Madden NFL 11ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
15.66 MB to Save Game
Online Multiplayer: 2-6 players
Game Content Download
Well it’s that time of year again, when I start prepping for a glut of NFL fantasy drafts and start mapping out plans for my Washington Huskies/Seattle Seahawks sports weekends; it’s also that time of the year when I hunker down with EA Sports latest installment in the Madden NFL franchise. This point in time always feels like Christmas Eve as I am filled with anticipation with Week One of the National Football League only a few weeks away. With this anticipation also comes another addition to EA Sports best selling franchise — Madden NFL 11. Last year, Madden 10 made some small albeit significant leaps and many argued it was the best we had seen in the franchise to date. This off season had me hoping for improved animations, amped-up presentation and a game that could be considered darn close to perfection. Well after a few days and several hours playing the game, I must say Madden NFL 11 is a good game, but it’s far from perfection and frankly, it’s a little too much of the same old.
Overall, the visuals in Madden NFL 11 for the Xbox 360 are well done and are once again a strong point for the franchise. The game once again pays great homage to the NFL game and this year we see some strides, albeit small ones, in the game’s visuals. There is no doubt that Madden 11 feels a bit more authentic and the game has moved a step closer towards being a true-to-life NFL experience. However, at the end of the day it feels like a bit more could have been done in the graphics department.
Before I get into some of the negatives, let’s kickoff with some positives. For starters, the fans look better. The people in the jam-packed stadiums now seem to react like NFL fans should and much of this could be attributed to the higher screen resolution this year. The animations have been improved and overall you get a more realistic looking crowd. Say goodbye to blurry fans and lackluster fan animations as Madden 11’s are the best we have seen in the franchise to date. The lighting and shadow effects are also improved as the higher contrast lighting matches that of a TV broadcast. The players themselves look identical to last year’s version; however, some do appear a tad closer to their real-life counterparts. For instance, Albert Haynesworth from the Washington Redskins seems a little more plump and larger this year. You will also notice arm hair this time around, something that was missing in previous installments. Last but not least, the coaches look closer to their real life counterparts. The coaches are easily recognizable right down to the sizes of their expanding waist-lines.
With the positives, we also get some negatives. Last year we saw an abundance of new animations added to the players. This year I did not notice many additions at all. Players do seem to cut and move more fluidly; but otherwise I expected more here. Also, nothing has been done with the “Extra Point” weekly wrap-up show. It is seemingly the same show as last year and once again we see no in-game highlights from around the league in the weekly re-cap segment. All in all, I was disappointed nothing was done to improve the production value of this weekly wrap-up show.
Once again, I did notice some ugly clipping issues and texture problems at times. For instance, the hair on the head of Bobby Carpenter of the Rams would start to do some 'herky jerky' movements when the camera panned to him standing on the sidelines. This also happened for other players as well. Not a major issue and it certainly does not impact the gameplay, but it merely caught me by surprise as this was an issue last year. Some of the game’s cut-scenes also left me scratching my head at times. Payton Manning looks more like a Frankenstein in a suit when he exits the bus in one of the game’s opening scenes. Bottom line, some of these scenes could have used a bit more polish.
Much to my relief the stadiums and turf both look as good as they did in 10. Granted I did not notice any major improvements, but why mess with a good thing. The game’s environments looked flawless last year, so the old saying "if it ain't broke, don’t fix it” applies here too. Overall, the visuals in Madden NFL 11 are good but when you compare them to last year’s this version makes no significant observable leaps in the visual’s department.
As far as the sound is concerned, Madden NFL 11 is good but it left me with the same feelings I had last year — underwhelmed. I will start with the positives. The soundtrack is much better this year featuring some tunes you will actually hear inside a real life NFL stadium. Nothing gets you pumped for opening kick-off like Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle.” Other legendary sports anthems such as Thunderstruck, Song 2 and Crazy Train are all songs you would typically hear in any NFL stadium. So for that reason alone Madden NFL 11 scores high marks in the soundtrack department.
Another positive is the overall sounds effects of the game, which are once again quite amazing. Hard hitting tackles to grunting from the lineman — all the sounds in the game pack a punch. This year they all seem richer and the game just comes to life that much more. I highly recommend turning up the volume when playing Madden NFL 11 as the 5.1 surround sound is great.
Another great aspect with the game’s sound is the unique home field chants. In Madden 11 you can hear the crowd chant, “go pack go” at Lambeau field or you can hear “J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets” for every Jets’ home game. It’s a cool little addition that compliments the experience.
As far as the negatives are concerned, the commentary seems too repetitive again this year and Cris Collinsworth continues to grate the snot out of me. I find he often comes across as pompous and is a bit of a know-it-all. His voice is like nails on a chalk board for me and I really try to avoid him at all costs come NFL Sunday. Gus Johnson does the play-by-play and does a formidable job; however at times his comments appear out of place or he gets a little too excited during plays that really don’t call for much excitement. That being said, as a team, Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth do a decent job at calling the games and they are arguably the most accurate tandem we have seen in a Madden game to date. But as with any sports game they repeat themselves a tad too much, but I recognize this is par for the course.
Another area of concern lies within the Extra Point highlight package show. The commentary audio in the show seems robotic and disjointed. There really is no flow from the female commentator who recaps the weekly scores and stats. It seemed amateurish, incomplete and rushed. Don't get me wrong I love that the developers included the package but it could have used a few more months in the shop to iron out some of the kinks.
Overall, the gameplay for Madden NFL 11 is once again very solid and enjoyable. It plays very similar to last year’s version but is more accessible to the casual football gamer and scoring TD’s is much easier this time around. Running the ball and completing passes is accomplished with relative ease this year and the ‘Gameflow’ play calling scheme makes the sometimes onerous task of picking plays disappear. For veterans of the franchise, the trademark Madden NFL game is back in all its glory and for rookies Madden’s learning curve has dropped significantly. With all that being said, the question remains: has Madden NFL 11 made a significant leap this year? Well, in some areas it did but the core gameplay remains, for the most part, unchanged.
There is no sense examining features that have been around for years, since the core of the Madden gameplay is back, so at this point I will examine some of the new features in the game.
As I suggested earlier, Madden 11 aims to bring in the casual NFL gamer. In doing so Madden NFL 11 takes a much more simple approach to calling plays with the introduction of “Gameflow.” In summary, Gameflow provides gamers with the best play for the given down and yardage. In a way, it is almost like you are asking the coach to call the play and you are putting trust in that coach to call the best play for your current circumstance. It is much more accurate than the former “ask Madden” option since Gameflow is based on your team’s play calling propensities and strengths. It also matches plays to situational game plans. It also reduces the length of time it takes to play a game. Typical Madden games take around 50-60 minutes to play. EA tells us Gameflow cuts the gametime in half. I found it only reduced gametime by maybe 10 or 15 minutes. In any event, it does speed up the game. Fortunately it does not reduce the number of plays called in any typical game. Essentially, the time you previously spent scrolling through the playbook picking plays is now replaced with a simple press of the button. For hardcore Madden fans not interested in this new innovation, you will be relieved to know you do not have to use Gameflow and you can pick your own plays. However, experienced gamers can now map out a gameplan before a game, customize a playbook and the playbook can be implemented in the Gameflow mode. Overall, Gameflow is a nice addition and I actually found myself using the option for over 90% of the plays. In some instances the plays did not seem to match the situation at hand but for the most part if you stick with Gameflow, more often than not you find success on the field.
Another new feature in Madden 11 is Locomotion. In a nutshell, Locomotion is about all-new authentic running mechanics. The idea here is merely bringing about even more realism. In previous games you had the ability to cut, juke or spin. This time around the dual sticks are used to create a greater one-to-one connection between what you are doing on the right stick and what your player is doing on the field. I found it frustrating initially since scrambling from tacklers is much tougher this time around. That being said, once you master the controls, flicking the stick simulating the player's foot planting does get a bit easier. For Madden veterans getting used to the absence of the sprint button it does take some getting used to; but it does allow for greater concentration on following your blocks and footwork.
The online gameplay seems to have been given a boost this year as well and offers up the broadest online feature sets in all of sports gaming. Modes include: Madden Ultimate Team, Online Franchise, Head to Head Play, Leaderboards and Online Scouting. A completely new Online Team Play putting the player in control of a single offensive unit and a single defensive unit is available for the first time in the franchise’s history. Online Team Play can support any combination of up to 3 players on each team, each with a specific responsibility. All in all the new Online Team Play is a great addition but I really question the lasting appeal of this mode. Most Madden online gamers still prefer to go one-on-one against another opponent. Spruce up the online modes all you want, but at the end of the day Madden gamers just want a smooth online experience by putting their skills to the test against another single opponent. That being said, the Madden Online Franchise is back this year and includes all the awesome features that made the mode a success last year. There is even an iPhone/iPod Touch application to manage your franchise. Taking advantage of many of the features is truly for the hardcore Madden online gamer as rookies will simply need to invest a lot of time to get up to speed with the sheer depth of the features. Nevertheless, the Online Franchise has come a long way.
The franchise mode, which is where I traditionally spend the bulk of my time, features a number of minor enhancements. Most of the enhancements are in the contracts and free agency areas. There are also some other minor tweaks here and there but overall the Franchise mode is identical to last year’s game. That being said, it is here that I noticed an improved AI. Last year I was able to shut down virtually all other teams’ running games with ease. This year, this is not the case as the offensive linemen now select blocking targets and track you down like scud missiles. The improved O' Line makes for a better running game from the AI. It can be frustrating at times; however the improved AI running attack just makes for a more intense experience and one that is, you guessed it, very authentic. I also noticed that teams started adjusting to my offensive style. For instance, if I was connecting on slant passes with ease, I would notice the outside linebackers fall back a bit and all of a sudden they were batting down every slant pass in sight. Again, this makes for a frustrating experience at times, but hey, that is football!
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