It’s that time of year again, and after a week of close, personal quality time with Madden NFL 11 after purchasing it at 12:04am on release day, it’s time to review it. This review is for the XBox 360 version, identical in almost every respect to the PlayStation 3 version.
Many argue that Madden is the same game year after year but every so many years there are changes to the game that shoot holes in that line of thinking. This is one of those years.
One of the biggest new features of Madden this year is the GameFlow feature, where you can, with the click of a button, automatically call up a play from your coordinator for the situation on the field.
At a glance, this seems to be a dumbing down of the game to appeal more to the casual gamer. Luckily, it proves not to be, at least to anywhere near the extent that EA Sports has done this to the Nintendo Wii versions. If you find yourself in a spot where your gameplan hasn’t been working, GameFlow can sometimes come up with something that works for you. If a casual gamer, however, feels they can get away with only using GameFlow, they will discover they can’t, as the number of plays it will select are very limited and sometimes not right at all for the situation.
Even veteran Madden players can use GameFlow to an advantage when playing online against those toolbags that think it’s cool to go for it on every 4th down, go for every 2-point conversion, and try to on-side kick every kickoff. No more guesswork or risk of being caught off guard by these guys, as GameFlow will catch them in the act for you.
The GameFlow words that explain plays need to be moved to another location or go off screen faster, though, as they often get in the way of viewing the routes of backfield players on offense before you snap the ball.
This new feature I really like. No more sprint or turbo button when you run. Now you use both analog sticks to move your player’s upper and lower body apart from each other, using real-life speed rankings and momentum and weight of your player to pull off moves (or fall flat on your face).
It takes some getting used to, especially when trying to tackle opponents in your first few online games. But no longer can your opponent somehow manage to catch up on Chris Johnson or Miles Austin in the open field with a 307 pound lineman, nor do players run like they have an ironing board in their jersey. This feature will likely be tweaked in coming years, but thus far, it’s a great start.
It’s also wonderful that one of the results of this is players finally trying to keep feet in bounds on sideline passes.
When John Madden retired, so did his commentary on the Madden franchise. This year, Gus Johnson enters as the play-by-play guy, with decent results.
As usual, remarks by both commentators (including Chris Collinsworth) don’t match up with what’s on-screen, but with Johnson you don’t really mind all that much. Sure, it makes you roll your eyes when the third interception of the game is called the “game’s first turnover” but at least it’s done with some charisma.
The method used for kicking this year has changed, and not really for the better. No more use of the thumbstick to control the direction and power of the kick, which is now done using timed button presses on a moving meter. Unlike GameFlow, I do feel this dumbs down this aspect of the game. It also creates issues when playing online if there is a slight lag.
Player Feedback and Cheating
EA did a great job this year in recognizing the habits of online players. The game now gives you an option to leave player feedback right after the end of the gameplay as a menu option, as well as some more sporting options to possibly end the game early, such as options to ask for a “Friendly Quit” where the game doesn’t count or to concede that the game is lost and ask to move on.
Sadly, what does and doesn’t count against gamers who disconnect is still broken. If a player disconnects (rather than quits) early on, the game doesn’t count nor does the person who left get a DNF (did not finish) tacked on. However, later on, the game will do this regardless. My internet failed on me the other day while tied 32-32 with an online opponent. The game handed me a loss and a DNF for it, even though it was a tie game, while I was not handed wins for the six people who’d quit on me via disconnect the previous day.
Likely no perfect system for this kind of thing, I can’t help but feel that disconnects should count as wins/losses all of the time or none of the time, not some of the time.
The News ticker in online play states that EA Sports is serious about busting cheaters this year and will continue to ban accounts and wipe out stats. However, the leaderboards are filled with people with impossible stats, such as a gamer with a record of 82-0 averaging 994 yards rushing per game. Yeah, okay. That’s legit, right? Whatever EA says they are doing in this regard is not enough with leaderboard guys like that up there, which is already ruining the whole point.
This year sees the use of facial scans to make players look more like the real thing in the face, with mixed results. Some players, like Tony Romo, look pretty dang close to the real thing.Others not so much. Peyton Manning is wearing a facial expression like he is preparing to play football after an all-night binge of spicy burritos and tequila. Some players look really ticked off or bored. Marion Barber seemed pretty indifferent about becoming Super Bowl MVP.
Funny to note here is that while many of the NFL superstars have odd facial expressions, the rendering of NFL commish Roger Goodell is outstanding, as is President Barack Obama, who, yes, appears in the game.
Some of the new features from last year have been tweaked, mostly for the better. Fight for the Fumble is one. Last year, EA seemed almost too giddy about this new feature. Oftentimes, you’d end up in the clumsy Fight for the Fumble even when you were the only guy anywhere near the ball. This year, this feature is tweaked to where it’s only triggered when a wild pile-up is actually happening for the loose pigskin, and it’s welcome.
Madden is always known for glitches and, sadly, this year has many of the same ones that have annoyed for years. While most of them don’t take away much from the actual gameplay, how they still exist at all is a mystery.
Players still manage to pass through walls and people on the sidelines like that bus scene from Ghost Dad. Sometimes two sideline judges are even rendered within one another as one disgusting mutant football official. Dez Bryant celebrated a touchdown catch last night by running through the bleachers and the people in them. How does this still happen?
Penalties on punts always end with “repeat fourth down” even though the possession changes hands.
Post-game replay highlights still end up missing some of the game’s biggest plays, as in years past. It’s sad that I can’t watch a replay of my 83-yard touchdown catch where three tackles were broken, but I can view my kneel-down of the ball to run out the clock.
The issue where the game sometimes won’t allow you the option to challenge a play remains. Compounding this issue is the fact that the referees don’t always call it right, perhaps as an act of realism, but one that doesn’t work if it won’t let you Challenge at times. Even worse, when you do challenge a play, the crowd reacts to the referee’s announcement of the decision before he even announces it. “After reviewing (crowd boos) the play, the ruling on the field …”
Overall, Madden NFL 11 delivers everything it promises on the field. The action is faster and more precise than ever, while no longer overwhelming toward the casual players and still appealing to the die hards. Minor glitches and annoyances don’t manage to take away from the excitement and heart-pounding thrill of a close game.
Well worth a purchase and I hope to see you on the field. My XBox Live GamerTag is OriginalPSP. Let’s play some football!