Madden NFL 11 Review
The Madden franchise has been around for a very long time and each year they try new things to reinvigorate the franchise. This year is no different, but does Madden on the Wii have enough to satisfy football fans or should it hit the showers and try again next year?
I’ve been a very outspoken person when it comes to the art style for Madden on the Wii. I’ve said time and time again that the ultra-realistic look of the HD versions of the game doesn’t work on Wii. Developers need to realize that and stylize their games to fit the system. This has been the biggest points of contention for Madden fans on the system. You either love it or hate it and most people I’ve seen hate it. The players fall into one of three categories and have body styles designed to show instantly what position they play. Offensive and Defensive linemen are huge, while Quarterbacks and running backs are skinnier. The visuals themselves remind me a lot of games like Team Fortress 2 and have a bit of a cartoonish look to them. I think it works well for the Wii and gives the game a unique look that really fits the system.
The stadiums themselves, while also maintaining this cartoonish look are very detailed and look very much like their real life counterparts. You’re not going to get the lifelike representations of the players on the Wii, but I don’t think you need it. Too many people put too much stock into the visual aspects of games and this game looks great. It just has a different style to it compared to the other systems’ releases.
In game animations are also greatly improved over previous versions of the game. In the past it was very hard to tell exactly where a receiver stepped in regards to the sidelines. It was much easier to see this year and I was impressed at how well you were able to use this visually to do things like challenge a play. You really see receivers doing things like toeing the line and they have much more weight to them when making cuts from one direction to another. Visually the game is a vast improvement over previous editions to the game. Whether you like the cartoonish look or not, it’s hard to argue that the game hasn’t improved visually over last year. You even have uniforms that degrade over the course of the game. No one is immune from the dirt and grass stains this year and it will really show on player uniforms.
One thing I really hate about games is having to go through a dozen different menus to find what I’m looking for. Madden NFL 11 really takes the visual approach and combines that with the Wii Remote’s pointer to make navigating through menus a little less tedious. Sure you’re going to have to move through a bunch of menus, but they’re much easier to look at and use a lot of visual cues to show you the information you need.
The biggest area that this is shown off is in the franchise mode. When you enter your franchise you’ll see screen with a bunch of buildings. Each of these buildings holds a different aspect of your franchise where you can see your team’s stats, set prices for merchandise and tickets or even hop in to see your team’s schedule. These buildings will also change over time based on how well your team is doing. If you do well the buildings will be improved and you’ll see things like gold plating appear on them. If your team is doing poorly the buildings will become run down and dilapidated.
You’ll also see lots of things like charts and graphs that give you an instant visual idea of how well you’re doing. For people who don’t like pouring over menus this is a great improvement over past installments.
The Wii versions of Madden over the last few years have been more than just about the on field football. They’ve been designed to get a bunch of people together playing football themed mini-games that are designed for quick play and a lot of laughs. That continues this year with a large selection of mini-games to choose from.
Calling the proper play can be a very daunting experience for people who don’t know a whole lot about football. To help out with this EA has introduced a new feature called GameFlow. This system allows you to call plays with a single button. The game will analyze the situation and call what it feels is the appropriate play for that situation. It means that you don’t have to worry about formations or searching through the huge number of plays in the playbook to find the right call for that situation. If you want a little bit more control over it you can choose arcade style play calling which will give you four options to choose from, short pass, long pass, run, or special teams. It will then give you four plays for that situation that would be good calls. It gives you a little bit more control over the play calling, but still keeps the list of plays limited. For people who want complete control over everything you still have the option to choose from every available play in the playbook. It’s a great way to make sure people of all skill levels can stay competitive and will make it so you can slowly learn the proper way to call plays over time.
Call Your Shots
Call Your Shots is still available for both offense and defense. On offense it’s a great way to have receiver do exactly what you want them to do. There were countless times I wanted to have one receiver run an out pattern toward the line just past the first down marker. With Call Your Shots you can do just that and it works more times than not. It’s a great system that adds a bit of personalization that the other versions of the game just don’t have.
People expecting a very deep and engaging franchise experience might be a little let down by Madden on Wii. You’ve got a traditional NFL season that can be played out like you always can, but there’s not much outside of that. You’ve still got the ability to draft players, sign free agents and make trades, but apart from that it’s pretty much play a game and move on to the next one with very little to do in between. In the past you’ve taken part in team practices, and other off the field things that gave you a little bit more to do outside simply going from one football game to the next. There is no ability to create a custom player to take on the field, and no superstar modes where you play as that player for the entirety of the season.
Throwing the Ball Doesn’t Work Well
One of the big things the Madden developers have been trying to do is minimize the gestures that you perform on Wii. They’ve admitted that they may have gone overboard with the gestures in the past and they implanted a point and pass system last year that continues this year. The problem is that it still doesn’t really work, at least not well for me. There were way too many times that I would try to point to a player only to have them move and it register and me trying to pass to another player, which would many times result in an interception. As a result I quickly switched to the gesture passing system where you press a button corresponding to a receiver and then flick the controller to pass. The problem with this is that it doesn’t always register properly and with so many times when pin point accuracy is required it can be very frustrating to lose possession of the ball because the Wii Remote didn’t work properly. I would really like to see Classic Controller support or even just a button press on the Wii Remote without having to gesture to complete a pass. This is one of those times when I’ve found the Wii Remote to be a very frustrating controller.
One of the things I found sort of annoying is that it’s still not possible to get a completely realistic game of football. If you let the clock run you’ve got guys standing around for 20 seconds or more waiting for you to snap the ball. That becomes very annoying after only a few plays. If you don’t take time to run the clock down you have running backs gaining 300 yards a game and QB’s with 500-600 yards a game. It’s not realistic and it’s not fun. One simple solution would be to include, like on the 360 version of the game, a play clock that runs down 15 seconds or so at the beginning of each play. That would make the game a much more realistic experience and I’m surprised it’s not included considering it had been included in games in the past. One solution is to up the difficulty level. I was playing through the game on Pro difficulty and as this screen shot attests it wasn’t very hard to win games, by a very large margin. Bumping up to All-Pro helped that situation just a little bit making games somewhat more realistic, but still not perfect.
GameFlow, While Good, is Not Perfect
GameFlow works pretty well for the most part, but it does lack in one area. With the HD versions of the game you have a coach who tells you a little bit about why that particular play was chosen. With the Wii version you don’t get that. It simply picks a play and it’s up to you to figure it out. I would have liked to see even some on-screen explanation as to why that play was chosen. Not a big gripe, but certainly one that has to be mentioned.
I’m of two very different opinions when it comes to Madden NFL 11. On the one hand it seems to be designed for a completely different audience than that of the 360 and PS3 versions of the game. The mix of party games are fun, varied and can be challenging when playing with a group of friends. That’s exactly what it seems like the designers were going for; bringing friends and family together for a football party atmosphere where everyone can have fun.
On the other hand, I don’t think that’s who buys Madden games. Those people are the hardcore football fans who know everything about their team and are looking for a deep simulation experience on the field. In that respect the game fails to live up to those expectations. The on field football works well enough, but not well enough for those people. The controls are too finicky to be as accurate as they need to be and it’s way to easy to rack up insane yardage and points scores. For those people, the game may ultimately end up being a frustrating experience, no matter how fun the game may be.
Madden has always been a bit of a tough sell on the Wii. The developers have been trying to make it a fun atmosphere for a large number of people because that’s the type of game that has sold on the Wii in the past. The problem is that Madden fans want a deep experience with a large number of things to do surrounding their football team. They tried to do that this year with Madden NFL 11. The problem is that while the on field football works well enough there are some shortcomings. Franchise mode is taking a step in the right direction and I think that needs to continue for next year. Give people some different control options, bring back the superstar mode and give people the ability to hold online leagues and I think Madden could be a big seller on the Wii. Madden NFL 11 on Wii is a very decent football experience. There are some things that long time fans of the franchise will find missing, but despite all of it’s flaws Madden NFL 11 is still a very good football experience for Wii owners.
Final Score: 3/5 Average
Review Copy of the game provided by Electronic Arts.
Played through an entire season in Franchise Mode and part of a second on a higher difficulty. Sampled most of the mini-games.
Total Play Time. 27 hours