By Matt Keach
Madden 11 begins with a great opening cinematic of Drew Brees leading the Saints to the Superbowl. Deservedly so: championship teams have earned their time in the sun. Following the cinematic, there is the tedious and the obnoxious: would you like to sign up for an EA newsletter? Would you like to sign up for X or Y? “No, no, no,” I’m thinking, “just get me to the game.”
Of course, E.A. has put yet another roadblock in my way: I am now required to enter a code from the box to play online. Very well. I go searching for the code on the instruction booklet. When I find it, I must determine what the difference is between an electronic “8” and an electronic “B”. I never did quite figure that out, but after a series of guesses, I was finally able to play the game. Ten to fifteen minutes of nonsense, all told.
Looking through the Jets Madden roster for the 2010-2011 season, there aren’t many surprises. This team is loaded on the field, and the ratings reflect that.
There are few places where this is more apparent than at wide receiver: Holmes (87 OVR), Cotchery (85 OVR), Edwards (85 OVR), and Coles (75 OVR) make for one of the deepest wide receiver groups in Madden 11. As to defense, the Madden 11 Jets are loaded up the middle with Kris Jenkins (NT, 94 OVR) playing in front of David Harris (MLB, 91 OVR) and Bart Scott (MLB, 89 OVR) and with all of these pieces in front of a 99, 83, 85, 77 secondary (Revis, Cromartie, Leonhard and Smith, respectively).
The only noticeable area where Madden 11 is just completely bonkers here is the ridiculous mistake of rating Vernon Gholston (RE, 75 OVR) six points higher than starter Mike DeVito (RE, 69 OVR). Mike DeVito was a very solid if unspectacular lineman for the Jets last year, and if the Madden team still felt it necessary to insult him with that rating, then they should have at least bumped Gholston down significantly. There is no justification for giving Vernon Gholston a 75 OVR rating when his usual view of the field requires a pair of binoculars.
The presentation in Madden 11 is slightly improved. That’s not saying much, of course, since Madden 10 and previous incarnations have set the bar low.
Let’s take a look at the bad news first. Unfortunately, Cris Collinsworth’s commentary returns this year, and he’s just as annoying and repetitive as ever. He even has some of the same exact sound bytes all over again. For example, “the Jets are putting together a good looking drive here. That’s their third first down.” It’s not only the same sound byte, it’s said in the same tone of voice and with the same emphasis as last year. I’m positive that they’ve just copied the clip from Madden 10 to Madden 11. I’m sure there are other repeated clips as well.
Besides being repetitious, Collinsworth is often simply wrong about his analysis of the game. In one game, it was fourth down and 1 from the opponent’s 18 yard line and I decided to go for the first down conversion. When I didn’t make the conversion, Collinsworth chimed in saying, “they really should have punted the ball.” Now I know Nick Folk isn’t the best field goal kicker in the NFL, but I think I’d rather attempt a 30 yard field goal than punt from the 18. What’s that punt going to net me, Cris? 5 yards?
Besides things about the game that aren’t true, Collinsworth also likes to say things about players that aren’t true. Mark Sanchez is one of the most accurate passers in the NFL? Really? I’d hate to see the least accurate. In a Jets-Baltimore game, Collinsworth made vague references to experienced quarterbacks: Flacco and Sanchez. 3 years combined is not experienced, Cris.
On the plus side, Madden 11 introduces Gus Johnson as a second commentator. The best thing about Gus Johnson is that he is not Cris Collinsworth. The second best thing about Gus Johnson is that his presence takes sound clip time away from Cris Collinsworth.
The biggest positive to Gus Johnson that is not Cris Collinsworth related (most of them are), is the energy and life he occasionally brings to the game…. when he feels like it. When you score a touchdown with the Jets, Johnson occasionally exclaims, “touchdown! Gang Green!” When a ball carrier breaks away from the pack, Johnson begins to hum what sounds like the Batman theme song. Overall, Gus Johnson is a welcome addition. The only problem with him is that he doesn’t know Jim Leonhard’s name. When Leonhard makes a play he attributes it to “Lester.”
The cut scenes before the game look pretty cool, though not too much better than Madden 10. In my first game at New Jets Stadium, it show clips of tailgaters and players arriving off the buses, set to the background music of the sports classic “Rock & Roll part 2.”
As I mentioned before, my first game was vs. Baltimore and it was in franchise mode. Now, when it’s in franchise mode, I expect to hear story lines… especially when it’s a game like New York vs. Baltimore, since it’s loaded with them. Collinsworth and Johnson mentioned that there were “a lot of story lines”, but never discussed the fact that Rex, Leonhard and Scott were playing their first game against their old team. I expect that to be mentioned.
Right before the first kickoff, the game played the opening clip from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”, which I thought was quite fitting for the moment. It certainly added to the atmosphere.
The coaches and the stadiums look more like real life than ever before.
There are a couple of “Jets-isms” in the presentation that are sprinkled throughout game play. First, there’s the “J-E-T-S” chant, which is performed after a scoring drive and before a kickoff. Second, there’s the air raid siren. It plays every time the defense comes on the field. I think this is a cool feature for Madden 11 to add, it brings a certain sense of realism to the game.
Game play is a mixed bag.
The kicking has changed. Instead of using a flick of the thumb stick, players are required to press a button to stop a sliding horizontal bar. The bar must be stopped for both power and accuracy. What’s good here is that, for once, the player has more of an impact on kick accuracy. The downside is that many people were used to the old system. In my experience, the game occasionally lags online. That wasn’t a problem with the old thumb flick kicking system, but it will be a problem here, since the game may not accurately reflect the timing of the button push and this may cause a PAT or FG to go off target.
My first impression is that kickoff returns feel more realistic. More kick returns are stopped at the 20’s, there are also more touch backs than I’m used to.
Madden 11 continues the tradition of Madden 10, to make the franchise’s game play more “realistic” and less arcade-like. There seem to be less glitches, players move in a more predictable fashion.
At first glance, run blocking looks to be improved considerably. I now do tremendous amounts of damage when I follow my blocks faithfully, and get stuffed when I do not. One poor aspect of the game play for me thus far is the amount of dropped picks. In about 10 games, I’ve seen interceptions dropped at a rate of about 5 per game. That seems quite high to me.
My fellow Jets fans may be pleased to know that you can, in fact, run the wildcat with Brad Smith. A welcome change.
The new “Game Flow” feature allows you to make an offensive and defensive gameplan. For the game plan, you will decide which plays you would like to run in certain game situations (1st and 10, 3rd and short, goal line, etc.) Then, in game, it picks a play for you from the ones you indicated you’d like to run in that situation. My game plan, for example, would have me run my favorite inside handoffs or short play actions passes when I’m on the goal line. You can game plan for a specific game, or you can keep a generalized game plan throughout.
Now, don’t worry. When you’re given a play call, you always have the option of audibiling out of it. When you first try to audible, you can pick a general play type (quick pass, PA pass, run, etc.) Beyond that, you can select from a list of specific plays if you’d like. Also, you can always choose to go to the full playbook at any time, if you’d prefer to do that. If all this still troubles you, there’s always the option of turning off “Game Flow” completely. Thus, I consider “Game Flow” to be a net positive for this game.
I’ve adjusted to this system, and I really enjoy it. It speeds up the game and automatically gives you the plays you would call anyway, and even lets you pick whatever play you want at any time, if you really feel like something unusual is called for.
Accompanying “Game Flow”, your offensive and defensive coordinators actually “radio” the play into you. You’ll hear/see their play call on screen or in your headset, as they tell you the purpose of the play and what to look out for. I don’t find this particularly helpful as a vet of the game, but new players might.
The “strategy pad” is, on the other hand, a complete disaster. All of your hot routes and shifts have been moved to the directional buttons (on the Xbox 360, but I think the same is true for PS3). The problem here is that it makes using shifts and hot routes rather difficult. You have to move through multiple menus. It is a total nuisance and not as easy to use as the old system. Thankfully, E.A. is going to be releasing a patch that will allow you to turn the “strategy pad” off.
Madden 11 also has “team play” which allows you to team up with 2 friends to run a team cooperatively. On offense, one player is in charge of quarterbacks, another running backs, and a third is in control of receivers. On defense, one player runs the defensive line, another uses the linebackers and a third utilizes the secondary.
I prefer to play my friends head to head in Madden, but this is a nice feature nevertheless. Based on each player’s performance with a specific unit (like linebackers or wide receivers), they can get upgrades to their performance in the future.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my look at Madden 11 from the perspective of a Jets fan. GO JETS! Here is a discussion thread about Madden 11 from the Jet Nation forum.