Just as “Tough Actin’ Tinactin” does for foot fungus, Madden NFL relieves our burning itch for pigskin. Every year in August, Madden wakes up from his golden bed, puts on his golden slippers, takes a golden shower (or at least a shower in a golden bathroom) and empties our Velcro wallets of hard-earned cash. This is how it has gone for centuries.
But this year, things are a little different (not really. But I like the drama)!
This year’s Madden update features new rosters, better graphics and presentation, and most of the same old things you know and love about the franchise. The biggest improvement/addition is in the engine itself. The new locomotion engine puts a greater emphasis on precision while running the football. Your ball-carrier is more reactive and the lack of a sprint button (I still hold down the right trigger for old-time’s sake) really forces you to evade would-be tacklers by flicking the right thumbstick. This small tweak to the gameplay makes a huge difference and really seems to refresh the running game.
The other new feature worth noting is the “GameFlow” system, which automatically calls a play for you based on the current situation. Hardcore footballers may laugh at the simplicity (and the occasional WTF? play call) but casual gamers will appreciate the faster pace and accessibility. I happen to like it. But there are a few things that confuse the hell out of me. At times you have no idea what play has been called and the little voice coming through your headset sometimes adds to the confusion. Also, playing a game with a friend via local exhibition with the “GameFlow” feature ‘on’ is somewhat impractical. Neither you nor your opponent knows exactly what play you’re getting, which turns most of the match into a guessing game—this can be strangely fun or really annoying based on how much you care. Either way, Madden 11 is at its best when enjoyed with a friend.
One more thing that is a bit wacky is the in-game advertising. Now, I know that big-budget advertising is a huge part of real broadcast football, but it would be nice if the Achievements I earned weren’t sponsored by Old Spice! On a hardly related note, it is pretty cool that after you win the Super Bowl (sponsored by Verizon Wireless, of course) you get to visit the White House and chill with Barack Obama. Yes you can!
Madden has a long, and mostly unrivaled history in console gaming. Once again, this year’s game adds to that legacy by streamlining the experience rather than re-inventing it. Depending on your love of the franchise, this could either bring you much happiness or a long, drawn-out yyyaaaaawwwwwwnnnn (excuse me). With the NFL exclusivity license in its twilight years it will be interesting to see if EA Tiburon decides to change their tried-and-true formula in the near future. Things should get interesting soon.