Even though “Madden NFL 11” is the only NFL game on the console market, it still has competition, and I am not talking about the wrestling-named Backbreaker (Seriously, why is it named that?) released earlier this year. I am talking about the internal civil war brewing in-house between the “Madden” series and the “NCAA Football” series. Both games are not only released by EA, but are both developed by EA Tiburon, so how does “Madden” combat “NCAA Football’s” diverse 4-3 line?
If “Madden” games did not look better and have updated rosters every year, there would be testosterone-filled riots in dorm rooms across the country, so these are a given. There are new cutscenes this year that show the players and fans going psycho before, during and after the game, but these scenes are canned animations that every team has. In “NCAA Football 11,” every college team had their traditional pre-game ritual, which added to the game’s pageantry and passion. I do not feel that with “Madden.” Besides that, other game modes like Dynasty mode feel untouched. Even “The Extra Point,” the dynasty’s weekly show did not receive an update. This show could have been overhauled to include ESPN’s coverage. It would have been sweet for the show to be converted into ESPN’s Sunday night “NFL Primetime” show. It would have added much needed authenticity.
The gameplay, however, is more solid and fun than it was last year. The new “Gameflow” play technology allows casual gamers to play without requiring the knowledge of an offensive and defensive coordinator. This new play selection feature picks a play based off two variables: how your real-life team plays and what the situation at hand is. For instance, “Gameflow” will not select a passing play when you are up by 10 with 30 seconds left. Also, it will also focus on the strengths of your team, so the Colts or Patriots will not perform a million running plays. For hardcore Maddenites, this feature creates an accurate portrayal of every NFL team, but I do not think that they will use it because it does not offer any choice. It makes sense that they would not use it because the hardcore players who go to tournaments or play in Major League Gaming competitions need to know and utilize every asset they can.
Besides “Gameflow,” a new kicking system is in place, making kicking very simple to use. Angle the kick where you want to go first. Then, in a manner similar to older “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” golf games, press “X” to move the meter which determines the amount of power you want your kicker to use. Press “X” at the desired power, then press it again at the starting position. The precision required for the old flicking system really dampened “Madden’s” kicking game, especially when you used a team with a World Cup-caliber kicker.
Now that the kickers are more involved in the game, the rest of the team had to pick up the pace. Offensive lineman will aggressively block downfield linebackers and push running backs forward in pile-ups. When trying to catch a ball near the sidelines, receivers will tip-toe both feet to keep them in-bounds. Everyone on the field feels more aware of the ongoing plays around them. There is never a time when a player is caught staring off at a hot chick in the third row. Some of the best moments I caught were gazing at running backs leaping over defensive players. You could tell that the backs were making decisions “on-the-fly.”
This is what makes “Madden NFL” come alive. Some of the modes should have been tweaked, but it all comes down to the gameplay. If the players ran as if they were running in oatmeal and the controls were more complicated than trying to figure out if Gweedo shot first, then the game would be trash, but thankfully, that is not the case.
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