Madden NFL 11 Review
|Release Date:||August 13th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
American Football. Either you're one of the cultists who stay up till ridiculous times in the morning to watch the games on Sky Sports, or, you think it's rugby for armoured sissies.
If, as I was, you're in the second group, you'd be very wrong.
Yes, the players wear armour, but rather than the game playing like a cross between rugby and Gears of War, Madden NFL 11 manages to bring the high-octane action of American Football - and its strategic depth - to the Xbox 360 in true grandstanding form. Unfortunately if you have no idea how to play American Football, expect a learning curve so steep that you'll need an ice axe and pitons to climb it.
As the latest in a long-running series of Madden titles, the game is the official spin-off of the hugely popular sport and sponsored by the chubby broadcaster himself, no less.
The game has an in-depth career mode, which allows you to take your team of choice (I went for the Kansas City Chiefs) all the way from the start of the season to the Superbowl, when Madden himself will happily yell himself hoarse watching the action.
Plus, if you win the playoff - which will be the hardest match you play in-game - you even get to visit the White House, where a badly-rendered President Obama is waiting to have his photo taken with your coach and quarterback.
The game itself is a highly tactical experience reliant on a series of different 'plays' - formations that deploy your team in a certain way.
These include the 'wildcat' which can quickly turn into a crazed melee of limbs, and are centred around the different aspects of your team: the offensive line, running backs, the quarterback (the key player), receivers, guards and 'ends'.
This aspect of the game is quite easy to get used to, with Madden's patented 'gameflow' system bringing up a selection of plays for you, if you want it, and a simulated coach barking sage advice.
The gameplay itself is fast and furious. Each game takes about 20-30 minutes, which is of course shorter than the real thing, and this makes the player need to constantly push for possession, position and of course that much-needed touchdown.
It's in this situation that 'gameflow' comes into its own, allowing you to plan your strategy quickly, pull off that perfect pass and dodge the opposition all the way to the end zone.
The controls are easy to master - good thing too, judging by the poor quality of the game's tutorial - and the actions you can take as you hurtle up the field are made clear through simple button pushes.
The AI is also pretty astute, and will often match your offensive formation with one of its own, and just loves to intercept the ball and seize possession, forcing you to adapt your play on the fly. It does occasionally make a play that makes no sense, but whether that's a deliberate choice by the developers, I can't tell.
The game features all the major teams, the latest player rosters and just about every stadium in the mainland US. There's an in-depth team-building mode for those of you who love to tweak your team to the nth degree, and a decent transfer market for when you just need that top player at the opposite team's stadium.
As well as the league mode, the game also features a simple exhibition mode, which is ideal for learning how to play the game (trust me, it's essential), a series of historical matches to try, a separate league using older player rosters and, more intriguingly, a set of 'famous moments' from NFL history.
This interesting little mode puts you on the crossroads of some of the biggest moments in NFL of the past few years, and offers you the chance to rewrite them. While most of the moments didn't mean a lot to me, the game does a good job of explaining what actually happened, and it's satisfying to outplay the opposition and listen to the commentators' surprised debate in the aftermath.
The game also has an intensive multiplayer portion, which suffers only a little slowdown and lag from playing opponents who are mostly in the US - and undoubtedly know more about the sport than you do. Be warned, however, that this game is one of the first I've seen on consoles which has a code for multiplayer access, so if you're thinking about buying this game pre-owned, you may have to pay to play.
Graphically the game is pretty well rendered, with the usual problems one sees in sports games, especially those from EA - poorly rendered crowds in the stands, the occasional graphical bug, angular faces and joined-up fingers, but these are minor at best.
The animation on the players is well rendered and accurate, with some of the tackles looking particularly brutal when seen up close. The action between games is a little more jerky, however, with the players looking awkward as they stand around, chumming it up with a bottle of branded energy drink.
Oh, and the less said about the blatant in-game advertising the better. If I see one more advert for Verizon Mobile, Doritos, Old Spice or McDonalds I may have to punt the game's case for a field goal.
The sound is far more interesting however. The game has a pretty cool score, great crowd noises and chants, commentators who don't drive you crazy within two minutes and of course Madden himself, who brings his considerable vocal talent to the game for the big playoffs.
All in all, Madden NFL 11 is a great little simulation of the crazy world of American Football. If you're a die-hard fan of the sport, you're sure to love it. If you're a Gridiron newbie, expect a game that pulls no punches but which can become an incredibly rewarding experience if you learn the ropes, fast.
- All the teams, all the plays
- 'Gameflow' keeps the action racing along
- Great league play, plenty of team-building
Not so good stuff
- Steep learning curve
- Blatant in-game advertising is annoying
- Multiplayer coded
- Occasional bad AI
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