The release of EA’s flagship football title is somewhat similar to the annual Hall of Fame game at Canton, Ohio – it rings in the beginning of gridiron season. And like the beginning of any new season, fans will come into the game wondering what the new surprises are, what’s dropped and what’s looking rough around the edges.
First off, the presentation of the Madden NFL 11 on iPhone and iPod Touch is better than last year. Some of the animations are still a little stilted, especially when players collide together to get a pass but in a lot of the other areas things have been spruced up. I liked the fact that stadia were authentic and the fans in the back weren’t simply a 2D picture. This is something Electronic Arts always has a leg up on its competitors and this year is no different. The only problem I find with the presentation is the commentary. There’s still a reliance on Madden here whom I’m sure is no longer recording lines since Cris Collinsworth replaced him on NBC Sunday Night football. His speech is usually off and unfortunately repetitive. It also never jives well with the play by play announcer.
In terms of gameplay, Madden NFL 11 is all about making gameplay quick and easy. By default, GameFlow is turned on, which basically chooses plays for you so you can get back to playing the game rather than browsing through reams of formations and playbooks. It’s a decent system and doesn’t goof up in fourth down situations where you need to punt or kick a field goal. But purists will probably turn it off and select formations that work for the situation or take advantage of their own playing style. Some of the things that have improved include hot route and assignment changes after play selection. This is where the touch interface shines as you literally draw it on with your finger on the screen not unlike what the commentators do with their colorful chalkmarks on television.
Total Defensive Control can drop the defense game into slow motion before or after the ball has been snapped. The game drops into a black and white mode while you make the changes on the field. You can use this to control your fellow AI players to do things their default formation might otherwise not do. This could mean sending linebackers back in coverage or bringing safeties up front to help stop a run.
Overall, I did find Madden NFL 11 easier to play. I’m not of the quickest reflexes but I found the running game enjoyable. Properly executed running plays can net you first downs. Running between the gaps of your offensive line is also possible. Defensively, the game is more balanced as well. Gone are the days when you can sack the quarterback on every single down with a speedster like Dwight Freeney. There are still some items that are not included in the iPhone version of Madden. Multiplayer via the Internet (Wi-Fi for example) is not included. The Superstar mode that has been in the console versions for awhile is also missing. And while there is Season play, it lacks the depth of true franchise play. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, give Madden NFL 11 a try.