AH, THE RELEASE OF MADDEN is one of my favourite times of year. A generally superb game arrives on my door, the fi rst in a long line of sporting titles released in the coming months. Madden comes fi rst, and is the fl agship title forEASports.
This installation boasts a host of new features, in particular a redeveloped running and receiving game, improved AI on both sides of the ball and a newly designed play menu. These should all build upon last year’s successes to make this the best entry yet. Let’s see how it goes.
Gameflow is the redesigned play-calling system, presenting a more streamlined and simple option for those who don’t require or understand the intricacies involved in the pages and pages of plays. Generally the system offers relatively intelligent plays, though I’d personally prefer less of an emphasis on the passing game. It’s a solid addition, especially for quick games, and it makes Madden a more accessible title; players now only fi ll the role of player instead of doubling up as coach and co-ordinator too. The coaches also chime in with pieces of strategy and tactics, which works exceptionally well.
Fans of the series will immediately notice the improvements to the AI, with the running and receiving games getting complete overhauls. The players are more intelligent and run better, more realistic lines. The running game has been nicely refi ned, with far more control of the ball handler available. There are still a few quirks, but for the most part EA has found an excellent balance between arcade and simulation with gameplay this year.
Ultimate Team, which was offered as DLC for Madden 10, has been implemented this year as a permanent feature. In this mode, you collect trading cards, which represent players. From here you can build your own ultimate team. As you win games, you collect coins and then buy more players and cards. It works well and takes time, but I suspect that most will grow tired of the gimmick before fully experiencing what this mode has to offer.
Madden Moments is another addition, but this one is far more intriguing than Ultimate Team. In this mode, marquee moments from last season are available to replay either as-is, or players can opt to pull off what their reallife counterparts could not. There’s an annoying fl aw for big fans, though, in that these marquee moments don’t feature accurate rosters.
All the standard game modes are here, with options like franchise and superstar generally left untouched. This is fi ne after some solid updates last year; hopefully we’ll see some innovation in the next edition.
In terms of presentation, improved animations and physics along with the expected beautifully sculpted players and stadiums make Madden an attractive game. The commentary has been given new life with Tom Hammond relieved of his duties in favour of Gus Johnson, who provides far more exciting and energetic calls. Minor additions will be picked up on by NFL fans in general, like the ‘Who Dat?’ call the New Orleans crowd makes after a big Saints play.
So in the end, what have we got on our hands with Madden NFL 11? An incredibly polished, updated and all-round better version of Madden. Don’t buy into the detractors’ talk of being merely a roster update; Madden NFL 11 is an excellent title certainly worth picking up.