The old joke is that every year the new Madden NFL is just a roster update. The reality is every year they do change, modify, or add something new, no matter how small. Over the years this has added up to a lot of changes and a lot of additions, to a point where it was just flat out too complicated for the casual gamer like myself.
I watch a lot of football, but I still can’t figure out what defensive play or formation to run, and just picked something at random most of the time. For the hardened football gamer it must be great having all these play options to choose from, but it was a bit overwhelming for Mr. Casual. This year with Madden NFL 11, EA Sports has dumbed down and simplified the game with the new Gameflow system. The game picks the play for you, tells you about it, then lets you run that play whether on offense or defense.
Not only does it make it easier to play, but it cuts the standard game from 60 minutes to just 30. You have the options of going to the playbook before each play if you like, so the hardcores and veterans can bypass Gameflow if they choose. You can customize your Gameflow before the game by selecting which plays on which downs you want to use, or just use the default plays.
Before each play, if you have your headset on, the coach speaks to you. It’s fun for a while, but gets annoying eventually. Especially when the display gets in the way for those few seconds while looking at the play set up. The rest of the game plays like your usual Madden game.
But there are a few more noticable changes. First: running. No more turbo button. I liked the speed-boost button, but it’s not really missed.
Kicking is back to the three-click method instead of using the stick. It’s much easier to kick this way.
The audio is revamped. Gus Johnson takes over the play-by-play, and there are way more recognizable stadium songs and jingles (including the Jeopardy theme). The former didn’t do much for me, but the latter made you feel like you were in an actual stadium.
Online play added a three-versus-three mode. Yeah, now you can grab two friends and play three-on-three against others online. On offense you control either the quarterbacks, the backs, or the receivers. On defense, you get either the front line, the linebackers, or the safeties.
And finally, I noticed the computer is smarter with the clock. The AI will wait to snap the ball to let the clock run down in certain situations instead of just running the play right away, which is usually what happened.
All in all, on the surface, EA Sports slowed the game down and made it fun for the casual player. There’s enough to like in Madden 11, I think, to take the $60 plunge. I like the Madden Moments, where you jump in to a certain situation in the past and try to duplicate or change the outcome. It’s a quick hit if you don’t have alot of time. The AFL Mode was a fun throwback mode where everything has an old school sepia look to it. And the overall play of the game was fun and easy, with the option to get more in depth if you felt so inclined.
NFL 2K5 will always be my favorite console football game, and this Madden won’t change that, but it still makes for a great football game, as does any game in which you can use the old orange uniforms for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Madden NFL 11
EA Tiburon/EA Sports
Xbox 360 (Also available on Playstation 3, Playstation 2, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and PSP)
$50 on Amazon.com