They say football is all about “team,” but who doesn’t come into the NFL dreaming of being a superstar? Developer Tiburon is hoping to make gamers feel like gridiron studs with some long-overdue improvements to Madden’s Superstar mode.
Superstar puts you in the cleats of your own created character, just as it has the past few years, but now you have real control over your player’s destiny. Gone are the arbitrary attribute bumps, the pointless practices, and the feeling that you’re working towards nothing more than the next game.
The whole point of taking over the career of a single player is that you’re going to raise that player from practice squad walk-on to Hall of Famer. And a big part of that experience is being able to choose how your player improves and the type of player you become.
Superstar mode is now built off skill points, which you can spend however you like — focus on speed and spectacular catch ability for your player or dedicate yourself to becoming a powerful possession receiver. Points are earned for your performance on the field and for completing practices, but those points are never tied to any specific stats.
Just because you got your points charging up the middle as a halfback, dragging linemen five yards at a time, you don’t automatically increase your ability to break tackles or your overall strength. Maybe you want to better your catching ability so your tank of a running back can become a viable threat in pass plays. Or you could continue to bulk up, becoming an unstoppable force on the ground.
Your player will start with an overall 60 rating — not exactly an NFL legend — with some skill points in the bank for a bit of customization. The cost of each attribute depends on the position. Skills that are necessary for the position (say, a quarterback’s passing ability) are cheaper And, as you might expect, the higher your stat, the more skill points it costs to increase that ability.
Practices now have a purpose because of the new experience points system. Each practice session gives you ten plays to rack up points. Using an improved version of Gameflow, Madden’s computer-controlled play-calling option, you run through random plays you might see on game day. The better you perform, the more points you earn. And those points in turn are spent to improve your player. There are no silly focused sessions to improve specific abilities. It’s simple and it should open up considerably more freedom in Superstar mode. As a result, Tiburon’s hope is that no two Superstars will be the same.
To that end, there’s more to your player than just his attributes. New this year are traits and tendencies, which you set to determine the mental aspects of your player. After all, two linebackers might have a high tackle rating, but one could always play it safe and wrap up the ball carrier while the other always wants to put a little hurt into the opponent.
Also helping to separate players with similar ratings is the reborn player roles, which some might remember from last generation’s Madden. There are more than 20 roles, most of which are earned by your play on the field. These set who you are within your organization. You could be a wily veteran “mentor,” for example, who helps a rookie improve during the season. Come back to IGN on Friday for a whole lot more on player roles and how they reshape Franchise mode.
Aside from making the best player possible over a long career, a whole load of additional bells and whistles have been added to Superstars mode. A fresh interface, new equipment, improved player creation settings and more should finally put to rest any complaints that Tiburon is ignoring one of Madden’s best modes.
And, of course, few players stay in one place throughout their career. At the start of Superstars you can enter the NFL draft (and leave your fate in the hands of an NFL GM) or you can choose the team you like and sign as a free agent walk-on for your rookie season. If things don’t work out, you can stomp your feet like Jay Cutler and demand a trade. You’re then provided a list of teams interested in your services. Pick where you want to go and you’re off. It’s as simple as that.
One thing that I dig is that Superstars mode recognizes that, hey, you want to be an NFL Hall of Famer. And to that end, when you are nearing game, season or career records, you’ll be notified. I doubt anyone will feel the intense pressure a true Hall of Famer does when they are on the brink of breaking one of the NFL’s revered records, but it’s still cool that it’s given attention.
It’s been a long time coming, but Madden’s Superstars mode is finally getting the attention it deserves. And Franchise mode is getting a whole lot more, which I’ll discuss tomorrow.