Review: Madden 11

I remember back when a new copy of Madden felt like a Christmas present: anxiously ripping off the packaging to a toy you knew would consume your time over the next few months. These days, I’d put it up there with Halloween candy: a frantic week of over-indulgence followed by sporadic nibbling. While I’m no longer a diehard Madden maniac (I only buy a copy every other year and rent in between), it is not hard to see where the franchise has progressed. Like today’s NFL offensive playbook, it continually evolves and adds nuances, but it is a far cry from the days when a forward pass was basically forbidden.

Madden 11 does a lot of things right. EA finally cut down the interim periods between plays in an effort to speed up the length of a game. Why should a video game last as long as a real football game? I don’t need everything to be accurate.

This year also brought the introduction of a system that basically calls the play for you. While this isn’t my cup of tea, nor should it be for any Madden veteran, I can understand where EA is coming from. Newer players are constantly being introduced to Madden and are routinely turned off by how complicated it has become. Though EA has made strides to correct for the button-mashers out there, they’ve attempted to find a middle ground with first-time players, and it works.

EA also made their annual improvements in AI gameplay. Finally, there’s a lineman who knows how to block for your lead runner. What a concept! The menus are more intuitive and the soundtrack is solid, but what really should excite everyone in off-field analysis is the addition of Gus Johnson to the booth. His penchant for the dramatic in real life keeps you on the edge of your seat as you turn the corner for a RB sprint or heave a desperation Hail Mary.

It appears EA has started to listen to the scrutiny coming from its audience. The kicking game has returned to the button system (goodbye joysticks!) and each team has customizable traits -- I personally like the Vikings horn that goes off in Minnesota. That said, Madden 11 comes up short in some areas. The game desperately needs a more coherent (read: automatic) system for saving and loading, especially for routine roster updates. And how many more times can a player run through referees, walls, or goal posts?

The regular-season and multiplayer modes are more or less on par with Madden 10, with minor improvements. Playing 3 on 3 make for an interesting battle with your friends as you each man a core position (QB, RB, WR on offense, D-Line, LB, or CB/S on defense).

While the speedier gameplay will allow me to play more games, I doubt Madden 11 will hold my attention all year long. However, EA’s renewed focus on listening to its customers has piqued my interest in Madden 12. If they keep the turbo button out for good, I might even consider buying it.

out of ten

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