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Block and Tackle: Latest Madden is a welcome change of pace 

Q: So, Madden, I've got to say that I feel like I've really gotten to know you. You've been around for most of my gaming

Q: So, Madden, I've got to say that I feel like I've really gotten to know you. You've been around for most of my gaming life. You're a 21-year-old franchise now. Does that mean you're graduating from keggers to legal liquor? Or is Madden 10 just a $60 beer-run to update the team rosters?

A: Football hasn't really changed in the last 21 years, except in the roster. So it's important to have a realistic football game using real-world players. And I think this year that's apparent in more than just statistics. For example, big guys are now actually bigger. They've got bigger heads, more weight. Now when Hefty Mendoza tackles Bucky Underslung - or whatever their names are - it actually looks like a big guy wiping out a little guy.

Q: But the turning and moving just feels delayed. Maybe that's how a large padded man moves. But it feels a little sluggish.

A: Madden 10 is much slower than past games. I mean, during the last few years the ball was flicking all over the field so easily it started to feel like soccer. Now the ball carrier has to strategize how he approaches every hole. And when the quarterback is throwing, he's actually got to step up into the pocket--no more ducking back and throwing bombs down the field. This is all more realistic - it makes Madden 10 more like an action sim than a simple sports videogame.

Q: The last time blocking was tactical was back in Madden 07. Now it's more about running with the ball and hoping the computer controls the blockers successfully - which doesn't always happen. Why no new blocking controls?

A: 10 is more about shaping the game for the player with the ball. Running is now about breaking through defense - there will almost always be a weakness, but it's up to the player to find and exploit it. They can't really create it. And the quarterback can evade sacks, and even throw the ball - maybe not too well - when being tackled. All of this is just a way to keep the player of the videogame with the player with the ball.

Q: Nirvana?

A: (laughs) Hey, we've got a lot of aging Gen Xers with the disposable income to buy videogames. So yeah, Nirvana. And Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and Public Enemy. The soundtrack is getting older, too.

THE GOOD: Here's a game that's named after one of the world's most famous coaches. And yet Madden 10 has almost entirely eliminated the coaching side of the game - improving players during training, designing custom plays - in favor of ball-moving action. It might not be deep enough for tactical football geeks, but the action is sophisticated enough to make up the challenge.

THE BAD: What other games call "unlockable content" Madden 10 calls "downloadable content that you have to pay money for" - things like leaderboards and difficulty levels and cheats. There was a time when a good game company would include these things, unlocking them for dedicated players.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Madden 10 loses some strategic ground, but scores with realistic action.

Madden NFL 10 ★★★★✩
Rated Everyone; 360,
PS3 (versions reviewed)

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