Webster Style: Madden NFL 2011 Review

Will Brees break the Madden curse?

Another year, yet another Madden. And still what baffles the brain is how EA can take steps forward yet backwards at the same time with each iteration. I really liked last’s year’s edition because it seemed like EA was finally listening and doing what they could to get the series right. Well a year later and I am reducing my enthusiasm because of what they still refuse to address. And thankfully I am borrowing this from a friend with a dead 360 because otherwise, I couldn’t see myself buying this year’s edition, however I wanted to satisfy my curiosity. Another issue is that this year, I picked up NCAA 11 and while I felt that the NCAA series made some strides, Madden fell backwards, so it made sense to do a comparison.

So let’s jump right in:

Control – One of the bigger changes to the series is the dual stick control and it feels a little more realistic in that there is no turbo and the right thumbstick does the diving juking and hurdling and it takes a moment to get used to, but it feels a little better than the button mashing we have done in years past. One issue I do have a problem with that is supposed to be addressed with a patch it controlling and adjusting your D line at the line of scrimmage. If you aren’t quick enough, it just won’t happen as the computer is fast in hiking the ball.

Graphics
– Stadiums are rendered nicely as always with IMPROVED lighting…a little more attention has been paid to the helmet reflections, however most of the faces on the players look busted as always. One interesting glitch however is that in some in-game cut-scenes, the crowd has their backs to you in the stands. Funnily enough, my wife picked that up. The animation is more varied and realistic, even for penalties; when they say someone is facemasking or holding, when the replay is shown, you can clearly see the penalties…which is a good thing because it kept me from challenging a whole lot of plays that I thought were questionable.

Sound – Another area where it seems like EA still seems like it feels that they need to take baby steps with that the 2K series (geez I said this last year) has gotten to a science, and I don’t know what happened but I did notice this year that the QB cadences aren’t individually keyed to that QB so in essence you won’t hear Brady or Manning’s voice bark their calls, it’s just some generic voices. The biggest addition is Gus Johnson’s commentary which adds a lot of life that this game needed for years. However, I really wished that they would lock him and Collinsworth in the booth for a weekend and let them record a session so we can get the same quality commentary that (yes I know) 2K has done for years. There are even times both will call out a player or an action that is not going on the field and it’s completely wrong or there are times there are small hitches in Johnson’s voice as the game tries to figure out who did what.

Presentation and halftime show – This is one area that still in glaring need of being fixed. How many years and how many fans have to shout to EA that 2K5 set the bar and if they own the ESPN license, it should be a cinch to hurdle it. I mean, NCAA makes a better usage of the ESPN license in their game yet it’s very absent in Madden 11. The halftime show is gone and the Extra Point show is nearly non functional. EA and Tiburon really should fire up 2K5 and see how it’s done. Even without the NFL license, the 2K series of sports STILL manages to put together a decent presentation in their basketball games which gives you the feeling that you are ‘watching’ the game. In going thru and reading some of the dev notes and posts in the EA forums, I hear that supposedly they didn’t have enough time to fix this in the franchise mode (which remains unchanged) and this will be overhauled in the Madden 12 edition. Really? We have to wait another year for you guys to fix this? Which brings us to…



Franchise mode
– Ok EA, this really needs to be fixed and no more excuses that no one uses it. This mode has been going backwards since Madden 2003 when the Owners’ Mode was introduced and it’s been regressing ever since. If you are going to overhaul it…just do it but not at the expense of making people ‘wait another year’ or using the excuse that ‘nobody uses it’ because if it wasn’t so crippled, more people WOULD. Same with the Superstar mode…and the AFL mode…really EA??? COME ON!

Last up…the “NEW” Feature this year, GAME FLOW!!!!! It’s supposed to cut down how long I play a game right? WRONG. My games still take nearly an hour to play and really, I don’t care how you dress it up, a pig is still a pig. This is indeed a glorified ASK MADDEN mode and yes, I do advise that if you are going to use it, you should play around with it and put in plays that you would use because while it does work, there are some times where you would be completely baffled by the plays that are called especially on defense!  And the coordinator’s voice that comes with it…turn it off…sheesh! It does take SOME of the guesswork in playcalling but there are still times in crucial situations I want to call my own play because that what I feel comfortable doing.

Other observations:

AI – I have seen some weirdness in watching the AI run right PAST a ball carrier and make no attempt at tackling him. I have also seen a glitch that carries over from NCAA series in which occasionally CBs will just stop running a route and stand there as balls are thrown towards WRs and make no play on the pass…huh? Also maybe it’s me but the balance for defense feels a little more ‘off’ this year as in some games, it’s almost impossible to stop the CPU from running without having to adjust the sliders. This year’s version is definitely more run oriented.

Why, during cutscenes, do all of the players look so…angry? And I’m a Ravens fan why does John Harbaugh look so OLD?

Why is Fight for the Fumble still here? It was a horrible gimmick and thankfully you can still turn that off

Ok, how is it some players get hurt and it’s still not announced til like a play or 2 later? This also occurs in NCAA…why wasn’t this cleaned up?

In game ticker: Nothing makes you play a little harder than seeing how well other teams are doing throughout the course of your game…it’s still not here EA…fix this!!!

This year’s version doesn’t feel like another 60 buck roster update but with some of the glaring omissions, it’s hard to rate this as highly as I did last year’s version

And actually, when all is said and done, it’s really sad when you still can compare a new football game with a game that is 6 years old and last gen.

On a larger scale of 1 to 10 I would give this year’s iteration a 6.

So in the end, avoid Madden this year, pick up NCAA instead or better yet, wait for something better to come in the next few weeks.
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