Review: Madden NFL 11 (PS3)

Title: Madden NFL 11
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Publisher: Electronic Arts Inc.
Developer: EA Tiburon
Price: $59.99

Yup, it’s a Madden game, if you’ve played them in the last couple of years, you’ll pretty-much know what to expect. The stadiums look great, the game modes are plentiful and deep, and Chris Collinsworth will have an opinion about everything.

As a Football game, it’s fun, really fun. They allow you to get as deep as you want in terms of managing a franchise and everything involved with doing so. Or, if you’re like me, you just want to play a season, you can do that as well. The interface has been streamlined a bit more than last year, and they’ve done a great job at showing the player what they’ve added this year, by way of videos right in the front-end menu.

The two biggest additions this year are the new “Locomotion” animation system, and the option to use “GameFlow” to call all of your plays. “Locomotion,” while seeming like it is physics-based, makes the game feel more like it should. No longer will players turn on a dime or blast through an entire wall of blockers via a hole that would let Shia Le Bouf through (as he yells “no no no no no no.”) It’s a very tough thing to explain, but once you play even the demo, you start to understand what it’s all about.

“GameFlow” is obviously a nod to those players that are just starting-out with a Football game of the digital variety, or for those that love the game, but don’t understand all of the aspects of play-calling. Honestly, I think it’s a great move on EA Sports’ part. GameFlow definitely makes the game more accessible, and it can be completely turned-off in the options if you don’t want to use it. I played 4-5 games using only GameFlow, and most of the time it worked very well. I did audible a few times though, as some of the play calls really didn’t make much sense for the situation (and actually, might just be a result of a shift on the defensive side.) Even if you have GameFlow activated, you can choose at any time to hit the full playbook for that special play that shoots your Tight End up the middle while the Linebackers move up on a run defense. If you’re a longtime Madden aficionado, you may never see GameFlow in action, and that’s fine. It’s not targeted at those players and isn’t being forced-down anyone’s throat.

Controls have definitely seen an improvement (and a step-backward to some Madden faithfuls.) First, the “bad.” The developers completely changed the implementation of the strategy pad this year, and a LOT of people are not happy about this. EA has already stated that there will be a patch around the time the actual NFL season starts, that will allow everyone to switch to the old-style, well mostly. In our interview with Phil Frazier, Senior Producer for Madden 11, he stated that to get the patch out in a timely manner, that the strategy pad would have to essentially be a ‘hybrid,’ since they’d have to make changes to full screens etc to replace it completely. The good changes to the controls are vast though, and after you get used to the fact that there’s no ‘speed burst’ any more, are quite comfortable to use. Almost everything has been moved from the shoulder buttons to the right stick, and it works really well. If you want to lower your head, hold the stick down a bit. Want to side-step a defender, hit right or left in the stick. Triangle still works to jump, and Circle still spins, but using the stick feels really good. The last item in terms of controls is the new (old) kicking interface. They’ve finally removed the analog stick kicking in favor of the classic 3-button press meter (unless you play the PSP version, which still uses the analog nub to kick.) It works GREAT, and is definitely a welcome change.

The visuals have been cleaned-up a bit from last year, with better lighting (even though it’s not the progressive lighting from the NCAA titles,) and nicer weather effects. Again, if you’ve seen a Madden game over the last couple of years, this one isn’t going to blow you out of the water, but it’s no slouch by any means. Players seem to react to the weather a bit more realistically now, as you’ll see them lose their footing on the muddy field, and the animations when they try to regain their balance is really well done. I do still experience the occasional “hitch” from time-to-time, and it’d be nice to see that fixed some day. The one other issue that I have in terms of the visuals, is more about the stadium environment. I was playing a pre-season game against, I believe it was the Seahawks, at Lambeau Field (Yes, I ONLY use the Packers, deal with it!) It was raining, and the game was a blowout pretty early-on (I was KILLING them.) As I started looking into the stands, I noticed that seats were emptying pretty quickly, and it was only the 3rd quarter. I have season tickets for the Packers, and I know 1st-hand, yeah, that doesn’t happen, not even during pre-season.

Audio is good as usual, with the return of Chris Collinsworth and the addition of Gus Johnson for the play-by-play (a very welcome change.) They also seem to have added a lot more personalization to the individual venues this year as well, and despite not having “Start Me Up” for kickoff’s, it definitely reminds me of being at Lambeau. One addition in the audio department this year is that if you wear your Bluetooth communicator, your coordinator will talk to you that way instead of over the main speakers. It’s a cool idea that we’ve seen in other games like MGS4, and actually, is a pretty cool way to play the game. I also really like the coordinator’s explanations of why a play was called, and/or what the expectation of that play-call is. It has honestly helped me understand the game of Football more, and has definitely helped me in my play calling in general.

Online is pretty deep this year overall. The standard stuff is there for online matches, ranked or un-ranked. Along with those modes though, you also get a full Online Team Play mode, which allows you to play 3-on-3 online with up to 5 other people.I only got to play this mode once, but I’ll tell you, it’s REALLY sweet. This is definitely a mode that I’d like to play quite a bit. You also have a full online Franchise mode again this year, but the servers were down during the times that I tried to check it out. Online play, in general, is very well done, with some minor annoyances. I’m not sure if it was the connection of my opponents or the experience overall, but the game is definitely not as “snappy” as when it’s played locally. Timing on the kick meter is definitely different, and resulted if muffed kicks more than once. Voice Chat is good, when my opponent actually used a mic. The lobby system is essentially what it’s been for a couple of years, and there are quickplay options as well. Obviously, I can’t speak much to the matchmaking based on skill, since there were only a handful of people online during the time I was playing.

There are a ton of other items that could be covered here, but I’ll leave that to Operations Sports and Pasta Padre. The bottom-line is that it plays a great game of Football. The new stick-based controls are great, and the removal of the speed burst finally makes this series feel a bit more like a simulation. Madden NFL 11 is the only game in town for an actual NFL-licensed videogame, but they don’t seem to be resting on their laurels when it comes to changes for the better, well, except for the visuals, it would be nice to see an overhaul (I’m spoiled by The Show.) if you liked Madden NFL 9 or 10, then guess what, you’re going to like 11. It’s fun!


Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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