Madden NFL 11
Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
The release of a new Madden game marks the beginning of a brand new gaming season, filled with AAA titles, amazing surprises, and likely some letdowns. It also marks the beginning of the new NFL season and EA Tiburon is gearing up to please its Madden Nation yet again. Personally, I had shielded myself from seeing the game in action at E3 and even avoided downloading the demo, because I wanted to see what the team over at EA Tiburon would be able to pull off on my own, without hearing opinions from anybody else. While Madden NFL 11’s motto may be “simpler, quicker, deeper”, it also continues the trend of improvement we - the Madden fans - want to see in a franchise that releases on a yearly basis.
It isn’t often that even a fan of a franchise will buy the release yearly. After skipping a year or two, some gamers out there are now wondering if this is the version of Madden they should buy, not to mention that many of these players chose to skip college football titles all together. Someone who hasn’t played this year’s edition of NCAA Football may not know that many of the improvements made there were brought over to Madden. They were though, and I couldn’t be happier. Among them is the brand new locomotion engine, which gives players the on-field fluidity that has always lacked in previous releases. In the process, it eradicates canned animations and any stiff feelings from the motions. The new dual stick control also gives smoothness, realism and responsiveness that are needed to steer the ball carrier in any direction, whether going for the extra yard after first contact or simply shielding the ball while running past blockers. Receivers also appear to be much more aware of their surroundings. Just like in NCAA 11, they are now able to complete sideline and back of the end zone catches with toe-dragging consistency.
The improvements brought to Madden 10’s running game were notable, but this year the overall game feels much better and more well rounded. While the new locomotion engine plays a big part, when paired with the improvements brought to the AI’s blocking, players now experience the most realistic running system ever presented in a Madden game. Balancing playbook choices with both inside and outside running plays has never been as enjoyable as it is now. Of course, there are still a few things that will annoy most Madden fans, such as the crazy bouncing ball physics; the frequent inability to successfully intercept obvious passes; or the magical powers of quarterbacks who are able to get rid of the ball at the last second, preventing a would-be inevitable sack. However, for the most part, the significant gameplay changes brought to the 2011 installment of the game make up for these infractions.
To build on the idea of making players spend more time on the field rather than in menus, Madden 11 introduces GameFlow, a new strategy system that analyzes the current in-game situation, down by down, and picks the best play. While true NFL coaches pick specific plays from their gigantic playbooks after analyzing the opposing teams’ tendencies, now the game does this for you in real-time. Then it radios the info to you via a text/audio prompt on your screen (audio information will come either via your TV speakers or a headset depending of your set up). Then, it’s up to you to make the play happen. Showing insight into their fan base, Tiburon included an option to turn off GameFlow before the game, leaving access to the full playbooks, just like in the old days. The new feature may sound like a way to please the less-hardcore Madden crowd, but it was also with the intention of giving the hardcore fans the option to complete games faster as well. For instance, if it would normally take 60 minutes to play a full game, GameFlow will trim it down to 30 or so.
How does this appeal to the harcore fan? Well, if the whole idea of letting the AI make the choices doesn’t sit well, but you are still interested in the “playing faster games” concept, there is a way to match GameFlow with Game Planning. Players are able to create custom offensive and defensive game plans for different situations to be used in any GameFlow enabled match. This adds immense depth to Madden NFL 11, making the game base its decisions on your personal choices. Whether you use this new mode or not, there’s nothing to fear about the experience on the field; it won’t change. In fact, it will end up being better than ever. Madden NFL 11’s improvements and additions don’t stop at the above mentioned features, despite the fact that Franchise and Superstar modes were left practically untouched. A couple of notable changes were to the simulation side of Franchise as well as to the contract/free agency system, both of which received a few minor tweaks. Those who bought the Ultimate Madden and AFC add-ons last year will be happy to see them as full-fledged modes. However, the most important addition lies in the online realm.
Expanding on last year’s Online Co-Op feature, Online Team Play puts you and your friends (six total - 3 player max. per side) in online team matches via Xbox Live and Playstation Network. OTP will have each player choose a position on the field, with the ability to switch at any given time during the game. There are six squads to choose from - three on offense (QB, RB, WR) and three on defense (DL, LB, DB). For example, playing as a half back will allow the switch to running back or full back positions. Even more interesting, however, is that each individual set of abilities also comes with responsibilities. Fail to run the play the way your QB buddy intended and you’re going to get the heat. Even worse, when choosing to control the defensive line, letting anyone pass easily will result in punishing results for your team. An achievement system is built-in into Online Team Play mode. Mastering a particular squad will earn players boosts, which will affect your player ratings during OTP matches.
The NBA and NHL game franchises have already used these online cooperative mechanics in the past few years, so it was only a matter of time before Madden 10’s cooperative feature got expanded. Sadly, while this is a great addition in theory, it also brings along some oddities. The first flaw is obvious: If you don’t have Madden friends playing on a regular basis, one has to rely on the random matchmaking to find players to team up with. Everyone knows that in the online matchmaking world, this does not bring about the most pleasing experiences. However, that’s not even the biggest concern. While the QB AI isn’t too shabby, it is a position much better left to a player, and one might have to force it upon friends or always take the position, because the last thing you want is give the offensive playbook over to the AI. Luckily, the other positions react rather well to in-game adjustments, so making sure the QB is human is not a big problem.
Finally, just like NCAA Football and Tiger Woods before it, all online features require the online pass activation, via a code included in all new copies of the game. One can also buy a new code if the game is purchased used. Gamers should expect this strategy in NHL 11 and NBA Elite 11 and other future EA Sports titles.
The fixes, changes and additions are good but every year, but one question pops up: Is this version the best looking one of all? Honestly, aside from improved lighting, improved player models, stadiums and pre-game presentation sequences, there’s not much to say. The visuals continue to deliver a high level of immersion and realism. Last year’s visuals were already great, and each year the challenge to deliver a more life-like experience becomes harder. Which brings to mind that I may have one little thing to say, but its a complaint rather than a compliment. EA secured the ESPN license back in 2005, and all are still waiting to see that ESPN love in Madden games. If it helped the NCAA franchise, if implemented, I’m sure Madden would benefit from it too.
Audio-wise, stadiums have now their own specific sounds and crowd chants: Whether it’s Pittsburgh’s “Here We Go Steelers” on third down, the Dolphins’ fight song after a successful PAT, or the famous “Who Dat?” in New Orleans after a big play, this gives an overall unique atmosphere. As for play-by-play commentary, Chris Collinsworth remains in the booth. But to my personal delight, the extremely boring Tom Hammond has been replaced by ESPN’s Gus Johnson. You can sense his excitement and unique humor in each line of dialogue. Commentary always become repetitive after a few matches, but to hear somebody else in the booth makes it both refreshing and satisfying and is a much welcomed change. Finally, I never mention the game’s soundtrack (...do they still call them EATraxx?...) but this one is filled with great songs. Among the 23 tracks are Guns n’ Roses’ “Welcome to The Jungle”, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”, Blur’s "Song 2" and my favorite, AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”.
It may sound like a broken record of past years, but the 2011 version of Madden truly is an improvement over its predecessor. Though it’s not by a lot, it is absolutely enough to warrant a day-one purchase, especially if you’re one of those who skipped last year’s game. Hardcore fans will definitely dig Online Team Play; more importantly, they will realize how the latest additions and fixes are truly game changing. Since my expectations were extremely high after playing NCAA Football 11, it is pleasing to see Madden continuing its streak of deserving only the highest praise.
+ Receivers and blocking AI improved
+ Dual stick control makes running much fluid
+ Visuals are top notch
+ Improved commentary thanks to Gus Johnson’s addition
+ Great presentation...
- Minor gameplay issues
- Offline/Online Franchise, Superstar modes barely touched
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Release Date : 2010/08/10
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : EA Sports
Developer : EA Tiburon
Category : Sports
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10