Review: Madden NFL 11

SIMPLER – QUICKER – DEEPER

Developer: EA Tiburon
Genre: American Football
Platform(s): PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Compatability (PS3): n/a
Compatability (Xbox 360): 20KB Minimum Space | Players 1-4 | HDTV 720p / 1080i / 1080p | Online Multiplayer 2-6 | Co-Op 1-4
Rating: 8.0

I tend to follow a pretty consistent pattern when it comes to the Madden franchise, I buy it one year, skip the next, and then by it the second year. The reasons are two folds: one being that I don’t really need a football game every year but it makes too much money for EA not to release one every August, and two, Tiburon adds new features in every installment and it seems to always take them an extra year to refine the feature from the previous game. This year’s Madden implements a number of new mechanics and while some definitely do make the game better one in particular shows hints of greatness but as it stands now only offers a glimpse into its potential. Last year’s Madden was one of the best and it was only the high level of quality of 2010 that pushed me into picking up this years and while I am not disappointed in the game the biggest new feature feels underdeveloped and the game suffers from annualization.

The biggest change to Madden 2011 is the new play calling mechanic. Instead of choosing your play from a large menu of plays broken down by package and type, you can use the new play calling system where the AI, or in the games world, your offensive coordinator chooses the best play for a given situation. While at first it seems just like an extension of the Ask Madden selection from previous games it is not. A simple button press will bypass your playbook and the offensive coordinator will talk you through the play he chose and then give some words of advice or encouragement. For the most part it works pretty well but there are a few glaring problems with it. On offense it is far more competent then on defense. When I’m playing against the Jets I shouldn’t be preparing for the deep pass on every other play, they run about seventy percent of the time and the system should be intelligent enough to account for the tendencies of the team I am playing against. I usually did chose the offensive coordinator play calling when I had the ball but when I didn’t I picked my plays. The other big problem is that the voice over for the offensive coordinator is recycled far too much, to the point where in a single game you can hear the same instructions five or six times, it’s a minor inconvenience but an inconvenience non the same. The only other problem with it is that it tends to get a bit too desperate in situations that do not call for it. If I have two minutes left on a drive with three timeouts I do not need to Hail Mary every down. One of the coolest aspects of the system is that when you put on your headset the coordinator actually talks to you through it, it is a small feature but is a very cool experience.

Madden NFL 11 is a good action-packed game.

The best addition to Madden 2011 is the online team play. OTP allows you and up to two other players online to play cooperatively as “skill positions” on one team. On offence you can control the QB, the HB, or the WRs. On defense you can control the defensive line, linebackers, or corner backs. The team atmosphere is well done and when you start to click with your team it is the most fun aspect of Madden 2011. A headset is a must in this mode because talking to your teammates and calling out strategies and looks is not only exhilarating when done right, but almost mandatory for victory. I cannot properly describe how awesome it feels to lose the cornerback on your route, yell to the QB that you’re open, and take it in for a touchdown. Inversely I can tell you how horrible it feels to blow your own coverage and watch as the wide receiver you were supposed to be covering blows past you. After the latter I apologized to my teammates profusely and, like being on a real team, told me that we’ll get it back. It was the most immersible experience I have ever had in a sports game and one of the most visceral experiences I have had in a game. Period. If you play this mode right you will really feel like part of a team and that is a huge accomplishment. It is important to note that in this year’s Madden EA has initiated the online pass system. Every new copy of Madden comes with a code to get Online Pass for free but if not purchased new an extra ten dollars is required to buy the online pass.

The other major change to Madden this year is the absence of a turbo button. While it may seem like an odd change it makes the running game better than it ever has been. In previous entries it was easy to just call a run hold the turbo and push for yards, never really looking for holes or breaks in the defense, this year’s entry however makes you read the defense and look for ways to exploit their weaknesses. Now I love football but I am not the Payton Manning type, I never found myself reading packages and altering my plans at the line and I was happy to just follow the play Madden had picked. I found it amazing how much I was looking at the defense before I snapped the ball. The running game is improved because without the turbo button you have to think a few seconds ahead and you feel like you become a better runner because of it. The stats on a player becomes far more important than in the past. Players like Chris Johnson or Darren Sproles are going to blow past most defenders but without a high ball carrier awareness and your ability to see holes in the defense they will not find much success.

The camera has been tweaked and improved in this latest Madden game.

While the changes and new features I have outlined so far make up the brunt of the changes in the gameplay, the improvements to the graphics and sound are hit and miss. The best part about the sound is the new announcer Gus Johnson and he is by far the best one Madden has ever had. He has a voice with a lot of intensity and will at times scream like Brandon Stokley grabbed a tipped pass. Chris Collinsworth returns and while not great fills the role of color commentator well, even if he repeats himself far too much. The graphical improvements are rather minor with the biggest change coming to sideline animations and some interesting camera work. The player models look virtually unchanged from Madden 2010 and is somewhat of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong it is a pretty game but so was last year’s. The soundtrack in the game is your typical Madden fare, rock tracks from different decades play over menus and with the exception of a few team fight songs the music is again adequate. My only complaint is the amount of times we hear Song 2 from Blur, I mean it’s a fun song and all but man … whoohoo!

Madden comes out every year without fail so there is bound to be some diminishing return. Knowing this it is amazing that the guys over at Tiburon manage to make a game that even piques our interest anymore. Madden NFL 11 is a good game with great football experience. If you have not played a Madden game in a while this is a good time to jump back in. I still feel that last year’s is superior but last year’s was one of the rare shifts in the series. OTP is an absolute blast, Johnson only improves the game and gets you more pumped up when you make a good play, and the playcalling system shows great promise. This year’s Madden is good and I have a feeling next year’s will refine the issues and be even better, at least if my two year theorem holds any ground.

Reviewed by jamespugh5 – August 31, 2010

Graphics
Best looking Madden game but in an annual frenchise that is to be expected. Some character models are still rough but overall solid.
 
Sound
Mix of Rock tracks are pretty cool and do get you pumped up. Commentary from Gus Johnson is great.
 
Fun
It’s Madden so you know what your getting yourself into. Not the best entry but a good one nonetheless.
 
Final Score

 

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