In all honesty, I don’t spend as much time with my Wii as I do with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. I don’t consider myself a Nintendo “power user”, but there are games that have a certain appeal to me. This is especially true when taking the Wii motion controls into account, and while the Nintendo-branded games all deserve my attention, I have a particular interest in sport games. Electronic Arts has been trying extremely hard to make their existing sport franchises viable on the Wii. One title that seems to have struggled more than the others in past years is Madden NFL. It is well known how popular this franchise is on the other consoles, but up until now not a single Madden Wii game managed to get the love or respect from either the Wii community or the avid Xbox 360/Playstation 3 Madden fan who might be looking for something new to check out.
Is this year any different?
For starters, Madden NFL 11 on Wii does feature something the PS3/XB360 versions don’t: a fully revamped Franchise mode. Considering that Wii gamers are not traditionally looking for online franchises or cooperative/competitive modes, seeing EA Tiburon re-tooling a bland mode to make it far more enjoyable for the targeted demographic is a step in the right direction. Now more interactive, appealing, and unlocked right from the beginning (quelling last year’s biggest complaint), the new franchise mode places control of your favorite NFL team in your hands in a way that reminisces of Sim City. Once a team is chosen, a campus will be provided that will provide a visual representation of how well the franchise as a whole is progressing. Win games and fans will start lining up around the stadium. Climb the in-game “legacy leaderboard” by winning more games, and the campus will get additional visual upgrades like gold buildings and fans will even erect a statue of your image. In order to maximize chances for success, three assistants are given. Throughout the GM career, they set goals based on three feats: team performance, finances and fan support. Depending on who you listen to and whether their goals are met or not, each decision made will have a direct impact on how the franchise as a whole will behave. Losing games on a regular basis and failing to meet advisor expectations will find fans will lining up around your office demanding to have you ousted; the buildings will degrade, the city will turn into a dumpster, and eventually, you’ll be fired. Luckily, if this happens, Franchise mode can be completed with another team, thereby giving you another chance at glory.
Those who read our HD review of Madden already know about GameFlow and how I feel about it. The Wii version also got this nifty addition; sadly, even though it makes playbook browsing easier and quicker, its purpose becomes rather flat. While I could live without the coach’s visual/audio feedback featured in the other versions, some Wii players might find it exceptionally uncomfortable to let the AI choose the best play, but then find themselves not knowing what to do once the ball gets snapped. The game might analyze the situation and choose the best play, but it’s still up to the player to execute it. The option to customize offensive and defensive plays for GameFlow-enabled matches is available. For even more control over the playbook, Arcade will give four options (short pass, long pass, run or special teams), each having its own set of four plays. It’s a good segue between the conventional play-calling and GameFlow, but experienced players will start feeling its limitations after a few matches. It’s important to point out that despite all of this, Madden 11 on Wii sees the return of Call Your Shots, which allows players to create unique offensive and defensive plays on the fly. If any of the aforementioned systems do not work, you can still pull the surprise play.
All this is good but still leaves unanswered questions about the game on the field. Without any surprise, the core gameplay went unchanged from last year’s effort. Both the point and click and the gesture based controls have their own nitpicks, but they work and respond well for the most part. Based on my personal experience, neither of the control schemes needs to be re-imagined, with the exception of a few tweaks and balancing. Not that I wouldn’t welcome a new way to play the game but it would be hard to come up with a new groundbreaking control scheme, unless EA decides to offer the option to use the Classic Controller. Changing plays or modifying coverage before the snap remains an excessive hassle. However, one of my gripes towards Madden on Wii remains its inability to offer a complete realistic experience, and I’m not referring to the arm swing. Instead, 50+ point blowouts are exceptionally common unless the difficulty is increased to All-Pro.
My other complaint goes to the online component. Well, it’s not a true complaint but more of a personal comment. First, the process of entering friend codes is utterly painful, but after making peace and overlooking it, it shouldn’t be a problem. There’s a little lag, but we’ve seen far worse. However, if you’re one to bank on a game’s matchmaking system, ensure that your friend code list is huge, because otherwise disappointment will ensue. Last year was no different though, which explains why the emphasis of the Madden franchise on the Wii remains in the offline side of things, such as the overhauled Franchise mode and the return of the mini-games. The five-on-five mode first seen in Madden Arcade (XBLA/PSN) was also brought over with a few rule and gameplay changes but there’s nothing really exciting about it.
As with any other Wii game, no one expects the latest version of Madden NFL to be anywhere near one best looking games out there. Regardless of opinion, the console’s hardware simply can’t keep up with the technological advancement in graphics. Luckily, developers – at least some of them – take the time to find ways to be deceptive with the presentation and actually make it enjoyable to look at, despite not being in true high definition. In the case of Madden NFL 11, EA Tiburon did manage to squeeze in a few visual improvements like a new weather system and a myriad of new player animations. Even the uniforms will now degrade over the course of the game. The cartoony player models return, and while some may hate it, there’s no way EA will go back to the old PS2-like graphics. It may be a different style, but it fits the console perfectly. Audio wise, it delivers they way it should. Commentary was vastly improved thanks to Gus Johnson’s arrival. Frankly, the Tom Hammond/Chris Collinsworth duo from last year was just plain horrible and not too difficult to beat as far as I’m concerned, even though there is still room for improvement.
Wii games come in three kinds: those that get rushed for the quick buck, those that receive a faithful and respectful amount of development time, and those that come from Nintendo. This year’s Madden NFL 11 definitely fits the second description, and to be honest, if more developers were inclined to offer fun and bright experiences for Nintendo’s home console, gamers wouldn’t have a white brick collecting dust on their shelves for long periods of time. It may not be the most amazing football game ever created, but EA Tiburon deserves a nice pat on the back.
Release date : 2010-08-10
Publisher : EA Sports
Developer : EA Tiburon
Gameplay : Sports
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