The Madden franchise has become the yearbook by which many gamers recall seasons past, and this year's version takes the experience to another level.
In honor of this sacred gamer holiday, we've compiled five reasons why Madden 10 is oh-so-worth the price:
1. The Eagles may not know yet how they'll utilize Michael Vick, but you can rest assured that Madden developers are hard at work deciding how you'll use him in the game. With the introduction of the wildcat offense in this year's game, expect to see plenty of it in online play. Luckily, it's relatively easy to stop from a defensive standpoint -- especially if you're facing any team that's not the Miami Dolphins.
2. Online franchise mode is new this season. Despite a few glitches in the initial run of the game (including some copies that don't have the correct coding), it's going to take some gamers a while to fully grasp the potential here. Once they do, this is going to be one of the more popular features in the game.
3. EA Sports has taken its slogan -- "If it's in the game, it's in the game" -- to another level this season. Shots of tailgaters, defensive players keeping loose on stationary bikes, kickers getting ready on the sidelines for a last-second chance -- these are just a few of the additions EA has added to the game presentation. What's more, the stadiums seem crisper and the presentation smoother. The tagline for the 21st edition of the game is "Fight for every yard" and when you play the game, you see why. Ball carriers aren't automatically down on contact, forcing defenses to be more diligent. The fight-for-the fumble feature is cool at first, but could get annoying after a while if every single fumble -- no matter how clean or one-sided a recovery -- becomes a scrum.
4. There's a greater disparity between the average players and the elite players in this year's game. In other words, good luck passing for 4,000 yards in a season with Sage Rosenfels. However, 2,000 rushing yards with the untouchable Adrian Peterson is quite possible.
5. The mini games -- only afterthought in the past -- are actually fun this season and totally worth the time. Perhaps it's because your performance in them affects your player rating. And you can also play them online this season.
- The referees now consult on close plays at the goal line, and the chain gang comes out to measure for the first down. This is great on close plays, but there are plenty of times when it's clear that it's a first down or a touchdown when it would be nice to have the option to skip over the zebra deliberation.
- Big plays are still a little too commonplace. There's almost no room for error for defensive backs. Similarly, defensive tackles and defensive ends are a little too easy to neutralize. Swim and rip techniques are, for the most part, ineffective.
- Quarterbacks can get off a throw as they're being wrapped up by a defensive player, but too often it's a lame duck that ends up in the arms of a lineman who trots it into the endzone. Developers would do well to balance this with throws the QB actually gets off for completions.
If you'd like to test my Madden mettle, you'll find me on the PS3 under the user name kja_miz. Expect plenty of Cutler-to-Olsen crossing patterns and five-yard outs to Devin Hester.