Review: Madden NFL 11
To understand where this review is going, we need to remember where Madden has been. The series has come along way since that infamous target render during the 2005 NFL Draft and last year managed to surpass even those expectations. So what do you do, when you have reached the pinnacle of football video game greatness? Well if you ask EA Tiburon, you completely re-think the way the game is played making it more accessible to everyone but at the same time making it the most enjoyable football experience yet. Read on to find out just how this was done.
A few months ago we were invited to an EA Sports preview event. It was then that we were first introduced to Madden 11’s biggest addition. It’s called Gameflow, and when I first heard about it, I thought to myself “Oh no, hardcore Madden fans are going to lose their minds, especially if this is the biggest addition to this year’s title.” Don’t get me wrong, personally, I consider myself the “Bill Bellichick” of Madden play calling and I was adamantly against the feature but once I put it to use, it’s really hard to go back to flipping through the playbook. After finally getting my hands dirty during this review I have to say that although it may seem like the simplest addition, it without a doubt provides for the biggest jump in the immersion and gameplay department to the series since it’s transition from 2D to 3D.
If you ever wanted to feel like a real life quarterback, with Gameflow you can plug in your headset of choice and the coach will tell you every play in your ear. Perfect for when playing against your screen-peaking friends on the same TV.
Most importantly GameFlow addresses one of the biggest complaints of playing simulation football and that’s usually just how much time it takes to play the games. As much as I loved playing last years edition, I just hated knowing that almost every single game could take up to an hour. This year, if both opponents are using GameFlow instead of flipping through the playbook, you can squeeze two games in almost the same amount of time.
With GameFlow comes Game Planning and with it you can tweak and customize what plays are called while using the GameFlow feature. I did some tinkering with it, but trust me when I say that good results may vary. What you think are “money plays” may not coincide with what’s needed for a particular situation. What I’ve been doing is studying a lot of what’s being called by the A.I. and then applying it to similar situations while Game Planning. You can also save your game planning, and then it works pretty much like a custom load out before playing a game. So not only do you have your favorite playbook, but also a GameFlow gameplan to compliment it.
If you read my previous review for Madden’s distant second cousin NCAA 11, then you may have noticed how much I enjoyed the new locomotion mechanics. Running the ball was the biggest reason to play that title. With that said, you should have seen my face once I started running the rock in Madden 11. To say that I was in love would be an understatement. And the more that I play it the better it gets.
The game introduces the ability to not only shed a tackle but also change direction while doing so. The spin move for example can be used to not only shake a would-be tackler before making contact, but can also be used after contact has been made. Follow spin that with a flick of the right stick in the right direction and you might be able to take what used to be a dead play in years past and turn it into 6 points. Just like football in real life the play is not dead until the whistle is blown and with that said, you’ll see ball carriers chopping their feet and fighting for every yard on every play.
It isn’t only the ball carriers you play with that make carrying the ball so much fun. Oh no, for that I have to give it up to the big guys up front. Watching your offensive line making key blocks then moving up to the next level to punish the linebackers and defensive backs is nothing short of awesome. With agility being an attribute that actually matters now, the ability to stop on a dime and allow these blocks to happen help you to put together some runs that would make Barry Sanders in his prime blush.
The kicking game has also received a much-needed tweak. No more inaccurate ridiculous right stick flicks. Instead the old kicking meter has been replaced with a power an accuracy meter that makes kicking and punting feel less like a chore. The speed of the meter is faster on higher difficulties. Not much else to write on this because just like real life, no one cares about the kicker.
When you watch the real NFL on Sundays there are tons of commercials. One thing that upsets me when it comes to games lately is the inclusion of in game ads and it seems that lately EA Sports titles are notorious for it. And while Madden 11 is loaded with “sponsored” highlights and stats it never feels like it’s over done. I have to say that the inclusion of the advertisements actually ads to the level of realism. Getting to the red zone and hearing the Old Spice jingle actually made me laugh at one point. Not sure if it’s because of all the silly commercials lately but I’m sure it had something to do with it.
New pre-game introductions and sequences make their way into this year’s title. You’ll see players getting off the bus, hanging out in the locker room, and even team specific rituals like Drew Brees and Saints pre game chant. It’s all there.
The one negative thing I had to point out was with the commentary. This year they’ve introduced Gus Johnson to the series who joins with veteran Chris Collinsworth in the announcers booth. Now, for the most part the commentary is spot on and at times not only bearable but also entertaining. There are these instances however where either Chris or Gus will say stuff that isn’t necessarily out of context but more like out of sync with what actually happened.
Here’s a quick example: I remember one play where it was 1st down and I had the ball on my own 46. I ran a dive up the middle and gained 5 yards. It was now second down and nothing to get excited about. The team was headed back to the huddle and all of a sudden Colinsworth yells “He crosses the 50!” and I think to myself “okay, that was pretty random.” Now if had happened once, I would have thought it was just a fluke, but it happened on about 5 different occasions. It doesn’t affect the game itself but because it’s so strange, it does take points off from the presentation.
Everyone’s favorite franchise mode is back and as good as you remember it from last year. There weren’t too many major changes to the mode, which isn’t bad by any means as the system that is in place is one of the more robust franchise modes you could ever want in a sports title. I’m more about the online franchise mode personally, but at the time of this review the servers were still down. Womp Womp.
Speaking of online, as usual, Madden is the be all and end all of online sports titles and this year is no different. You have your usual lobbies and play now features where you can face off not only with people the same level as you but also ensure you don’t play against chumps that can’t take a beating as players DNF or Do Not Finish percentages are also taken into account.
The biggest feature added to the online has to be the 3 versus 3 Online Team Play mode. In this mode players are broken down into 3 squads on either side of the ball. On offense you’re either in charge of the Wide Receivers, Running Backs, or the Quarterback. On defense your squad responsibilities are the Defensive Line, Linebackers, or Defensive Backs. So, just like football in real life, in order to win, everyone has just has to do his or her job. I can easily see Online Team Play becoming the favorite mode to play this year.
All in all I have to say that normally sports games don’t change enough from year to year to merit a $60 purchase. With last years edition being so good, it made you wonder how much better can it get in only a year’s time. You can wonder no more as this years Madden is a must buy for any self-respecting fan of gaming and the NFL. With Madden NFL 11 EA Sports has proved that just because you make something more “casual” or accessible doesn’t mean it has to lose what’s made the hardcore player love it since the beginning.
- Title: Madden NFL 11
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: EA Tiburon
- Publisher: Electronic Arts Inc.
- Release Date: August 10, 2010
- MSRP: $59.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game was provided to DualShockers Inc, by the publisher for review purposes.