Madden 11 Demo Impressions and Videos

Posted July 28th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

The demo for Madden 11 released yesterday and impressions started pouring in from everywhere. I sat back and tried to slowly digest my thoughts on it and took a bunch of notes based on my experience. Continue on to check my stream of impressions on the Madden 11 demo and the game in general leading into the full release along with two lengthy gameplay videos and some screenshots. As always feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Needless to say the Strategy Pad is the hot topic and has resulted in major discontent within the Madden community. It will probably have to be dealt with, through a patch if possible, though it seems to me EA is hoping for the issue to blow over rather than to address it.

With the lack of time to make changes before the snap, I found on defense an annoyance that comes from skipping through the QB walk-up to the line of scrimmage scene. Pressing the button also switches the player being controlled. It is necessary to skip that scene to have a second and analyze how the offense is lining up. Instead it switches the player I’m controlling, which means even more time spent having to switch back before I can make any adjustments (if there is time to do so). *Thanks for cbrock24 in the comments for mentioning that hitting “show play art” will skip the scene without changing the player controlled.

While I like the new layout for audibles one thing that seems to have been overlooked is now anyone that plays head-to-head in person will have the audible they selected exposed to their opponent. It would have been better to have specific buttons mapped to each type of audible at least as one way to select the play type desired. As it is now the user has to scroll over to the type of play they want and that gives it away to an opponent.

I like GameFlow for offense but don’t trust it for defense. Setting up a GamePlan helps for both, however I wonder how many casuals will actually spend the time to create them. The default GameFlow seems to call the same type of plays over and over and on defense the calls can be terrible (all out blitzes on 3rd and long???).

My basic feeling at E3 when it came to locomotion was that Madden was similar to NCAA but a little slower and more restrained. That definitely remains the case. Its a matter of preference I suppose, and in a way the different styles suit the differences between college football and pro football.

The commentary is certainly improved by bringing in Gus Johnson, he adds a spark of excitement to Madden, though the game still largely lacks emotion. I understand that there are many issues with the commentary, but that is to be expected in the first year of bringing someone new in. It takes several years to build up the commentary library and get it to mesh to where it feels natural.

Seen a good deal of comments about the camera angle, which does seem to be pulled back farther than in the past. That makes it easier to see all the action on screen at once but can mess with perception. I’ve misjudged spacing in particular because of it.

What happened to the blocking on kick returns? I struggle to even get to the 20 on most returns, and when the CPU returns I can pretty much have my pick of players that run free for the tackle.

Broken tackles seem to happen a bit too often on All-Pro in one-on-one situations. Even lanky receivers like Braylon Edwards shed would-be tacklers way too easily.

Getting a flashback to years ago when I couldn’t run play-action because it was almost surely to result in getting sacked. I feel very uneasy calling PA once again which is unfortunate.

It is nice being able to throw towards the sidelines and know the receivers will attempt to get their feet down. Overall there are some impressive catch animations this year though I’ve also seen a curious number of drops. Not sure if that is a problem or just an anomaly.

The kick meter was changed this year due to getting feedback that the previous way using the right stick was too hard/complicated. In this case I actually like the change even though it isn’t necessarily more challenging. I have found that there is more differentiation between the good and bad kickers now.

Anyone who has played the demo on Pro difficulty probably noticed how that has gotten easier. As with the feedback to kicking, what EA got back on Pro difficulty was that it has been too hard. All-Pro and All-Madden weren’t dumbed down though.

Peyton Manning ripped me to shreds on All-Pro. Part of that is probably because I was just using straight GameFlow which made some terrible defensive calls, but I was impressed with the decision making and ability to throw down field. It kept me on my toes more than I can ever remember in another Madden.

I’m undecided on the pass rush. I’ve gotten pressure at times on the CPU, but more often than not it seems they have plenty of time to throw. That might also be one of the reasons why Manning was so effective.

I expected to be able to rely on Revis Island for shutting down a particular side of the field. I was surprised to see that it really didn’t turn out that way. Peyton Manning didn’t seem to hesitate throwing his way any more than he did throwing against lower rated corners.

Very disappointed by the atmosphere and crowd sounds. The biggest issue is the crowd goes completely dead after a play ends until the snap of the next one. This might be to keep from drowning out the annoying coordinator? Hopefully it is just a demo specific issue. I can say if the crowd sounds in Qwest are weak I probably would lose complete interest in the game. The in-stadium experience is that important to me.

I mentioned emotion lacking earlier, and though some of the cut scenes attempt to add it in, a few of them totally take me out of the experience. I’ve had long TD passes where it then cuts to the WR celebrating with offensive lineman???

There is no surprise onside kick. I said after the Super Bowl that they would have to add this in. How can Madden be missing something that played such a significant role in the Super Bowl and happens from time to time in other games as well?

I like the look of the replays, though as with NCAA I don’t know why they need them to be in such extreme slow motion. Most people aren’t going to wait around 15 seconds watching the ball spin in the air or whatever to get to the end of the replay. We also really don’t need auto-replays of extra points.

I think the game looks especially good in replays as it relates to player movement. Graphically the game isn’t quite on par with NCAA in areas such as player models and lighting. However Madden faces more of a challenge considering they have to realistically replicate all the players unlike NCAA which just works with generic ones.

Overall there really isn’t much compelling to me about Madden 11 and that remains a big disappointment coming off Madden 10 which I had a lot of fun with. I’m more of an NFL guy, which is why all things being equal I tend to prefer Madden to NCAA. It just still seems clear to me that over the long run I’m going to get far more value and enjoyment out of NCAA Football 11.