Releasing a new game every year is no small task and it’s something that Madden Franchise has done now for over 20 years. This year’s iteration of the series, Madden NFL 11, adds in several new features to keep the game fresh while still retaining a lot of the core gameplay elements that Madden fans crave. While last year we saw the introduction of a proper online co-op mode, this year that mode has morphed into something slightly different.
The biggest change Madden fans are going to notice this year, in terms of how the game feels, is the Locomotion system - EA’s name for their physics engine. Running is now incredibly realistic as several factors are taken into account as your halfback or wide receiver takes the ball up the field. Weight is the biggest factor - and running your 220 pound running back into a 300 pound linebacker usually creates a losing battle for your running game, it’s one that visibly apparent when it happens on screen. You’ll know it happens when everyone in the room goes “OOOOOOOOH” as your guy is staring up at the 110 foot screen in the Cowboys new stadium from his back. Other factors come into play as well for character motion, including how the player’s feet are planted while making cuts and moves. In the end, running the ball just feels good this year. It’s fluid, it’s visceral, and it’s satisfying.
The other big change is the Gameflow system, an optional play calling method that lets the game decide which play works best for the current situation. While similar to the “Ask Madden” - Gameflow actually allows you to build a playbook of situations and what plays you’d like to run on them. During this mode the offensive and defensive coordinator will tell you about the upcoming play - and if you have a headset on - it’ll do it through that just like a real NFL player with helmet communication. As someone who knows very little about NFL defense, this is great for speeding up my games. In fact, I’d say it takes almost half as long to complete a game if you utilize Gameflow on both offense and defense. Thankfully, even with it enabled, you still have the option to go into your playbook and call a play.
Other than these two things I didn’t find much different for the core Madden experience between this year’s game and last years. The kicking game is back to the three click system instead of analog, the menu system is slightly changed to be a more streamlined for quickplay, and there’s new play-by-play commentator in Gus Johnson - who has some pretty solid one liners throughout the game’s I’ve played. Anyone that can work the Batman theme into the running game is OK in my book.
Graphically the game is as solid as ever, having had a almost 5 years on next gen platforms have done wonders for the series. Players animations are smooth, characters look more realistic and less like cookie cutter “football dudes,” and the chosen soundtrack is mostly pleasing. Machine Head by Bush just seems to fit football quite well.