Reviewed: August 10, 2010
Released: August 10, 2010
Well, here we go again! Another NFL season and another extended period of time waiting for Bret Favre to retire already! I think its time for him to exit the stadium and enjoy playing Madden NFL 11 at home. That way my Packers will certainly win the division.|
Madden NFL 11 has once again arrived for Xbox 360 with a long sheet of improvements and changes. One of the big “improvements” is the addition of “gameflow”. Gameflow allows you to pick plays like an NFL coach. The CPU analyzes the situation and makes appropriate adjustments. You can tweak the presentation, but if you stick with it you might find you like the new system. I grew tired of it quickly and went back to the classic layout.
Game Planning works hand in hand with Gameflow. You can set a specific plan triggering a specific play for certain situations on both offense and defense. I must say I found that this system works pretty well on offense, but it's a different story on defense. It can be difficult to figure out what play you called, especially if the clock is running down.
Madden NFL 11 does away with the sprint button. Instead the focus is on running and using moves to dodge tacklers. Players move more smoothly than previous years, but the Madden player movement physics are still not up to the level of FIFA or NHL. In addition to the usual single player mode, there are many other avenues to take. Franchise mode has been tweaked considerably since last year. Everything from stats to salary cap has been “re-tuned” to improve the system.
This year there are also 50 “Madden Moments” where you can relive or alter the historical game. Going back and trying to win that game in 2009 where Farve threw an interception late in the game is very appealing. There are also several new mini-games in case you get sick of practicing. Mini-games include: the 40 yard dash, Bench Press, QB Challenge, RB Challenge, coverage challenge and Lineman challenge. A few of these games are actually worth looking into, however the spring is annoyingly discriminate.
Online play improvements seem to be a focus for EA across all their game, and Madden is no exception featuring some fun additions in Madden 11. This year you pretty much are forced to edit your roster all by yourself. You can download an update on the EA Xbox Live login screen. The biggest improvement comes in the addition of Ultimate Team. This is an offshoot of the original Ultimate Team found in EA's soccer games. You buy trading card packs with your virtual money. These packs come with player trading cards. It's kind of a combination of fantasy football and card collecting. When I first played this mode I didn't think I would like it at all, but now I love playing it. The strategy of whom to play and where/when to get packs of cards is strangely compelling. I really enjoyed this mode. Also new for online is the Madden NFL 11 online co-op mode. You can play 3 on 3 online, with or against up to 5 friends. I thought this was fun at first, however my neighbors didn't agree; probably because I didn't invite them to my party.
The graphics in Madden NFL 11 are topnotch, so much so that the Xbox 360 processor can't keep up with the framerate needed to run smoothly. EA has included over 20 new cutscenes; everything from the hot dog stands to players in the locker room. Unfortunately the “broadcast style” transitions tend to bog the processor down enough that the graphic wipes pause in mid transition. It affects the cutscenes the most.
The cutscenes bring a welcome dose of realism to Madden NFL 11. There are several which repeat no matter what team you are playing, but many are specific scenes for certain teams. EA included the New Orleans Saints pre-game chant, the Texans run out of a bull, and there are other local vendors such as the Philly Cheese Steak Shop.
In addition, there is a classic AFL mode featuring 8 classic AFL teams from the 70's. The really fun thing is that you can customize the game’s visual atmosphere. You can chose the modern TV viewing experience, or you can use “Vintage” mode. In vintage mode the screen is washed out and colors are muted. It looks like the old films.
The list of graphical improvements is long. The crowd is higher resolution and has specific fan jerseys. Even the game attendance is calculated by history and adjusted accordingly. Other improvements are higher resolutions for grass and shadows, new player customization options, and even the scoreboard has improved. Along with much improved cutscene graphics, EA has improved the stadium sound. This year includes custom stadium soundtracks for most of the NFL teams. Specific stadiums have specific fan cheers which ads a bit more realism to the game.
The unfortunate downside of Madden NFL 11 is in the audio... and sadly, it didn't have to be this way. This season we have Gus Johhson in the booth (replacing Tom Hammond) along with the usual Chris Collinsworth. Gus brings his own unique brand of enthusiasm to the play-by-play but let's just say it's an acquired taste... and I don't want to acquire it. Collinsworth provides his usual two cents, repeatedly. It seems this year is a bit of a step backwards as I have noticed a lot more repeated phrases from the broadcast booth. Just kick the ball out of bounds a couple times and you'll hear Collinsworth be rude about Canadians.
Madden NFL 11 takes a bit of a trip back in time with more classic rock songs in the soundtrack. There are 20 tracks such as AC/DC “Thunderstruck” (studio version), Guns-N-Roses “Welcome to the Jungle”, Kiss “Rock and Roll All Night”, and Ozzy's “Crazy Train” and more recent “Let Me Hear You Scream”. When I saw that lineup I was a little shocked. Those are some popular songs and certainly were not cheap. Then I listened to them. They are heavily censored, and EA doesn't even try to hide it either. Any and all cuss words have been removed, but various other words seem to have been added to the censored list while I was sleeping.
The word “die” seems to be a big no-no as it has been cut from an Ozzy song and from GNR's “Welcome to the Jungle”. It's not quite the same when Axl screams “you in the jungle, baby, you gonna _____”. Come on EA. Those songs were not cheap to license. I like those songs. I certainly don't want to listen to your butchered versions of them. At least there is custom soundtrack support so you can replace these cleansed songs for their original versions if you wish.
One area where not many can complain is in value. Madden NFL 11 has so many modes and mini-games it would take months to play them all. There are 24 achievements for a total of 1,000 gamer score points. The achievements range from intercepting a pass back for a touchdown, to kicking a 60+ yard field goal. The only things missing are real classic teams and/or the Team Builder application.
Madden had classic teams not all that long ago, but now with retired NFLPA players throwing around lawsuits over use of their stats, I suspect EA is a bit gun shy. So I'm hoping that Madden follows in the footsteps of NCAA and FIFA and includes a team building application next season. They do include a very basic 'create-a-team' function but nothing to the detail level of NCAA Football.
Madden NFL 11 probably packs more bang for your buck than any previous version. Despite some graphic glitches, Madden 11 does look better than last season. But once again, EA's attempt at innovative playcalling and other areas just serve to annoy gamers who were pretty happy with the old style of controls. Perhaps it's time for EA to consider doing a Madden game every other year with a DLC roster update during the off years.