It’s Hip To Be Square
It must be a difficult task, finding a way to improve one of the best selling game franchises of all time and make it better each year. EA Sports are on a constant quest to do just that with Madden NFL. And it’s a tough quest too: its subject, Football, hardly ever changes at all. I think many would agree that EA failed with Madden NFL 10. Unable to deliver anything new, the game felt stale and uninspired. Had EA become lazy with the franchise? Hell, I even considered picking up Back Breaker for kicks and grins, anything to find a refreshingly different experience.
Blue 42, Blue 42, Ben Stein 18, Hut, Hut, HIKE
Much of the traditional Madden gameplay returns in NFL 11, but there are some minor changes that are worth mentioning. For starters, the game features a more proficient passing attack and completely drops the ‘turbo’ button. It also adds a simpler array of post-carry moves which have to be experienced to understand just how much they improve this part of the game. None of these changes cause the game to lose touch with its roots, though. If it feels like a Madden game, then it must be a Madden game.
More impact full is the addition of ‘Game Flow’ and ‘Game Planning’ which are featured in standard matchups. Game Flow allows you to either pick your own plays or go with what your offensive coordinator is radioing from the booth. If you have a headset for the Xbox 360 or PS3 you can connect it to your controller and hear the play calls through the headset much like a real quarterback would on the field. Pretty nifty little perk there.
Game Planning allows you to save and load any team’s playbook for certain game situations; 1st Downs, 2nd Downs, 3rd Downs, Goal Line, Hail Mary, and Trick Plays. Once you have your playbook managed and ready to go, you upload it to the game that you are playing and have your plays featured in the Game Flow mode. When done correctly, these two modes work quite well together.
The biggest change, however, is the addition of a new multiplayer mode that allows you to play with 5 of your friends in a 3 versus 3 online game. Utilizing the ‘team’ concept, this mode has each player controlling the QB, RB, or WR/TE on offense while the opposing three players control the DLine, LB, or CB/S.
While the multiplayer experience as a whole feels largely the same, you can tell that EA Sports made a conscious effort to improve this very popular part of the Madden series. There are fewer load times and when you – are – being confronted with one, it will be faster. Matching players for online play is also much quicker than before.
Graphical improvements abound in Madden NFL 11. Featured players and coaches have incredible detail and closely resemble their real life counterparts. While not every player will look spot on, some players would have a hard time distinguishing their videogame face from their mirror image. These improvements extend to the stadiums and weather situations as well. While you might play five straight games with the floodgates open, at least you can appreciate that the rain looks down right awesome. With so much graphical detail, you may just find yourself wondering whether you are looking at a videogame or a match on TV.
I had almost given up on Madden, and then Madden NFL 11 dropped into my mailbox, completely rejuvenating the franchise. A warning should be printed on this box, saying “You will be in love with the fat man again, your girlfriend won’t see you for another six months and your face will feature a mountain man beard when she finally does”. Madden NFL 11 brings together everything that 2010’s game brought you, and then some. It mixes new gameplay elements with a slew of online multiplayer features that have never been seen in a sports videogame before. The game ups the ante in the graphics department, features smarter AI and improves gameplay in more ways than I can count. Best of all, it delivers a tremendous boost to the overall fun factor.
The fat man himself, John Madden, would be proud to have his name associated with this year’s title (and I don’t know if he can say that every year).
Online play and controls vastly improved.
Gameplay might not feel all that different to some.