Madden 11 Hits and Misses

Posted August 24th, 2010 at 11:08 am

With Madden 11 out for two weeks now and having let some of my initial feelings settle with additional play-time I thought it would be interesting to isolate some of the accomplishments in the game along with some areas that it whiffed on. I’ve listed out what I perceive to be the top five hits and top five misses for Madden 11. In addition to this make sure to check out my full impressions and online impressions which present more comprehensive reports on the game. Continue on to check out the top hits and misses and leave your thoughts in the comments!

Fun Factor
For me this is always a big thing and tends to get overlooked when a game gets analyzed, but due to the the general gameplay enhancements and CPU AI improvements Madden 11 can be extremely fun and very satisfying.

Online Team Play
Though there are some difficulties in terms of setting up games and there is no real incentive to continue playing after the initial “new” feel wears off the mode has a ton of potential. It brings in a totally different focus with communication, strategy, and teamwork being critical to success.

The enhancements to locomotion, though not as obvious as in NCAA, really took Madden to another level on the field. I especially like the “anything can happen” wide-open nature that comes along with it. For too long Madden has at times felt as though it was almost scripted and thankfully that isn’t the case with Madden 11. I also have ended up really liking the removal of a speed burst button which makes the running game more responsive and a blast when in the open field.

GameFlow and GamePlan
Though not perfect (the mobile versions of Madden have superior GameFlow) it did accomplish what it set out to do and that is to make Madden more accessible and the games quicker to play through. I don’t trust it completely and have to audible frequently but I appreciate that it allows for the focus to be on the gameplay instead of rummaging through the playbooks. Setting up a GamePlan can be tedious but it is a nice way to collect favorite plays in one place. Would like to see custom playbooks and/or GamePlan provide the ability to pull plays from all teams and not just one.

Atmosphere and Audio
For the first year with a new broadcaster EA did a remarkable job with Gus Johnson. Obviously there is a lot of work to be done to mesh him with Cris Collinsworth and better blend Gus’ audio dependent on situations with player names and the action being called fitting properly with his voice level and enthusiasm. Bringing in the team specific crowd chants and fight songs also made a big difference. The more of these touches EA can add in the better as they really connect fans with the emotions had from watching real NFL games. Going forward though a home-field advantage and different stadium noise levels should be considered.

The tackling is certainly a weakness this year, with support from teammates being largely ineffective. The number of broken tackles are alarming and not just from players that you’d expect would be tough to take down. This is one of the big reasons why the games trend towards offense having the advantage.

Online Design Decisions
Allowing for people to quit in the first half of games with no repercussions (other than DNF%) and those getting quit on not getting a win or even the chance to play out vs the CPU was a baffling decision. Madden Ultimate Team being in an even worse position with people able to quit at any point, even seconds remaining, and it is like the game never even took place for both parties. Both have since been resolved. EA removed the ability to play friends or challenge others in lobby rooms to ranked games. The kick meter faces some big lag issues which is bad enough that even extra points are occasionally missed. GameFlow sometimes helps to speed games up, other times it just means more waiting around if an opponent chooses to bypass it. There is no central profile to check up on your own record, results, and stats.

The “Swagger” rating (sponsored by Old Spice) was supposed to lead to auto-celebrations depending on the player’s rating. However the actual celebrations have been disappointing, outside of the Lambeau Leap. When I saw Chad Johnson catch and run for an 80 yard TD and stop, just stand there, and not celebrate in any way I questioned the effectiveness of “Swagger”. The emotion after scoring TDs seems to be largely missing which is disappointing. The cut scene celebrations often involve players who have no business being there and the “jumping around and into each other” thing got old the first day.

This year the downloadable content strategy in Madden 11 has taken a turn to the obnoxious and offensive. “Coins” can be used to purchase online play scouting reports, cheats/boosts in franchise mode and Online Team Play, support Madden Ultimate Team mode, and will be used to purchase upcoming Madden Moments Live weekly offerings. Providing a competitive advantage online to those who pay for it is the worst part of all this.

Isolated Issues That Stand Out
There are a number of problems that on their own can really damage the overall experience. The change to the “Strategy Pad” is one many have disliked. But issues with Play-Action (pretty much calling for a sack), kick return blocking (non-existent), CPU kickers in weather (they miss most field goals and even some extra points), and QB Storylines (one tends to play for most matchups) are impossible to ignore.