NOTE: Madden 10 for the iPhone isn't yet out in the App Store, but it is expected to be available later today. We'll update this post with links as soon as it's available.
EA have placed an introductory sale on Madden 10, it will be $7.99 until about 8:30pm EST on 9/10/2009. After that date it will go up to $9.99.
When EA announced that Madden 10 would be released for the iPhone, it was very exciting, but also very expected. The number one selling sports franchise just had a natural home on the best mobile device available. What we didn't expect was the depth and quality of play the release would contain.
Madden 10 for the iPhone contains all of the teams, all of the stadiums, and both the single game and season play mode of the console version. While the game lacks the multiplayer modes, we're told those will appear in a later version. It also includes the interesting musing of John Madden himself (good news, you can turn off the commentary if you wish!).
Let's start with the controls, that was the least known feature of this game. How could a game as complex as Madden adapt to the buttonless controls of the iPhone? Well, I'm happy to report that EA has done a really great job with the controls. While not without fault, they've added a couple new controls methods unique to the iPhone that support the complexity of the game play while simplifying the controls for the touch screen.
First up is the action control button. This button which looks like a stopwatch, allows you to slow down the movements on the screen for a short while. This is good when looking for a receiver or planning on which direction to run a return. This will turn out to be a very useful control addition. I also consider this pretty essential when you don't have hard buttons that you can find my touch -- you have to look at the screen to find your button from as many as 6 at a time. The action control button gives you the time to find the right button.
Next up is the way to target a receiver. On the console, the eligible receivers will have a different button indicators floating over their head. This obviously won't work on the iPhone. On the iPhone each receiver is surrounded by a large reticle that is either red (they are blocked), yellow (potentially blocked), or green (open). Touching on any of these circles will throw the ball to that receiver. The receiver may not catch it, but you will at least know how open they are.
Another really cool addition is the ability to draw custom routes for receivers. This is called hot route and is triggered from a button on screen once the play has been selected and the ball is ready to be snapped. To draw a route, you just touch a receiver and draw the direction you'd like them to go. The only downside to this is that you can't then save your route as a play for future games.
Madden 10 for the iPhone includes hundreds of plays. Both offense and defense. This includes that ability to switch any plays left to right, and also includes multiple defensive formations. I'd love the ability to create your own plays, or at least the ability to set some plays as favorites to allow quicker picking of them when playing. Scrolling through the huge list to find the right one can be a pain at times.
There's also the ability to trade players between teams and sign unsigned players. You also have the opportunity to change your line-up during the game. Each player and team comes with some fairly detailed stats that you can track through the season as you play.
Let's take a look at the 2 different play modes. You can either play a single game or you can pick a team and play all or part of a full season. The full season also includes post season all the way up to and including the Superbowl. That is if you are good enough. Season progression naturally follows the same rules as the real NFL. The two different play modes are non-exclusive. You could be playing through the season as one team and decide to play a game separate from your season without affecting it.
One iPhone feature that Madden has that should be a requirement for every game is that it saves your current state when you exit the app or get a phone call. This allows you to play a bit here and there (say 3 plays while waiting for your morning coffee), and resume later right at the play you left off. Side note - this is also a good way to call another play without calling a timeout -- which you'd usually need to do to call a new play in the game. Don't like the play? Just hit the home button and relaunch Madden, then touch resume game to call a new play.
The opponent team generally seems fairly smart. You can't just keep using the same offensive play over and over and expect it to work. They will also go for a 2 point conversion instead of the 1 point if they need the points. Just like the console versions of Madden, they seem to adapt fairly well to keep the game fresh and challenging.
Overall, gameplay in Madden 10 is very good. It's not without it's bugs such as the quarterback aiming to the right and throwing left, the false voice announcement that the pass was knocked down when it was completed, and the occasional midfield tackle from 10 feet away. All in all the Madden game itself, while slimmed down in some areas from the console version is still a very competent port. The graphics can be chunky and slow at times, but the gameplay rarely suffers from that.
The game includes a good slideshow type tutorial and also some decent text help. This should be enough to get you going quickly. The tutorial is available from the menu and you are shown the relevant parts during your first game. You have the OS 3.0 ability to play your own music instead of the usual EA licensed modern rock.
In an interesting move, EA have announced that the roster updates and authentic jerseys will be available for in-app purchasing in the future as well. It's interesting because they seem to be monetizing non-essential game elements, the ones that would be of interest to the die-hard fans the most.
So, what do I think? Madden 10 isn't without it's shortcomings or bugs, but dammit, it's Madden on the iPhone! It is one of, if not the number one video game franchise, and now it's on the iPhone. It's not a weak little feature phone java game, it's Madden, and it's here.