Well folks, its that time of year again. Back-to-school sales, the baseball pennant races are heating up and NFL players are getting fined $16k a day holding out for crazy amounts of contract money. While all of those are good things, the best thing about this time of year is the release of EA Sports’ Madden NFL 11.
After coverboy Drew Brees brought together a country rooting the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl Championship, EA Sports looks to bring its iconic Madden franchise to an even larger fan base. With additions like GameFLOW and the Strategy Pad, EA is trying to extend its reach past the massive number of die-hard Madden fans and pull in new players to not only the game, but the game of football. Can they make a game with a low barrier to entry while still appeasing the hardcore fan-base?
GameFLOW lets you do what is most important in a sports video game, take care of business on the field without having to worry about anything outside the lines. All you need to do is execute. Before the play is run, a coordinator explains what you should be doing, and explains why the current play is necessary.
Strategy Pad moves the formerly nearly hidden pre-play alignment calls front and center on the play-screen. While this control change will make it easier for a rookie to the series, hardcore fans already have these button combos locked in their head, which might lead to some messed up coverages while the hardcore relearn this feature.
As an avid Madden fan, I’m tempted to say that Madden 11 caters too much to the casual football fan. However, any of the features made to entice new players to the game can easily be turned off to allow die-hard player to get down and dirty.
As usual, Madden 11 looks amazing. It has everything you need to be visually immersed in a football simulation, from reflections on players helmets to watching the road team get off the bus prior to the game. The physics engine has been tuned perfectly, giving everyone on the field the feeling that any move you make can have a great impact, from Jason Witten plowing over a cornerback to a defensive tackle hitting just a sliver of a running back leading to him going down.
On the offensive side of the ball, offensive line blocking is much improved. Each lineman does a good job of holding his man and working as a team. The playbooks are very deep and EA’s team has done a great job at replicating each teams real schemes. Throwing while on the run is very realistic this year, or to put it simply its a bad idea, since most of the time your pass will be off target, much like in a real game of football.
As a fan of EA Sports’ other football game this year, NCAA Football 11, I was sad to see the hurry up playbook wasn’t brought into Madden. I explained in our NCAA Football 11 review that when running a hurry up offense you are able to select any play from the team’s playbook, as opposed to your only options being the same play you just ran and your pre-selected audibles.
Not much has changed on the defensive side of the ball. The physics and locomotion engines have made the experience much more authentic. If you choose the wrong gap to blitz, or make an ill advised move, you’re going to pay for it.
A nice addition to exhibition games is the ability to change “broadcast styles”. Normal, as you guessed, is your typical broadcast presentation. The AFL setting brings back last year's $6.99 add-on for free, with vintage, orange film grain look. Super Bowl has all the glitz and glamor of the NFL’s biggest stage. Lastly, Holiday adds holiday lights to the scoreboard on the bottom of the screen as well as wreaths here and there. A jolly fat man dressed in red also makes an appearance, and no it's not John Madden.
The Madden franchise has been around so long that you can’t expect revolutionary changes every year. What makes Madden so special is the small things, like Ray Lewis’ pre-game dance, Drew Brees’ pre-game speech, the Jeopardy music played during a challenge. These small nuances that you will probably skip over most of the time are what make Madden, Madden.
So far I’ve only ran into two small glitches so far with the game. After scoring a touchdown, my wide receiver pretended he was Al Calavicci from Quantum Leap and walked straight through a wall. My other gripe is that while playing in Superstar Mode, you can’t change the camera angle. The camera is about 15 yards from the play (as you can see above) and that just feels a little too far, and I wish I could zoom in.
One thing I noticed from my original time with the demo was that this game has a slower pace than normal. While I still feel that is true in the release version, though it may be a result of the lack of a Turbo button, I’ve come to realize that because of that there is a much higher reward for faster players. I played a little with the Tennessee Titans and learned quickly that a weapon like Chris Johnson, who is rated 99 in Speed, Agility, and Acceleration is nearly unstoppable, which was pretty much the case in last year's football season. So I think the slower game works, because its not actually the game being slower, but you are seeing the differences in player speed much more clearly defined.
If you’re a hardcore Madden player, you already have this game, that is pretty much how it goes. This year I even went to a midnight opening at GameStop to pick it up, along with nearly 100 other people. The real question is, “Is this game good for someone new to Madden?” The answer is simply “yes”. While football is a very in-depth and nuanced game, GameFLOW and other additions make it very easy to get into the game, while helping you learn what you need to know to be able to advance yourself and make you a better Madden player and NFL fan.
If you have any interes in football or Madden, I highly recommend you picking up EA Sports’ Madden NFL 11. Also, don't forget to check out our top Top 5 Madden NFL Games of All-Time.
Madden NFL 11 is available now on all consoles and iDevices.