The question I hear the most from readers is, "Do I HAVE to buy the new 'Madden' football game?" These readers are still playing last year's "Madden," and they like it, and they don't want to spend $60 for the new one.
My subjective answer this year is mixed. On the one hand, I prefer the nearly flawless "Madden NFL '09" over "Madden NFL '10." On the other hand, the new "Madden" gives you online gamers a roster of football teams that are 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 intuitive and smooth 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, the game 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?
Top Ten New Games
Here are the Top 10 best-selling video games, according to retailer Amazon.com. Games are listed by title, company, gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Most games are priced $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP; $30 for DS and PS 2.
1. "Wii Sports Resort" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E"
2. "Peggle Dual Shot" (PopCap Games) for DS; rated "E"
3. "Madden NFL '10" (Electronic Arts) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, Wii, PSP, PS 2; rated "E"
4. "Madden NFL '10" for PS 3
5. "Wii Fit" (Nintendo) for Wii; rated "E"
6. "Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days" presale (Square Enix) for DS; rated "E 10+" (fantasy violence)
7. "Batman: Arkham Asylum" presale (Eidos) for PS 3; also available for Xbox 360; rated "T" (alcohol and tobacco reference, blood, mild language, suggestive themes, violence)
8. "Halo 3: ODST" presale (Microsoft) for Xbox 360; rated "M" (blood, language, violence)
9. "Batman: Arkham Asylum" presale for Xbox 360
10. "Mario Kart" (Nintendo) for Wii; also available for DS; rated "E" (comic mischief)
(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")
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, at least, 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 that destroy the game play altogether. 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.
("Madden NFL '10" by EA Sports retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii; $40 for PSP and PS 2 - Plays fun, but not as fun as Madden NFL '09." Looks very good. Challenging. Rated "E." Three stars out of four.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.