Platform: 360 (PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, iPhone)
ESRB Rating: E
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Tiburon
Review by: Dan Braun
With EA owning the exclusive rights to football for the past few years, every fall, gamers face the same question: “Is this year’s Madden worth buying?”
It’s a nagging question, as nearly everybody on this side of the pond loves (real) football, but nobody wants to shell out for a paint job and roster update. Madden NFL 11 delivers enough to justify its place for both new users and veterans, but may not be the best update for the franchise. It looks wonderful and plays smoothly most of the time, but terrible play calls, online issues and a few other question marks and it’s hard to dub this the pinnacle of the series.
First and foremost, Madden 11 looks phenomenal…for the most part. Players can easily be identified by facial recognition, even before their jersey number pops on the highlight reels. Stadiums, cheerleaders and player accoutrements are finely detailed, which stands in stark contrast to the poorly animated and redundant fans who populate the game. Given, this is about football, not people watching, but when an entire stadium is virtually the same character model, who is wearing the same numbered jersey and performing the same animations as everyone else, it sort of detracts from the notion of realism that the rest of the game tries so hard to replicate.
Speaking of which, Madden 11 has done, by far, the best job of maintaining realistic gameplay by eliminating the “turbo” function by default, and implementing “momentum” physics into the game. Plain and simple, making hard cuts to shed pursuit now comes at a more costly price than it has in past versions. Conversely, staying on a route (even with a slower player) will improve the likelihood of a six-point increase.
Team balance seems to be one of the greatest strengths of this game, as online games are very well balanced, even if the Saints are playing the Lions. Whether or not this is due to moronic AI or user error is debatable. Case in point, the Washington Redskins were able to score four 70+ yard receiving touchdowns in one quarter on the All-Pro difficulty. For such a low ranked team to succeed so greatly is a great boon to any fan of any franchise, but not so realistic for gamers who expect a game more representative of what actually happens on the field.
This year’s new gimmick is the “Gameflow” technology, which allows users to immediately choose the plays that best suit their situations. Some of the time it works well, but audibles will be necessary when players are told to run the ball on 3rd and 26. Luckily, the audible system is flawless, and can be tailored to the likes of individual players. “Gameflow” is essentially the quick version of “Ask Madden,” without having to even look at the playbook. This can be a huge draw for anyone not familiar with play schematics or looking for the obvious call, but as mentioned earlier, is not always the best option for the situation.
The coolest, but perhaps most neglected feature of Madden 11 is its team/squad function. Players can battle 3v3, and choose one offensive and defensive component to challenge rivals. Additionally, squad bonuses can be earned and purchased through comprehensive successes. Unfortunately, online team games implode within the first quarter or so with impunity and without reward, so if this does not improve, there is little incentive to continue, save for the company of friends.
One final note goes to the sound on the game. The soundtrack and commentary will induce suicidal tendencies. Turn it off and request an apology from EA. Chris Collinsworth doesn’t give enough diversity in his deliveries. Apparently, every quarterback will have the exact same accuracy problems, despite completion percentage. Also, every play that goes awry is described as “just a strange call that he [Chris] can’t really disagree with.” Really? Chris couldn’t even disagree that running the ball on 4th and 67 was a good idea (it was a test). Even “Gameflow” updates (which actually sound good when coming through the headset) get rehashed to the point of annoyance.
One final commentary on the sound: Why is EA editing words like “serpentine” and “bleed” from soundtracks? It is understandable to keep out the “f*&%s” and “sh!ts” to appease the ESRB, but why the hell are colloquial words like “die” and “down,” with no additional contextual significance, being removed? It sounds like shit in editing practice, and is so obvious that it cannot be ignored.
For such a beautiful and smooth game, there are too many calls in this year’s Madden that beg throwing in the red flag to allow it be a huge success. For casual football gamers, this may look like pay dirt, but hardcore football fans will feel like they’re just warming the pine for next year.
For more info, http://maddennfl.easports.com
Pads & Panels received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.