Madden NFL 11 Review

Developer: EA Tiburon / Publisher: EA Sports / ESRB: Everyone / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $59.99

Summer is almost over which means it’s football season! Madden NFL 11 hits the ground trotting out a new running system, adding the GameFlow quick-play mechanic, plus a ton of improvements to the presentation. Let’s dive in and see how the changes play out!

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Gameplay

Over the years this franchise has made upgrades, fixed glitches, expanded the audible system, moved to analog, and the list goes on and on. Madden NFL 11 is more than just a few simple tweaks. Let’s start with the all-new Isomotion running system, which was first introduced in NCAA Football 11. That’s right, it’s pure analog from here on out people. The spinning, juking, and defense-avoiding maneuvers are performed using the right analog stick. And remember that turbo sprint button? That’s gone because, let’s face it, in real life there are no turbo buttons to boost your speed; everyone runs at turbo velocity the entire time, or they sit. It might take a few quarters to fathom the intricacies of the new system, but it’s simple to pick up and does a lot to improve the running, especially with a smarter offensive line leading the way.

This year’s Madden also shakes up the kicking/punting system, moving it from analog to a button-pressing meter system. It takes a little bit of readjusting but it improves the accuracy dramatically. The audible system has also moved to the d-pad, making calls less complicated and more organized. And for the casual types out there that think Madden is too hard because of the need to learn vast playbooks, the new GameFlow system changes all that. Grab a headset and have offensive and defensive coordinators call all the shots. It’s kind of like the real game. Your sole responsibility is to deliver on each down and not worry about the X’s and O’s. GameFlow also speeds the game tremendously since you don’t have to spend time looking up plays, though sometimes the plays that are drawn up for you are very questionable. Damn you AI!

But if you’re a hardcore fan who loves calling all their plays and changing their playbooks, then you will love Game Planning. This feature allows all the hardcore fans to set up their play calling from 1st and 10 situations all the way to special teams. You can pick your top plays and the percentage you want to use it. It gives you, the gamer, the tools of a real life NFL coach as you strategize against each match-up.

The gameplay this year is strong with many new and welcome additions. Most of last year’s bugs and glitches have been fixed, but it’s probably just a matter of time before hardcore fans find new ones to exploit. Each game still lasts quite a while, even though we were promised half the time. The passing has remained pretty much the same, but this time receivers are capable of performing a variety of sideline catches instead of just running out of bounds. However, not much has changed with the wide receivers or catching in general. Wide Receivers often drop open passes and the defense can’t seem to intercept the ball even though it’s slowly falling right into their hands. It’s almost like Braylon Edwards is every player on every team.

Modes

Madden boasts the usual modes. You’ve got exhibition, online and offline franchise, Superstar, Madden Moments, AFL, mini-games, and Albert Haynesworth’s favorite…practice. Franchise got a little face lift in regards to the layout, but everything else remains the same, which is disappointing because this mode has not improved or added features for quite some time. Madden Ultimate Team, which was introduced as a downloadable last year, has made its way onto the game this year. If you’re big on fantasy football and card-collecting, then this mode is definitely worth checking out. Madden NFL 11 also introduces the SuperBowl mode where you can skip all the tedious work in franchise and just get to the final showdown.

The mode that stands out the most this year is the online team play. The 3-on-3 actually works because you are assigned to certain positions whether it’s QBs, Running Backs or Wide Receivers while on offense or Defensive Line, Cornerbacks, and Linebackers on defense. You take on a specific role; if you are a running back, you obviously run the ball. If you are a quarterback, you call all the offensive plays. This cuts down on the chaos and actually lets you work as a team and absolutely requires communication if you’re going to be successful. On top of that, each role has objectives that award points to give your player an extra in-game boost.

Sound

The addition of Gus Johnson breathes fresh air into the broadcast booth. He delivers his own unique, over-the-top style that was much needed for this franchise. At times, however, the pairing with Cris Collinsworth seems a little odd but it mostly works. Before each game they break down the match-up and history between each quarterback. During the Super Bowl the commentary is authentic, breaking down every little detail between each team, how many times they’ve won, and their rich history.

The game’s soundtrack is packed with Ozzy, Kiss, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, and much more. As you travel from one stadium to the next , you will notice authentic team fight songs and chants. There’s also GameFlow/CoachSpeak. Personally, I thought the coach info actually served as a useful tips tool. He says things like when to release the pass to a receiver who is running a route with a break, which is an added bonus for all you casual gamers with a headset. Most hardcore fans will probably turn this feature off and go with the traditional format.

Graphics

The visual presentation got some love as well. Everything from the lighting on the field to Mark Sanchez’s astonishing hair is life like. The overall presentation is top notch. You see players getting off the bus, in the locker room, and heading out the tunnel. The crowd have different outfits based on the home team, weather, and holidays. The in-game cutaways and instant replays are broadcast quality showing everything from sideline reactions, spots fanatics going crazy, the coach going nuts over a play, right down to the replay itself.

Definitely check out the Super Bowl this year because the atmosphere as you compete in the championship game is off the charts. Who knows, if you win it you might end up chilling in the White House.

Bottom Line

There is a lot to like about Madden NFL 11. The running game is superb and all the new features, like GameFlow, allows casual fans to return to the field. The Online Team Play and Madden Ultimate Team are a welcome addition and not enough can be said about the quality of the audio and visual presentation. A definite buy!

9/10

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