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SummaryI'm stuck on this one!
The GoodThis is THE version of Madden, for me. I've delved so far into Franchise Mode, there's no turning back (or forward) - I think I'm around 17 years or so into my franchise at present! Personally, I love being able to do that, as many of the game's real players retire each season and are replaced by fictitious rookies... the game really becomes much more about fantasy at that point, and I enjoy that more than playing against the real NFL'ers.
And that's the strongest point of the game in my eyes... I love managing the little things, poring over my roster and trying to eliminate payroll by dumping expensive, old players for cheap, undeveloped youngsters. Then, giving the young guys playing time, watching their abilities improve, and continuing the cycle later by trading them once they've become too expensive. Really, this level of micro-management is fun, year-in and year-out for me! It's so satisfying to comb the bargain bin of the Free Agents pool, looking for a star-in-the-making to sign on the cheap, or trying to work a trade with another team for their 3rd string CB because he's got a speed rating of 99, knowing you can improve his other ratings and make him unstoppable with a little experience. Endless fun!
Certain "create" modes make the game exciting too - creating your own player, stadium, even your own plays. Very fun to be imaginative and create a play to the strength of your roster - for instance, I designed a play for my fastest WR in which he stands still at the line of scrimmage for about 3 seconds after the snap, then bursts upfield in a streak pattern. This almost always fools the CB, and he ends up chasing my receiver who catches a long-bomb for an easy TD!
The BadAs for gameplay, the difficulty is quite easy. Like earlier Maddens, you may struggle at first, running random plays and having a hard time knowing what to do. As you continue playing, you tend to discover certain plays that can almost always get big yardage, and you find yourself running only a handful of plays all game and still winning big. The AI typically won't adapt to your limited gameplan, and that's really unrealistic... Then again, certain times, the game truly cheats - it doesn't matter how many audibles you call, even within the same formation, the defense slides around to counter your play as if they know what's coming. When you crank up the difficulty, suddenly your opponents are making superhuman plays every down, jumping 10 yards to bat down a pass... I hate when games equate amping up the difficulty with making gameplay unrealistic in this fashion.
I find the Offseason Mode really impractical, as is. The game forces you to advance through your offseason step-by-step, making decisions on re-signing guys before the draft occurs. This wouldn't be too bad if you knew what players were going to be available in the draft, but you don't! For instance, imagine you have a LT on your roster who is at the end of his current, expensive contract. He's a good player, but you think you could draft and develop a young guy and save some cash... the game forces you to make the decision to re-sign him or let him become a free agent before you can even see the draft pool to know if there's a LT worth drafting to replace him! Major flaw.
There is a loophole within the trade system that can be taken advantage of by the astute player who doesn't mind a borderline cheat. For some reason, even if you're undefeated, at the trade deadline of a season, you can trade your draft picks for equivalent draft picks of a winless team, straight up. For instance, my 6-0 San Francisco 49ers can trade their late 1st round pick to the 0-6 Detroit Lions, and the Lions will green light the trade! Chances are, I'll finish the season with a Super Bowl title, and the Lions may scrape together 1 win all year... but guess who gets the 1st pick of next year's draft...? The 49ers! A glitch or a cheat, you make the call... it certainly gives a big advantage to the player.
Otherwise, trades are typically ridiculously unfair to the human player. You can offer a team a star player in his prime, and even if they have tons of salary cap room, they'll still not want to give up much for him. Just terribly unrealistic.
The game designers clearly wanted to add some sort of controversy to a player's season, to spice up the realism of the game. This becomes formulaic and annoying, however. For example, your 2nd string QB may start moaning about playing time midway through the season, whining to the media and bringing down your team's morale. Sounds like a fun concept, but totally annoying in practice... you end up trading the guy just to shut him up, but it doesn't work - some other player starts acting up instead, and you realize you're in an endless loop that serves no purpose. Team morale seems to have very little impact on the game anyhow, so you end up just tolerating the nuisance.
I hate that though you can create and save a custom playbook of your offensive and defensive plays, there seems to be no way to save your audibles to your custom playbook! This means that each game you use your unique playbook in, you must go through the tedious process of overwriting the preset audibles with your own preferences. This is ridiculous, a major oversight by the design team.
Commentary from John Madden and Al Michaels is repetitive, annoying, and meaningless. They get muted in favor of music, every game!