The question I hear the most from readers is, "Do I have to buy the new Madden football game?" They are still playing last year's Madden, and they like it, and they don't want to spend $60 for the new one.
My answer this year is mixed. On the one hand, Madden NFL 09 is nearly flawless. On the other hand, Madden NFL 10 gives you online gamers a roster of football teams that is updated to reflect real and user-generated teams, plus more online gamers to tee off against.
The mechanics of playing football remain essentially the same. The game looks, feels and moves almost as intuitively and smoothly as last year's. But here are my complaints:
1. Am I crazy, or is there less time for me to pick an offensive or defensive play? I am piling up tons of delay-of-game penalties because the clock seems to move so fast.
Even if I know which play I want to choose, NFL 10 often sends my TV screen to a dumb default page of plays I don't want anything to do with. Then I have to awkwardly leaf through my giant playbook, find the play I want, then walk to the line of scrimmage and rush my receivers in motion. Tick-tock, time runs out.
2. As the quarterback, I keep trying to move wide receivers in motion during play-changing calls at the line of scrimmage, but the game often won't let me move their lazy butts. Why not?
3. The game's artificial intelligence has a keener-than-ever defensive speed among safeties - to the point that they're sprinting so much faster than my wide receivers, they're intercepting my passes or breaking them up, even when my receiver should be wide open.
4. If I pass to an open receiver in the flat, that idiotic receiver often catches the ball but then does some kind of automatic spin-in-a-circle move that messes up his pattern and stops him from sprinting.
5. My players get hurt faster than in previous Madden games. Whether in preseason or regular season, I've watched star players like Reggie Bush get hurt in the first quarter of a game. I've watched Bush get hurt merely by diving to the ground without anyone touching him. What's up with that?
What I love about the new Madden, though, is the running game. If you break the right tackles, it's six points. If you miss tackles on defense, it's six points for your rival. Next year's Madden should definitely keep the running system.
None of these gripes are fatal flaws. I've learned to work around imperfections. But they are just annoying enough that, personally, I'll go back to playing last year's Madden. Fortunately, I only rented Madden NFL 10. I'm out $8. Not so bad.