Madden NFL 11 iPhone Impressions

Posted August 17th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

By Corey Andress
Going into the 2010-11 NFL season EA is giving its popular Madden franchise another shot on the iPhone platform. So far EA’s simulation football titles haven’t fared very well in porting over to mobile form. Although Madden NFL 10 was okay for a first attempt it failed to spark any excitement at all for sim fans such as myself. NCAA followed, and was by far one of the worst sports titles I’ve ever played for the iPhone. Gameloft’s attempts haven’t done much better.

From a critical standpoint the odds were pretty much stacked against Madden 11 right from the get go in my eyes. Thankfully, there is a lot to like here, and there still may be hope for football fans when it comes to the iPhone.

Madden NFL 11 released last Tuesday day in date with the console versions. It comes to the iPhone priced at $7.99, and is available in only one version for both the 3 series iPhone and the 4 series. Originally EA was going to offer two different versions – a standard version and a HD iPhone 4 version but rid of that idea at the last minute. Playing the game on the newer iPhone 4 I can say that the game doesn’t disappoint when it comes to looks. The colors are bright and the graphics are very respectable for a mobile port. The Retina display is amazing. If there are some of you who haven’t seen it, it really has to be seen to be believed. Madden does it justice in a big way. Menus are sharp and the stadiums and players are represented well.

Compared to last year’s version Madden doesn’t really bring anything different to the table when it comes to game modes and options. All of the normal offerings are here. Exhibition, Season, and Playoff modes are all represented. There is also multiplayer in Bluetooth form. Right away, for fans of multiplayer, Madden 11 is already a more well-rounded product over the NFL offering from Gameloft, which featured no multiplayer at all.

Although there were no real improvements to the modes in Madden there were a ton of improvements feature-wise when it comes to gameplay. The most shocking news I have to report is that the iPhone Madden actually does some things better than its console counterpart.

The first incredible new feature for Madden is Gameflow. I know there are a lot of complaints for the console version, but for the iPhone there are a few things that separate it and make it fit the platform. The most noticeable change is that each time a play is going to be called by Gameflow there is a visual cue as to exactly what the play is before it is called. While it shows you the play, it also gives you the choice to go to the playbook if you don’t like the play called. I can’t figure out why this wasn’t included in the console version. It saves from using audibles continuously and gives a more clearly defined understanding of what is going to take place. It was a welcome improvement.

During my playtime I also noticed a better Gameflow plan then that of what I saw on consoles. There were no “streak” plays called within 20 yeards of the end zone, and no all-out blitzes on 3rd and 24. It still wasn’t perfect play-wise, but a much better attempt. I also must say that Gameflow is better suited for the iPhone because it cuts down on time incredibly. Going from the slow methodical menu style of NFL 2011 from Gameloft, to Madden and Gameflow was enough to make me never want to use a menu style playbook again on the iPhone – I want quickness. It excels in that department.

The gameplay in Madden 11 is fun. It isn’t without problems, but compared to other efforts, it has taken leaps forward. This year’s passing model remains the same, however the icons representing the receivers are much bigger in size. It isn’t such a burden to locate open guys and tapping the icon works to a charm. There doesn’t seem to be any of the lag that plagued the Gameloft effort or the previous two EA offerings. Hot routes are still controlled by tapping a receiver and drawing the route with your finger. The rest of the offensive game remains the same. Running the ball seems a bit easier, I think due to the improvements in the AI blocking.

As I said before there are areas in the iPhone version that beat out the console offerings. Gameflow was one. The others involve gameplay. First off I’ve seen punt and field goal blocks in the mobile version. I don’t think I’ve seen a kick blocked in a console version in years. It was very neat to see some blocks break down on an extra point attempt and to see my attempt blocked. Another great gameplay feature that works better on the iPhone Madden is the ability to actually complete play-action passes. Anyone that has played the Xbox or PS3 version of Madden can attest to the fact that PA passes just don’t work very well. They do here, and with good QB’s they work fairly well.

On the defensive side of the ball a new feature added to Madden this year was “Total Defensive Control”. It was a good idea, but doesn’t really do anything to add to the gameplay. The feature basically allows you to pause action whether pre-snap or during play. After pausing, you can then draw or change routes that you want your players to take. Want your zone playing CB to blitz? Just tap a button and draw it to make it happen. I just don’t see how it adds to making defense easier or more fun. Why not just control the player and do it yourself? Again, it was a good idea, I just didn’t use it or find it necessary. The one thing I did appreciate on defense though was the ability to just tap a player to take control of him. There was no need to tap a button to cycle through players.

For the most part Madden on the iPhone is a smooth and enjoyable experience. The game runs a lot smoother than NCAA – which was a laggy mess. There were still areas where the frame rate dipped but nothing that interfered with important functions. The engine running Madden should also be commended. CPU AI seems fairly intelligent, and most teams will play as they do in real life. Peyton and the Colts will pass a ton, Carolina prefers to run, and the Jets will blitz the hell out of you. Simming through the season mode I also found some very good stat lines and there wasn’t much out of order. Pretty impressive for a mobile game.

For all of the positives Madden 11 has it’s not perfect by any means. The most obvious failure that Madden has is in the animation system. Players still tend to move in a very robotic fashion and there is a horrible amount of clipping issues. Most times it looked as if the offensive players were tackling the defensive guys. There were also times where the player getting tackled would slide forward or backwards. Players would even get tackled at times when a defensive player didn’t seem to be in the position to make a tackle. Compared to NFL 2011 by Gameloft the animations in Madden are horrible. This is definitely one area where EA needs to improve on in the future.

I’m still not a fan of the plethora of buttons EA has crammed into the screen either. Madden still uses the slow motion button to allow you to create moves with your players. It forces you to hit one button which then gives you the option to hit six different buttons – a different one for each specific move depending on the situation (ball-carrier or defensive pursuit). I find that this function completely takes you out of the action, and really takes away from the fun factor. I think just a simplistic three button system (ie – Spin, Juke, Dive), would fit in better, and keep you focused on the action.

To be completely honest I wasn’t expecting much when downloading this year’s Madden. After the abomination that was NCAA I figured there was no way EA could right the ship in enough time to make Madden a successful product. I’m happy to say that I was wrong with my preconceived notions. Madden 11 is actually good, and although it still has its fair share of nagging issues (animation, button controls) it still hits the mark in many areas. If EA can fix the animation and simplify the controls Madden could make huge strides next year.

If I had to say anything about Madden 11 for the iPhone it would be that I had fun. I actually enjoyed the time I spent with it and could see myself keeping this title on my phone during the NFL season. If you’re a casual football fan I wouldn’t necessarily go and drop $7.99 immediately on it, but be on the look out for a demo or price drop. If you’re a hardcore NFL guy like myself then it’s easy to recommend. Madden 11 as it stands is the best iPhone football game to date.

Madden NFL 11 was played using v. 1.0.0 on the iPhone 4 with operating system 4.0.2
Madden NFL 11 is also available with a version optimized for the iPad for $12.99