In 2005, EA Sports gained an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL and the NFLPA. This move pissed a lot of gamers off and has left a sour taste in the mouth of many. Since then, gamers have been highly critical of not only the franchise, but of everything the company has developed since then. With the yearly release of Madden NFL football a couple days removed, it’s time to fully review one of the only titles that is anticipated on a yearly basis. Has EA Sports and its Tiburon studio done enough to warrant the yearly purchase price or will gamers feel the need to suffer through the purchase due to it being the only game in town? Let’s find out.
Whether you’re at the stadium or in the comfort of your own living room, one of the most exciting things about watching NFL football on Sunday is the presentation and excitement it brings. This year, EA Sports has put an emphasis on expanding upon one of the elements within the game that is often lacking and that is the presentation factor. The first thing the development team decided was that it is definitely time for a change when it comes to the announcers in the game. Gone is the lackluster Tom Hammonds and in is the always excited and over-the-top mouth piece, Gus Johnson.
The addition of Gus Johnson to the play-by-play element brings a lot of excitement to Madden NFL 11 and is a cog that has been missing from the overall experience since the removal of John Madden as a full commentator. Furthermore, Tiburon has included more than 900 lines of dialogue for pre-game chatter that allows the announcing team to introduce storylines prior to the game. This is one of the big changes in presentation that helps make the game play a little bit more like it’s a Sunday, everyday. Finally, one of the biggest changes to presentation is the new and improved Super Bowl celebration. Winning the Super Bowl has never been more satisfying and despite the decision to include Barack Obama in the entire process, EA should be given two thumbs up as this is by far and large the best celebration in any football title to date.
Of course, the presentation elements can’t overcome a game with terrible game play, so if that doesn’t hold up, it’s all been for not. Thankfully, the team at Tiburon has been a huge emphasis on game play and the way the game works this year. The newest implementation is that of the Locomotion engine that you can also find in NCAA 11. The Locomotion engine allows the artificial intelligence to take more things into account such as how a player plants his foot before changing direction as well as how his body leans or sways when making a cut. Unfortunately for some, this change to the physics of the game comes at the cost of familiarity and results in a lot of veterans of the franchise grasping for straws when it comes to defense.
Due to this change in momentum and push and pull, gamers should notice that they can no longer make mistakes or bad reads and then recover simply due to high speed or user skill. If you make a poor decision in M11, be prepared to pay for it in a big way, just like you see happen on Sunday. Gone are the days of cross-body tackles in the open field and making up 3-4 yards of separation on a deep ball just because you can. If your player isn’t capable of the maneuver you’re trying to pull off, there is a strong chance that it isn’t going to happen.
Outside of the Locomotion tech, EA has also added in new sideline animations that cure the old problem of receivers, tight ends and halfbacks running out of bounds while making a catch. To be honest, sideline catch animations look pretty sweet and the only downside is sometimes they come into effect a little too far from the sideline and you’re forced to watch the play end rather than watch your player cut up the field. You can take a stance on whether this makes the game better or not, but it happens little enough for it to not be a big deal.
Another big difference between M10 and M11 is the way quarterbacks portray their real life counterpart a lot closer. Sports gamers can no longer expect all QBs to run far back or to the left and right while making pin-point accurate throws. Instead, you can expect a lot of missed throws and interceptions if that’s the way you go about playing the position. Of course, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees perform close to God-like, but your average QB like Kevin Kolb or Alex Smith is going to have the occasional over-throw and errant pass that could end up in an interception. However, if you’re not a fan of the air attack, you should be glad to know that the changes EA has made on the ground game are literally groundbreaking.
Madden NFL 11 introduces a new style of run blocking intelligence that has offensive linemen making the correct reads and blocks that you’d expect to see them make every week in real life. Gone are the days of the OG going into the second level to whiff by a LB to hit the Safety. Instead, that Guard is going to engage the LB and create a nice hole for the RB to maneuver through. This is probably the most visually noticeable change in the game play and it’s certainly a welcomed addition to the franchise.
Unfortunately, M11 isn’t all fun and games and EA Sports is getting reamed pretty hard for its decision to remove pre-snap adjustments from the Triangle button and instead, mapping it to the directional pad in the form of the “Strategy Pad.” However, EA is releasing a patch that makes this pre-snap adjustment period optional and gives the user the option to use the original control scheme from every Madden prior to this one. This isn’t to say the Strategy Pad isn’t effective or doesn’t work though, I’ve noticed that after extensive time with the change (like most changes in any game), it becomes second nature to use the D-Pad and in fact, is probably even better with the PlayStation 3’s superior controller.
Outside of Locomotion, the largest implementation for M11 is the new GameFlow option given to gamers. GameFlow is, quite frankly, nothing more than a casual replacement for the Ask Madden feature. The only difference between Ask Madden and GameFlow is that EA Sports allows you to create a game plan around GF that helps the AI differentiate between which plays should be ran in certain situations. Most veterans of the title are most likely to never use this, but it can come in handy to newcomers of the franchise which is the main intent. GameFlow can be set work through the speakers of your television set or through your headset if you’re play head-to-head with a friend. Basically, your coordinator let’s you know which play you’re running and what to look for when making a decision to throw the ball or run. The dialogue is very limited for this new feature and is often times more frustrating to listen to over and over than anything else. While some may praise this addition, the fact it’s optional is the key thing to remember. I’m not a fan, but that won’t mean that you aren’t either.