The Madden NFL series has been around for more than 20 years now. This year’s feature-filled game is one of the best ever.
|MADDEN NFL 2011
Electronic Arts for PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, PSP
Replay Value: 9.0
Overall Score: 8.8
Official Web Site
Pros: The biggest-ever overhaul of Madden; faster games; extensive online play.
Cons: Madden himself is completely gone; animations can be jerky; way too much in-game advertising.
Madden NFL 11 certainly speeds up the game. Gone is the one-hour mode. Games now last 30 minutes—or even 20. That speed is exciting, and it’s made even faster through GameFlow.
Basically, GameFlow chooses the plays for you. But there are various options. On offense or defense, you can choose all the plays your coach calls by choosing them before the game. You can go to a full playbook with more than 350 plays at your disposal. The plays themselves are ranked with up to five stars. This ranking tells you how often a play is used by your team.
Or you can call audibles to change the play right before the snap.
To make things more real, you can even don a headset to experience the game like a quarterback hearing the coach from the speaker in his helmet.
FASTER, BUT DEEPER?
EA claims that it’s not only faster, it’s a deeper experience, too. I really can’t see that, except in one instance. As you prepare for each play, your coach explains a little about why you’re running the play. This should be tweaked to show what exact play you’re running. And it should be more specific as to why you’re running that play. But it’s a very good beginning.
Another small addition I really like is the way you push a button when you pass. If you just tap it, the ball is thrown softly through the air. Press the button and hold it, and the quarterback throws it as quick as a bullet. It adds a lot to the offense.
Since the game is now speedier and time clicks away more quickly, Madden is based more on offense than ever before. I might be wrong, but that seems to give you an advantage if you want to call a running play as an audible at the line of scrimmage. Any defense I played seemed surprised that I called a running play.
MODES AND MOMENTS
This year, you can go directly to the Super Bowl without playing the Franchise Mode. If you want to enjoy all the pageantry of the Big Show without putting in the work to get there, this mode is for you. I even noticed a Holiday Mode in which people in the stands dress up like Santa Claus during the game.
There’s a simplicity to some of the modes that recalls the Maddens of yesteryear. Returning this year is a meter system of kicking off and kicking field goals. Click the button to start. Click it again when it gets to the meter’s far right. And click it again when it gets to where you started on the left. It’s a lot more fun than using the sticks to kick.
In the upper right of your TV screen, you’ll see an icon for the Strategy Pad. By scrolling through plays on your controller pad, you can shift your lines. And you can call up Hot Routes, a way of changing your offensive plays to the receiver.
Another cool addition is the AFL Mode, featuring all eight teams from the grand old league that’s now defunct.
And you can relive and replay Madden Moments, the top plays of last year’s season. This year, the Moments will be available as weekly downloads. If you win online, you’ll have enough free coins to purchase the downloads. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a small amount for them.
BUGS AND BLOWOUTS
While Madden NFL 11 is an above-average effort, there still are the occasional bugs. In one of my first games, the Jets’ Jerricho Cotchery, after catching a pass, was injured badly enough to put him out of the game. But, like magic, there he was on Special Teams after the kickoff. Also, the game sometimes doesn’t run smoothly and the players’ movements can look jerky.
And there’s just too much advertising in the game. You even have fans eating Doritos during cut scenes. You’ve paid $60 for this game, and now you have to watch and listen to advertising? Come on.
Yet there’s nice attention to detail that continues to astonish me. When you’ve blown out another team, the opposing fans get disgusted, shake their heads and leave the stadium during the fourth quarter. You don’t want to rub it in that you’ve won, but it still gives you a little ego boost.
The upshot? There’s a lot more in the game this year, and it has been streamlined to make playing easier and more fun. If you haven’t bought Madden in a while, this is the year to do it.