PS3 Review – Madden NFL 11

The Madden football series dates all the way back to 1989 and has been going strong ever since. The series has spawned full fledged tournaments, spin offs (Madden Arcade), and even rumors of a curse brought to those who grace the cover of the title year after year. This year Drew Brees, of the Super Bowl Champions, the New Orleans Saints, was chosen as the newest cover athlete for Madden NFL 11. Time will only tell if he falls victim to the fabled Madden curse. But the real question is how does this years installment hold up in this historic series?

Madden regulars will feel right at home with the game’s modes. on the menu screen you’ll find exhibition, co-op play, online, franchise, NFL Superstar, and Madden Moments to invest time in. One mode we found that was particularly enjoyable besides the staple online and franchise mode was  Madden Moments. This mode places you in the shoes of a chosen team in a given event that occurred this past season. A lot of times players will be required to either repeat or even change history by replaying a game from a certain point which is detailed in the summary. Madden vets will find that their beloved franchise and online modes are well intact and virtually unchanged.

There have been a few tweaks overall that add to the game and the level of realism within the title, mainly cutscenes, gameplay tweaks, etc. but other than that, it’s the same stuff you should be used to by now. One welcomed addition is the co-op aspect of the title. The 3 on 3 co-operative play allows you and two others to take on 3 opponents within one game. Each player will be given a specific role within the game. Upon carrying out the role well, players will earn a series of bonuses. It will play out like any other game, but at the same time it is a completely different experience given the fact that their are 6 people total on the field that are not A.I and it’s even better if you know all of the players personally.

Now for what the real Madden fans are wondering, how does franchise and online matchups hold up in this years version? Well to put it simply, they’re what you’ve come to expect from the annual gridiron king. The franchise mode is a lot of fun overall; they have tweaked a couple things here and there, but nothing that is a complete overhaul. Though things are much more smoother and responsive within the menus, this allows for a much better user experience. When it comes to Online matchups this is another mode that keeps users coming back year after year. While playing online there were no real issues that were noticed. The gameplay was great and no hiccups when playing an opponent online, and that is all that can be asked for.

The biggest overhaul in this year’s Madden is definitely some of the gameplay aspects. Some have complained about one of the new features called GameFlow, while others have decided to wait until release to deliver a verdict on this system. The complaints have stemmed from the fact that fans are saying that they are “dumbing down” Madden, and initially when trying out the feature at E3 it was easy to see where they were coming from. Now that the full retail release is out, I found myself using GameFlow a lot. It trims down game time immensely. So for those that are trying to get a quick game in, it is now possible with GameFlow.

Some of my fastest played games clocked in at around 30 minutest or so, when most games take me much closer to an hour. While GameFlow is definitely not for everyone, the ability to use it at will is definitely a huge plus. The fact that it can also be used as sort of a hybrid is great as well. For those that don’t enjoy calling defense, they can use GameFlow, while still using the conventional method for their offensive plays. Also players now have the option of not using the turbo feature, meaning the game itself will decide when it is best for the ballcarrier to use turbo/sprint. This is another thing that can be turned off via the settings for those that would like to stick to the previous system.

Also a great new feature is that when attaching a headset you will actually be able to hear the coordinator speaking about which play has been called. This new feature works with both GameFlow and conventional play calling. This is another element that adds to the realism in making you feel as if you are actually – as EA Sports says it best – “in the game”.

The feature that was highly praised in the recently released NCAA Football 11, Dual Stick Controls, also is featured in this year’s release of Madden. This system works just as well, if not better, in Madden. The running feels phenomenal in this title, and was easily the most enjoyable features of the game. There are huge differences between a quick cutting back, an all around back, and a power back. They all handle differently, and require different techniques to match their running styles. For those that weren’t able to check out NCAA Football 11 here is a quick overview of Dual Stick Running. The right analog stick still counts for tasks such as juking and trucking opponents, while the left stick controls the players movement, but also takes into account how/which way the player is leaning. Tie this in with the locomotion system, and you have one of the best running systems implemented in a football game.

The passing game works great as well. Receivers will drag their feet automatically now, which definitely adds a realistic touch. This was a major complaint in previous Madden titles; you’d be called for going out of bounds when the player could have easily just tapped his foot down in bounds and completed the play, just like they would in a real NFL game. Quarterbacks also are much more resilient and try to shed defenders that are attempting to sack them. Tie this in with the much more realistic movements for quarterbacks that are scrambling, and you will find that the passing game has undergone quite an upgrade.

Defensively, especially on the defensive line, it is a much smoother experience when playing. In past installments it was extremely difficult at times to get to the quarterback because offensive linemen would become bunched up at times, but that is not the case this year. Also it is much safer to be able to rely on the coverage of your secondary, considering that they seem to react a lot better off the initial movement, this puts them in a much better position most of the time.

Environment seems to play a big role in this years title as well. Given the fact that the coordinator in your ear giving you advice already makes you feel as if you are there, the graphics themselves are the best seen in a Madden title. The stadium will be packed as your team exits the tunnel, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Small things such as seeing the player of the game being interviewed, players giving fans high fives post game, etc. all add to the realism that EA Sports focused on in this years Madden.

This is without a shadow of a doubt the best Madden title we have seen in a long time. For those complaining that EA Sports attempted to make it too mainstream, every one of those settings can be turned off via the options. Give the game a shot, both long time Madden fans or football fans new to the series will not be disappointed. The level of realism along with the revamped running and passing systems, make this years Madden definitely worth the price of admission. The level of detail, gameplay mechanics, and features that EA Sports have stuffed into their perennial football franchise has resulted in the best football title that has ever graced consoles. In other words, go pick up Madden NFL 11 right now!

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Easily the most realistic football game to date

EA Sports has improved the running and passing game dramatically

Some of the new features will attract more casual players

9 out of 10