp basic football concepts such as clock management and play calling.   The AI will always call a time out and kick a field goal with 9 seconds remaining.  Why 9 seconds?  The other team will get the ball back with a few seconds left.  Why not take a shot at the end zone?

I like the Ask Madden feature, but it doesn’t understand how much time is on the clock either.  When the player is 10 yards out of field goal range, he will suggest to run the clock down.

The AI seems to be really poor on 1st and 2nd down, but is a beast on 3rd down.  This has something to do with point 1 in this list.  It’s annoying and not representative of a real football game.

In conclusion: Madden 2010 possess the same curse that all of the other Madden games I’ve played have had.  The development process produces a buggy game with poorly implemented features, but if you want football, it’s the only way to go.