Madden NFL 11 is a tough game to review. In fact, most annual franchise sports games are somewhat difficult to review due to their nature. It is easy to pick up a copy and hammer out a review, and most long time gamers have somewhere along the way have probably played enough Madden to be familiar with the way the mechanics are set up, but to do a fair review of the game you really need to have a history with the series to fully appreciate the subtle tweaks and changes. Again, by its nature, Madden 11 is competing against itself. There is no question that EA’s Madden owns — even pwns — the football market, but is it worth buying a replacement for a very similar game that is just a year old?
We could review the game, but without the deep history of previous franchises that others have, it would be a slightly incomplete review. Sure, the obvious changes stand out, but without a history with the series, minor changes like improved AI might slip by unnoticed. Of course, the flipside to that argument is that those in the position to give the most detailed reviews of Madden 11 are also likely to be the more hardcore players of the series, which might not appreciate the benefits to casual and new gamers of the franchise. So with that in mind, we compiled five reviews to give a fairly detailed look at the newest Madden game in the franchise, EA’s Madden NFL 11.
Overall, the reviews are positive. EA is good about building on what works from year to year, and while they may make some changes between entries that not everyone will like, for the most part you can rest assured that each new entry will at least be good. But who wants good when you can have great?
What’s New in Madden NFL 11
Madden 11 sticks to the same mechanics of previous entries with a few minor exceptions. Gone is the sprint button, a long time staple of football games, instead replaced by a momentum-based speed boost that you have to earn. To build your momentum, players will need to work for it and find seams, bounce off tackles, and stiff arm defenders. It will likely balance out a great running back against an average defense and add more balance to the game, while rejuvenating the running attack.
The most obvious change is the inclusion of “GameFlow.” The GameFlow system is an innovative way to make Madden 11 more accessible to casual gamers that bemoan the increasingly difficult and complex play mechanics that have grown to the point that in previous entries, players needed to be fairly proficient in the intricacies of the game of football, including knowing defensive schemes and proper play calling. For the hardcore fan, this was a natural progression to make them feel like a bigger part of the game. For casual gamers, it made things ridiculously complicated and scared off many that may love football, but don’t know the difference between a nickel package and a 4-3 defense.
The GameFlow basically acts like an offensive and a defensive coordinator, calling plays for you based on the situation. It might sound like the “Ask Madden” function, but it is much more in depth. Once you call a play, a series of audibles becomes available for you to choose. Of course, you can always turn off the GameFlow and return to the traditional menus. Before the game, you can select the type of game you want to call against an opponent, and you can further customize your individual playbooks to give preference to the types of plays that you prefer to run. One of the frequent complaints of past Madden games is the time it takes to go through the play calling menus. Unless you have memorized the entire playbook, odds are you will have frequently ran into delay of game calls. At the very least it can drag the game speed down. The new GameFlow promises to speed games up as well as simplifying it.
Another change to the game that has been praised is the revamping of the online side of the game. A new three-versus-three feature allows players to grab two friends and take on three other opponents (or any variation of 3v3). One player controls the quarterback, a second takes over the running back, and a third handles the receiving. On defense, players line up as a defensive lineman, a defensive back, and the third is a linebacker. The reviews have generally been great for the inclusion, and claim that it will finally make coop football fun.
1up praises the presentation of the game, although still criticizes some aspects of the commentary. Commentator Chris Collinsworth returns to add color commentary, joined by first timer, Gus Johnson. Collinsworth is unspectacular but fine, while Johnson can distract from the action with poor timing and obviously fake enthusiasm. These small gripes aside, the presentation is an improvement over previous years. Beyond that, the changes to gameplay are somewhat minor but all help to add to the experience, and while subtle, they can have a big impact on the way the game plays, for the better.
G4TV’s review praises the innovations of the game, calling it a “triumph”, despite a few flaws. Highlights include the simplified play calling system that will open the game up to more gamers and make it more accessible. The online play also received a positive impression. On the flipside, the play calling can still be bizarre at times, the menus continue to infuriate, and the lack of changes from Madden 10 might turn off players on a budget.
Gamespot suggests that small changes have made Madden 11 the best game in the series to date. Although the GameFlow does earn a good deal of credit, there are the occasional glitches in the way the AI calls games for you, including a heavy reliance on a passing game when the run is working well, and the occasional call for a deep pass while in the red zone come up, but it is never a major detriment and generally helps the game, plus it speeds up the action. The AI is also improved upon, but there are a few problems with the physics, including the occasional ridiculously strong passes where a light throw is called for, and a lack of logic to the way loose balls move. Although annoying, these problems are few and far between.
Gamesradar applauds the removal of the turbo button, and says that when paired with the improved blocking from the AI, its omission revamps the running game and makes it feel fresh and exciting. The addition of 3v3 online matches also received special commendation. There is a problem with the presentation though, and frequent glitches plus the occasional slowdown marred the game. Walking through refs, twitchy transitions and half-second freezes were among the problems listed. The defensive side of the ball also faced criticism for its uneven pairing with the offense.
IGN claims that the gameplay is as close to actual NFL play as any game has yet to come. The offensive side of the game has become more of a true team game, as runners must follow blockers, and receivers need to follow routes and work with their team where in the past players could frequently find holes and just run. The defense did not receive as high of marks, but still plays well. The GameFlow is the biggest issue, and will likely split gamers between fans that play casually, to hardcore players that will recognize dumb calls that casual gamers might not. Off all the new features, the online inclusion of 3v3 was the most heavily praised, while the franchise mode was bemoaned for its reliance on last year’s franchise that was never embraced to begin with.