Since it’s conceptualization and creation back in 1989, the Madden NFL franchise has gone on to receive accolades for technical achievement in paying homage to the popular sport. However, with greatness comes harsh criticism as fans everywhere voiced their concerns over presentation, gameplay, and lack of features. With the release of Madden NFL 11, EA Sports has upped the ante by providing an endless array of content that will keep any diehard football fan playing well into the start of the 2011-2012 season. Here are a few reasons why this game shines above previous titles in the series.
Gameplay and Presentation:
On the surface all the same modes that made past Madden games great are back in full force. These key game modes include Franchise, Madden Moments, Practice, Mini-Games, Virtual Trainer, and Be An NFL Superstar. Where Madden NFL 11 dares to be different is by providing the gamer with an alternative way to experience gameplay. Gameflow is a new feature that allows players to strategize and execute schemes exactly like a true NFL Coach would. While playing on either Offense or Defense, you’ll be able to hear play commands from the sidelines and determine the best way to handle specific situations.
One of the strongest aspects of this addition is that you aren’t limited in your choices as you have the ability to now create your own plays via the Game Planning option. After you have crafted a winning play you can add it to an existing team’s playbook and use the play or plays to your heart’s content. The dynamic combination of Gameflow and Game Planning are capable of adding endless variations to your arsenal, while also taking the game deeper then any other Madden title before. Of course, if you decide that these gamechangers don’t excite you, then you could always go the traditional route and manually look through playbooks before executing a maneuver. The decision to give you a choice of how to approach an opponent gives strong dimension to an otherwise regular and predictable way to play a football game.
Another hot topic that was addressed by the development team was the overhauling of the locomotion engine. One of the biggest gripes with previous Madden titles was in the flawed movements that often required the player to do even more to achieve success on the field. One example of how Madden NFL 11 has improved that is by providing an Auto Sprint mechanic so that users can focus more on catching a pass rather then sprinting on their own accord. A great deal of these enhancements are now made possible because of the decision to include Dual Stick Control capability in the process. The A.I. has also improved dramatically making it harder to take down running backs and get past pass rush defenders. Overall the graphics and animation succeed in creating a flow of movement that’s fluid most of the time, while remaining true to how each team’s real life counterparts would react.
When it comes to Presentation, Madden uses the term, “ Everything You See On Sunday” to describe the realism of the game. Everything from a Star Quarterback getting off a bus before a big game, to President Obama celebrating a SuperBowl win with your team is a welcomed addition to the title. The same can be said about games played on Holidays, which EA Sports has also managed to represent well in the game. Even more unique is the idea to add specific storylines to certain teams and players based upon the nature of their schedule. For example, if you play as The New England Patriots and your facing the New York Jets then you can expect a rivalry storyline in which the commentators will compare Tom Brady’s performance to Mark Sanchez.
However, even with these realistic elements intact there is still one improvement I would suggest. The Madden Shop allows you to buy several upgrades for your team, one of which is meant to improve the overall maximum performance of your team. I think it’s far more believable if the mini-games and practice drills replaced the idea of buying better performance. This not only helps the game stay true to the realistic image it’s going for, but it also encourages the player to get better at the game. Given that Madden is the only professional football game currently on the market, all of these refinements should in many ways be expected and go a long way towards keeping the franchise on top amidst possible unforeseen competitors.
Madden NFL 11 also aims to improve the online experience by creating and modifying several mode options. Online Team Play or OTP allows you and several of your friends to play against each other in a new 3-on-3-team mode. Each player is assigned a specific responsibility but is given the versatility to alternate between players on their squad. These matchups can also earn you squad boosts based upon how well you perform as a unit.
My experience with this mode was enjoyable but is likely to vary based upon how strong your Internet connection is from the start. As of this writing, I was unable to access the Online Franchise Mode and therefore can’t confirm whether or not this feature is also available there. I would be highly interested to one day see how the development team can expand upon this feature and make use of every single player on the field. Achieving that type of success will further expand the appeal of this mode and really test the waters of team dependency and chemistry.
Another new mode being introduced is Madden Ultimate Team. This concept is built around each player assembling an ultimate team via trading cards that can be purchased with Xbox live or PSN points. The process works by converting these points to coins, which can be used to virtually buy the best players on the market. Once you have setup your dream team you can take on either the computer or another player online. You can also auction off or bid on other cards but this aspect of gameplay won’t go live until launch day. It’s worth noting though that if you want to get the most out of this mode then you should be prepared to spend a lot of money.
My main criticism that comes with this mode stems from not only the pricing scheme that is available for you to work with, but also the whole philosophy behind trading cards. One of the biggest reasons trading card companies have made such large profits is because of the consumers who keep buying packs in hopes of getting the big name athletes. As for this game, packs generally start at a modest 1,000 coins and reach as high as 21,000 coins.
To be eligible for getting the highest pack of cards you’ll have to spend 800 Microsoft Points ($10) which gives you about 32,500 coins. Naturally for anyone who is a Madden faithful though, participating in this mode will definitely be right up your alley. The idea is open-ended and you can virtually buy everything from jerseys to coaches, all while boosting your team morale as you go along.
Madden NFL 11 is a flagship title in the series and successfully defines the National Football League in all it’s glory. The addition of new features like GameFlow and Online Team Play are welcomed additions which not only suggest where future titles might be headed, but also establishes this year outing as a significant version to own. If you’re a longtime fan of football then purchasing this title is obviously a no-brainer. While not a perfect game, Madden NFL 11 provides a solid framework to build off of and proves without a shadow of a doubt that curses can be reversed.