Yes. Yes it is.
I don't say that because it's out today, for XBox 360, Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 (and, I'm sure, in handheld form), I say that because I've never seen so much attention to detail in a sports game with an already firm foundation. The past few years, crabby fan boys have complained that the game offers too much of the same old thing, with annual roster updates being the only thing to rationalize a yearly purchase. And they may have had a bit of a point in earlier iterations of the game. After Madden 09's casual tilt, with customizable AI and, literally, do-overs, included in the final product, the community came out hard for the game that's now been with them for 21 years, and EA listened.
The team went back to the drawing board to figure out how to make the game as much like real, broadcast-quality football as was possible. Several little things were added, but the most encouraging are all things that turned the franchise away from an arcade feel (thank goodness) and back to the hardcore simulation that most core gamers remember. This year, amongst a lot of other add-ons, the game features:
- A new Pro-Tak animation system
procedural animation tackling allows for up to nine players, from either offense or defense, to be involved in tackles. You can push the pile or steer a back away from the first down marker.
- Nearly 1,000 new animations
Again, it's the little things. The way wide receivers set up at the line of scrimmage. The fluidity of the defenses you'll face. The player-specific throwing motions from each team's QB. With the addition of more cut scenes in between plays, EA really focused on enhancing the broadcast-quality feel of well-done football video game, and they were successful.
- A new, adjusted game speed
This is not your little brother's Madden. It'll feel weird at first, but you'll soon see how slowing everything down makes all the players movements feel truer-to-life. Factor in a completely redone ranking system, and the spine of the game has changed, for the better.