This year's E3 has put a lot of pressure on EA Sports to really step their games up when it comes to the quality of the titles they are putting on the market. FIFA 2010 World Cup was a huge improvement over FIFA 2010 and FIFA 2009, and even Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 was graphically cleaner than in year's past. We were really hoping the same for Madden NFL 11, especially after the release of Backbreaker this month, but it seems like there's mixed emotions across the industry.
Want to know what we think? Hit the break for our take on the game.
We can address the things that are positive about this year's Madden. They've introduced GAMEFLO Technology, which is something that has been in the game for years, but they are relaunching it with a couple of new features and a new name (typical Madden). GAMEFLO will allow new users to a game to ease into the depth that is playcalling in the NFL by having a select set of plays available for you given the current position, down and yards-to-go on the field. GAMEFLO will also allow advanced users to customize those set plays based on their own game style and preferences. This should help level the field of play when novices are playing expert players.
Another cool addition is having commentator Gus Johnson calling the action. If you've never heard of him, go search his name on YouTube and you will see why he will bring a vibrant new feel to the game.
However, they have covered up the same problems that have existed in the game since Madden 2005 by having Joe Montana come out and talk about how exciting and in-depth the GAMEFLO feature is and nothing more. EA talked about how they look for this year's game to be "Deeper, Simpler, Quicker", and to me, I see a lot of problems with that when it comes to that.
Depth is always good, and simplicity is an excellent thing, but from seeing the several "enhancements" in the game, I have noticed that they have severely hindered the expert player's ability to really dive into customizing everything they see on the field, like substitutions, custom packages and audible capabilities, in order to balance the level of play. In essence, they have added depth in certain areas but removed it little by little each year, culminating with this year's version. They may have made the game simpler for new players but the core gamers are becoming more and more riled up with each feature being removed or nerfed from the game.
As far EA claiming the game to be quicker, all we have heard so far is that you will be able to play a full game in half the time. By default, an online ranked game is five minute quarters, which usually takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes to complete. They are now claiming I should be able to complete a five minute quarter game in 15-23 minutes. That doesn't add up to me. Are they going to keep on the accelerated clock through every play? Will they remove substitutions completely? Will certain playcalling options be removed, like passing when you're in the lead to keep the clock moving? I guess we'll see when we get some insight into the live gameplay.
The last thing I want to address is the actual game mechanics. During the EA presentation, we saw some gameplay where they had selected a pass, audibled to a run based on what they saw on defense, and the running back had a huge play. All looked good from face value, as they were explaining how certain conditions call for certain plays to be run, but everyone over looked a small problem that has loomed Madden players for years. When the running back was moving forward with the ball, if you paid close attention you saw one of the defensive players completely freeze, into what the hardcore Madden community calls a "holding cell", and do a three-quarters spin before releasing to go after the running back, allowing him to have enough time to reach the first down.
Some may argue that because it was an E3 demo it was planned that way, and I might have agreed, but after watching some of the alpha and beta gameplays I cannot. The problems were there too. You can go all the way back to Madden 2006 and you can still see problems like that and the dreaded "lead foot" exist - where your offensive player, who will be faster than the defensive player, will stutter in order to allow the defensive player to move into better position for the tackle. During the beta gameplay I've watched, I've also seen the same "fusion" that I've seen in Madden's past, where players and the football will just merge into each other in order to get a favorable result for the opponent.
If problems like this continue to plague the game this year, I, a diehard Madden fan since 1995, will not be purchasing this year's version. We, as a gamer nation, cannot continue to stand for a deteriorating quality of gameplay in order to keep games "fair". Instead, developers should continue to patch the issues with the game to make them more competitive. What do you think? Are you buying Madden NFL 11 this year? We want to know! Comment us and weight in on the topic.
Also, don't forget to check out PLuGHiTz Live! Radio Tuesday night @ 9PM Eastern for our Microsoft and EA recap show where we will break down these topics!