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Valdarez's Blog
Why Madden Sucks 'Less' - A Retrospective 
Posted on June 19, 2010 at 12:52 AM.
In March of 2009, prior to learning of the new leadership at Tiburon and the new direction for the Madden franchise, I wrote a forum post titled "Why Madden 2009 Sucks". This was at a time I was extremely frustrated with the quality of Madden as I had just finished up my 1000 points on the XBox 360 and couldn't even continue playing franchise offline.

I didn't exactly put a lot of thought into this list, it was basically a quick, I just finished playing the game and I'm frustrated rant. It's going on a year and a half later now, and I thought it would be interesting to see what had changed after a couple of releases with the new development leadership in place.

Before everyone starts flaming me and calling me a fanboy, realize this is a rant written out of frustration. I'm sure we've all written them at one point in time or another, and even for a rant it's somewhat well thought out save for the Sucks verbage.

Below are the items from the post along with a rating for how well, if at all, it's been addressed in the current revision(s) of Madden under the new Leadership.

1. Animations are horrible. They make great 'still' shots, but all in all they are not 'smooth', there are hundreds of missing transition animations. All in all this makes for very robotic and unhuman movement, and greatly takes away from the realism of the game.

Score: 40% - for new Locomotion system, the other 20% dings come from failure to fix the rendering issues, failure to add multi-hit tackles & incidental contact, and failure to add transition animations

2. Game is just too fast. Now, I can play at this speed, but this isn't about playability, but about 'enjoyment'. It is absolutely 100% impossible to enjoy the game on any level at this speed.

Score: 80% - for adding the ability to adjust the game speed. Only problem is the animations don't play out quickly enough and the ball is still thrown too fast on the slower speeds.

3. QB Passing is a joke. After playing APF2K8 Madden's passing game is just plain pathetic. QBs rocket the pass in on every throw, and can do so on the run regardless of the QB.

Score: 0% - 2 years later the passing game is the same. In one word. Horrible.

4. All QBs feel the same. Honestly, is there ANY difference between the QBs in this game? Now, I didn't sit there and throw long bombs each game, but I played with some really bad QBs and through 20 yard passes, firing them in there, like each QB was Brett Favre or Peyton Manning.

Score: 100% - you can definitely feel the difference with the QBs, however throwing with the QB's on the run still feels the same regardless of the QBs.

5. QBs can throw unrealistic passes on the run. In APF2K8 only a QB with scrambler could do this, and even so there's a windup. In Madden, they just fire it in there, the SAME way as if they were standing still. Yeah. This is what we see on Sunday. (NOT!)

Score: 20% - QB's can still pretty much fire the ball on the run, though occasionally there is an errant pass, but it's not often enough and the QB release is still too fast for the longer passes.

6. QBs don't have to set their feet. This was one of the greatest additions to APF2K8 and added a LOT of realism to the game. In Madden, they just throw, and they throw the same all the time. Unrealistic.

Score: 50% - QBs do set their feet, but the necessity to do it doesn't feel consistent and the concept of a pocket or scrambling QB appears to be lost on the developers.

7. Passing is still directional based, instead of route based. This makes it nigh impossible to through 'timing routes'. You can do it, but you have to do it AFTER the WR makes their cut, slant. In APF2K8, you can do it BEFORE they make their cut / slant, which makes for an amazing feel in the passing game.

Score: 0% - game still has the same passing mechanism from years ago.

8. WRs pretty much catch everything. Playing on Madden level, and even in traffic, WRs almost always catch the ball. Really??? That's not what I see on Sundays! They need to add some Gator Arms for those WRs when they are on a cross route over the middle, or are about to be leveled by an incoming DB.

Score: 80% - thankfully we can tune this so it works properly, however the default game settings are not tuned properly.

9. Running is a joke. This is again, primarily a speed issue, but it's nigh impossible to follow blocks in any meaningful manner in this game. As the difficulty setting increases, this become more, and more unrealistic.

Score: 80% - with the new Locomotion system and the assignement AI, running is vastly improved. Blocking is not fixed entirely however as punt, kick, and INT returns still have problems and there are occasional hiccups with blocking/pathing.

10. Madden blocking makes APF2K8 blocking appear uber Godly. Blocking in Madden at the Madden level is just a joke. Shedding blocks is one thing, but players constantly miss their blocks, and miss them badly. I have seen 3 guys run by 1 defensive player. Note this is not one defensive player making his way through 3 guys, that would be acceptable, but 3 guys on a weak side running by the 1 defensive player. It's the worse blocking I have ever seen in a video game.

Score: 80% - as previously stated blocking is vastly improved, though there is still some work to be done.

11. Unrealistic Lineman tackles. On the Madden setting, when a Guard pulls, if the opponent is in a default 3-4, then the NT (or DT) will come through untouched every single time and 'chase down' the HB. If you watch the replay the HB has started their movement before the lineman, yet the lineman picks up speed and accelerates faster than the HB, faster than the Guard that pulled from his area, allowing the Guard to come from behind and tackle the HB. This is not only unrealistic, but breaks nearly all plays where the Guard pulls.

Score: 80% - offensive line blocking was vastly improved and it looks to be better in Madden 11, though there are still issues with the pocket forming and defensive awareness when the QB runs out of the pocket.

12. No QB Pocket. Unlike APf2K8 where a QB can setup and play IN the pocket, QBs in Madden must run around in the backfield, running back 10 to 15 yards back to make a 10 yard pass forward. It's 100% unrealistic.

Score: 60% - closer to having a pocket, but as stated previously there are still issues with the pocket.

13. No referees on the field. Yeah, referees aren't necessary to play the game. But they ARE there in the game. In Madden, they magically warp in to make their play call.

Score: 100% - they finally added referees!

14. Sidelines are dead. Yeah, they finally added something to the sidelines. But guess what, they might as well be card board cut outs. NO ONE on the side lines reacts to anything! Even if a player runs into (through) them. And those poor, poor camera men. Those guys got to me in some major pain at the end of the game.

Score: 50% - there are now players on the sidelines, but the graphics are poor and they don't respond.

15. No Cheerleaders. Blasphemy! Here's one all guys will probably support. Where in the [email protected]#$ are the ladies in tight outfits? I'm a man, and I want my eye candy.

Score: 0% - Still no ladies for this perv.

16. Commentary is too repetitive. I played the Cowboys, and by the 2nd game I had literally heard every single specific line of commentary that was available. This is one of the primary reasons I quit playing Franchise. I got sick and tired of the repetitive commentary.

Score: 40% - Commentary still is uber repetitive. You can even here repetitive commentary in the few vids that were posted from E3.

17. Commentary lacks banter. The commentary is all one way. What's there is good (though repetitive), but doesn't represent what you hear / see on Sunday. It's like the two commentators are in different booths, or even on different stations. They clearly aren't interacting with each other, and it makes for an extremely disjointed experience.

Score: 0% - the commentary still completely lacks the concept of banter. They upgraded Hammond to Gus Johnson, but there is a LOT of dead space in the game and the commentators don't seem to be on the same page.

18. On Field Presentation is still lacking. The on field presentation is still lacking. A lot of this has to do with the robotic movement of players. There are other problems though. Primarily to do with the camera, which jerks with the player. If the player's movements flowed, instead of moved quickly this probably wouldn't be as bad of an issue. They need to add movement correction to the camera to fix this problem.

Score: 40% - improved presentation and camera angels in M10, but they continue to take their own artistic approach rather than a broadcast approach.

19. Synchronized Running. Yes, it's a new sport! Players run off field in unison. Nothing weirder than seeing 8 guys running the same direction, with their feet going up and hitting the ground in unison. Synchronized running. Very realistic Madden guys!

Score: 80% - I see a lot less synchronized running than in past versions, though everyone once in awhile you'll catch a screen with 3 guys doing the same thing or running off the field in synch.

20. Stands are still unrealistic. Stands still look like cookie cutters. Sure, it's a prettier cookie cutter, but still doesn't look real. They need to add more unique sections, with people drinking cokes, holding up banners, walking up and down the isles.

Score: 80% - Stands views are better, with more added this year. Based on what I've seen it still looks extremely repetitive.

21. IN GAME MARKETING! - This one, above them all, angers me the most. People are paying FULL price for a game. You do NOT market adds to end users who pay full price. This shows how little EA thinks of their consumer base. There are ads at various points in the game, not on the backdrop, where they would normally appear, but on the menu system. This is 100% unacceptable. The fact that Madden is a cash cow and this raping of a user's visual space is even more egregious.

Score: 0% - if I could give a negative rating, they'd get it here. They have taken marketing to an all time low/high with the addition of overlay Ads.

22. Defensive Adjustments are too slow. PreSnap adjustments take too long to respond. Nearly a full second before they react to the input. They move fast enough, it's the 1+ second delay that's the issue.

Score: 50% - it was faster in M10, but it still feels strangely slow

23. Difficult to Impossible to play a DB - The main reason isn't the speed, which most people will think, but there is not 'make up speed' for the DB the player is controlling. If the player does not follow the route EXACTLY, then the WR will be open for an easy completion. This is nigh impossible, and makes playing a DB in the game virtually impossible. So much for fun on defense!

Score: 60% - playing DB was easier and with the new Locomotion system it's going to be easier.

24. Unable to read defensive body movements when passing. It's impossible to read a players body movements when passing. They mean absolutely nothing. When throwing, a defensive player can be turning to right as the the WR cuts across past them to the left. When the QB throws, the DB will magically jump up in the air, and slide over, for an easy INT. It's extremely unrealistic, and a completely inhuman movement. I have a feeling this is a legacy issue of the 'zone warp bug' infamous from Madden '08.

Score: 80% - would be 100% if not for the psychic DBs that still make cuts/moves as the QB's hand goes back.

25. Kickoffs are ugly and camera is spastic - More presentation problems. On the kickoff, you don't get to follow the ball all the way from kick off to the return man. Instead, halfway there, the camera violently jerks away and centers on the return man. It's horrible, and viewer warning, may lead to epileptic seizures.

Score: 50% - the camera doesn't jerk as bad as it used to, but it still doesn't give us a good view of the ball or a panned view of the stadium, or a broadcast view of the kickoff.


So, after a couple years of development with new leadership, what's the total improvement on my rant? After I total it all up, it looks like we have an improvement of 52%, which isn't too bad considering, but isn't exactly a passing grade either. Locomotion is fixed in Madden 11, but it looks like Madden 12 is the game I have to wait for and pray that Ian and the Madden team see the light and drop the directional based passing that bogs down Madden's passing game and replace it with a route based passing mechanism so we can finally play a real game of football again. After 2+ years of development and with little to no feedback from Ian on the subject, my hopes for an improved passing game and the ability to once again enjoy Madden are beginning to seem for naught.
# 1 tswiatkowski @ Jun 19
I haven't looked at Madden at all this year, but in NCAA it is a bit easier to play DB, (trust me, I feel your pain there) and the pass speed is much slower now (at least from what I've seen in the demo). It is much more realistic, but there are still the DBs that perfectly cover quick outs and things like that. It is noticeably improved, but I don't know if that will all translate into Madden or not...
# 2 DGMikeBarker @ Jun 19
agree 100%. I still really hate the tackling in Madden & NCAA.
# 3 Valdarez @ Jun 19
I'm going to follow up with another blog on the big ticket items I have been looking/asking for and see how many of them have been changed. My big one has been the passing game, and it required Locomotion to be fixed, so step 1 is in place. I just hope it doesn't stop there, but I have a feeling it may as they seemed to be focused on the casual gamer and that pass/catch anytime mechanism definitely supports the casual gamer.
# 4 turftickler @ Jun 19
Spot on Valdarez. Now I would like to see you break down Backbreaker the same way.
# 5 BroMontana82 @ Jun 19
i think i'm skipping madden this year...there don't seem to be too many big changes from last year. we'll see i guess.
# 6 JkA3 @ Jun 19
i may skip madden this year. it seems all the devs time is spent on making patches on the many mistakes. this creates a cycle, which then leads to the same issue the following year. this year, by far, seems to be the least amount of positive transition from one year's game to the next.
# 7 sugarman73 @ Jun 19
do a write up on backbreaker. I can already tell you it sucks.
# 8 Valdarez @ Jun 19
Keep in mind the original post was a rant, not a well thought out 'this is what I want in Madden' post. With regards to BackBreaker, I can't play the game due to the major blur at the end of the play, it kills my eyes. Their community representative had me send an email to their support, but I never received a response back from anyone, and it doesn't seem that they have added the ability to disable the blur. Until there's a way to play BackBreaker with the blur disabled, it's a no play for me, which is unfortunate as I have been following for 3 years waiting to play it.
# 9 TreyIM2 @ Jun 20
While this is a good breakdown, I chalk up a lot of the short comings to a last gen engine that isn't very flexible and can't handle current gen consoles in a more optimal fashion. We've all talked about how things have disappeared that were in the PS2/Xbox versions of the game or how long it has taken to add back some things that were in previous gen systems and that limited engine is the culprit. It was obvious to me after Madden 09 came out (I traded in my first Madden for my PS3, which was Madden 08, due to how bad it was and got the PS2 version, again) and it's even been said by guys on the Madden team. I don't "blame" the devs, at all, for what's there. They can only do so much in the limited time they have each year with the limited code. They are slaves to the EA brass. Plus,the time, energy and cost to fix some deeply routed issues that can seriously break the code and be even more time consuming and costly to fix gets weighed against some new "innovation" that may not take as much time, energy and cost and can give the perceived "freshness" to the game. Risk taking or lack there of at it's, uhh, finest.

I look more at EA brass for getting the money for the new engine but we see what's going on with Elite/NHL 11 so there is some hope yet I'm not so sure if this will fix things, if at all, IF a new physics engine is the answer. Honestly, I believe they need a complete new and very flexible "base" engine, from scratch, with NO residual code but that could be too much of an overhaul when talking about the financial side of things.

At the end of the day, I can only hope that the devs can get in as much as they can. I've posted list of suggestions, multiple times with updates, after Madden 10 came out, trying to be proactive and hoping the devs can squeeze in as much as possible from what they deem the more valuable suggestions by everyone. At the same time, I hold on to my thought of limited code so I stay even keel about things and, again, just hope that a new engine is coming and will fix most of the Madden issues.
# 10 raidersbball20 @ Jun 20
interesting to see how much has changed and some things haven't changed
# 11 texbuk84 @ Jun 21
great post, I haven't bought Madden in 2 yrs and NCAA took a break last yr to allow madden to "catch up" in my opinion! I will definitely buy NCAA this yr but Madden is a no go for me!
# 12 sportyguyfl31 @ Jun 21
Good read, and very fair. I am convinced that EA will never correct the pocket, unbrealistic drop, scramblings, sprint and chuck aspect of the game.

Thats the staple of the madden tourney crowd, and they will not alienate that group.
# 13 Eski33 @ Jun 21
The only thing you left out was that the fake popcorn was stale. I am all about people having the right to an opinion but that is an aweful lot of time spent breaking down something that emulates reality.

I have no issues with Madden. I read all the blogs of people complaining about this and that. It is a game. It isn't perfect nor will it ever be. 2K wasn't perfect.

I like the breakdown but some of the items you picked have nothing to do with the game. Refs on the field? I never noticed them. QB's are the same? I beg to differ. Try using Delhomme....Receivers catch everything? Yeah, and if they drop balls then there would be something new to complain about. Sidelines are dead? Again, what does this have to do with gameplay? QB's don't set their feet? It's fake...
# 14 Skyliner80 @ Jun 21
The attention to detail does matter though, Eski. See MLB the Show. The little nuances is what opens the eyes of the hardcore football gaming fan. Those little things like broadcast presentation and dynamic commentary immerse you even more in the game. Personally, I think there is only a small percentage that cares about the things that Valdarez seems to be opining about, to include myself. I also notice that many times, the common denominator is that we all have been buying 2k/EA football titles for quite a long time, every year and just want to see a perfect game that represents the sport to the fullest extent, especially with this whole exclusive license deal. With exclusivity, there should be no excuse. There shouldn't be regression.

I know a certain game that let me wear the Miami Dolphins 1990 uniform with commemorative "Silver Season" patch in the touch of a button, and if I wasn't satisfied with that ...I could pick another one of the 6 to 7 historical uniforms from my favorite team. 1990 Uniform. A uniform so vague that only real fans know what it looks like. That's what I'm talking about. The little things. Now, with the license, you can get, excluding current alternates.....about one or two throwbacks....what the hell?

Anyway, maybe it's just me. I like the sights and sounds of the league..and I expect those same sights and sounds when a company has all rights and product backing.
# 15 keshunleon @ Jun 21
I have always had problems playing Madden: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 22, 23! I stopped playing Madden back in 93!
Especially with the QB playing! Madden 10 was better but it takes to long to change the play or change the route. I like playing safety and if you move him out of place then the CB's forget how to play D.

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