Year-in and year-out the Madden franchise continues to sell palettes of copies. This is a testament to the fanbase that the game has accrued over the years. The biggest reason is that Tiburon has been tweaking and fine-tuning the game for the longtime fans, but never for the casual crowd. That all changes with Madden NFL 11, but the biggest question on people’s minds is, how does that affect the hardcore game? Well as with most new things the new features in Madden 11 are definitely one step in the right direction to appease the more casual crowd, but hardcore players may be left scratching their heads at a few play calls here and there.
Let’s start with some of the new features with this year’s game. The most touted addition is GameFlow. This basically breaks down the entire playbook to one play, giving you the ability to blast through a game in around 30 minutes as opposed to an hour. Think of it as Ask Madden, only you don’t get the option to back out of your choice. Basically the coach will select the play they think is best for the current situation and you can either go with it, or quickly audible at the line. Most of the time it works well enough to get by and casual fans will certainly enjoy the option to just press one button to keep the action moving. However, there were several times where my running game was simply not working, yet the computer constantly insisted I keep running the ball.
Now for those of you who prefer the classic play-call style there is nothing to worry about. You can still sort through each massive playbook and pick the play you want to call. You can even build a gameplan for both offense and defense that consists of your favorite plays. There are plenty of options to suit just about all types of players, so while this feature may not be beneficial to long time players, it does help in making the game more accessible to those who just want to jump into the uniform of their favorite team.
Other additions to this year’s game include a brand new animation system that takes into account the way players move on the field. Every tackle now feels more organic when landed and watching backs like Reggie Bush shed would-be tacklers is definitely more entertaining. The game continues to add features that make it feel more and more like what we see on Sunday. A huge omission that some gamers will note right off the bat is the removal of the turbo button by default. Now instead your runner will accelerate at the appropriate time on a run. You can of course opt to turn it back on, but after a couple games I actually liked the new system more as it had me searching for my openings and learning to follow my blockers more often.
The right analog stick has also been redefined becoming the definitive way to travel downfield. The right stick now handles all of the moves of your player not just juking. Basically as you work your way through defenders you can use the left and right stick together to perform all of your jukes, spins and steps. It takes a bit to get used to the scheme, but once you get the hang of it things begin to open up. Also just like NCAA you now need to hold down the right bumper in order to secure the ball as you are being tackled. It is the little touches that most people never realize that continue to move the series forward.
There are plenty of simple features added to attract more of the casual audience, but Tiburon has also added some new on-the-spot play calling for advanced players. The new strategy pad allows you to adjust everything at the line of scrimmage. Setting hot routes, defensive adjustments and line shifts have all been assigned to the d-pad. The problem is that when you play against a fast-paced offense you don’t get a chance to mess around with it, so you have to memorize all of the buttons while playing defense.
On a whole the entire gameplay package feels like last year’s with a few tweaks to create more fluid running and tackling. The additions that have been made are not going to be noticed by the casual player, but the new GameFlow option certainly will be. Once again Tiburon makes adjustments on both sides of the ball, including a brand new kicking meter that uses the three-click approach as opposed to the traditional analog setting. Players both old and new will definitely enjoy the enhancements, and for those concerned that GameFlow will ruin the experience, you can certainly turn it off.
When it comes to features Madden has always been packed, but it was the updates to these each year that really set the game apart. Unfortunately the Franchise and Superstar mode remain mostly untouched with only presentation aspects being affected. There is now a Madden Shop where you can purchase coins with real money to enhance your Ultimate Team as well as a brand new series of Madden Moments that have you reliving the most exciting games from last year. There is the quintessential new feature in the game, and it is definitely a keeper.
Online Team Play makes its debut with support for up to six players, three on each team. This allows one player to assume the role of QB, one handling the running backs and of course one on the receivers. This is how football was meant to be played with friends, and the ability to do it online takes it to a whole new level. There are boosts available in this mode as it is more casual, so if you are one of those that like to play on a level playing field, you will want to avoid those using these at all costs. They really can be a game changer. Personally I found just grabbing two friends and beating down the computer to be a great, and rewarding experience.
All of that said the rest of the package is pretty standard stuff. It is a shame that Franchise (online and off) has remain untouched. This really is the reason I buy the game year-in and year-out. Still if you are an NFL fan there is more than enough here to keep you playing for another calendar year.
The presentation has received a nice upgrade both visually and in the commentating booth. I talked about the improved animations earlier, but I also noticed a lot more polish in this year’s game. Player faces look more detailed and the entire package just feels crisper. The addition of Gus Johnson in the booth really adds the excitement of Sunday to the commentary. Unfortunately Collinsworth still sounds like he is repeating last year’s dialogue. The included music is definitely a step up, but there just isn’t enough of it to keep it from becoming repetitive.
Madden NFL 11 is another solid addition to the series, even if most of the features are geared more towards the casual audience this year. What matters most is that the gameplay is once again rock solid and the addition of the new animations and tweaks really add to the experience. While you may not have options be thrilled that the one game on the market is still improving upon itself year after year, and offering the best pigskin experience currently available. Madden NFL 11 is a must own for all football fans, and now it is even more accessible to the masses.
Review copy provided by publisher.