Madden NFL 11 still lacks a genuine NFL experience.
In essence this game is Madden 2010 with a roster update.
However, the ratings for players in my view are incredibly innaccurate, the potentinal system is meaningless and some players are missing all together. (Anyone see Anthony Hagrove??)
I shall start with the good points. The offensive gameplay is still pretty good. The game is focused around passing the ball, which is true of the NFL.
The commentary from Cris Collinsworth is easily the best and most enjoyable part of Madden, it's witty, fluid and helpful. The game itself is very accesable to new commers or people wishing to expand their knowldege of the NFL game. Which it will do to a certain extent.
Also as someone else mentioned, the frequency of injuries is improved, whereas before you could go entire seasons without anyone getting so much as a boo boo, now the injuries are much more like real life.
However for me this is where the good stuff ends.
The blocking is the big thing for me. It is diabloical. I don't understand if it's the programming of the game, the animation or sheer ignorance but it is awful. Linemen stray from the pocket, they don't make downfield blocks, Guards and Centres will try to block Defensive Ends and ignore Defensive Tackles which is bad news for everybody (especially your running back whom I'm certain has a look of utter terror as a 320lb Tackle bares down on him unblocked) - this is most typical in goalline situations; your interior offensive lineman ignore the interior defensive linemen 90% of the time. Fullbacks do nothing. Tight Ends can't even hold a block on a cornerback. Remember when Maurice Jones-Drew pancaked Shawne Merrimen? Good luck seeing that happen in Madden.
So how do I know the blocking is so bad? Playing as the Panthes with Pro Bowl All Pro center Ryan Kalil (maybe the best in the game) his first move on a run play was to turn his back to the defence and back peddle into the linebackers, then turn around and look thoroughly confused - this happened more than once in the same game. If this is a glitch then fine, but fix it please? Ryan Kalil or anybody for that matter, is not this stupid.
I played one season as the Bills on All-Pro level and managed to get 30...yes, 30 sacks with Aaron Maybin (currently Maybin is 3 years in the league without a sack). I'm not even THAT good at this game.
Like it or not offensive blocking is the key to the NFL. And in Madden it just isn't there.
Whilst quarterbacks again have been improved, their deep balls are still suspect, even when playing as Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. That's if they're not flat on their butts.
For the Defence;
Again, and this frustrates me, Madden displays a fatal misunderstanding of how the 3-4 defence works. Nearly half of the teams play this style of Defence. What it relies on is the Nose Tackle. The big 300lb guy in the middle taking up double teams and the defensive lineman acting almost as blockers for the linebackers to rush the passer. Not so in Madden. In Madden, the 3-4 plays the same way as the 4-3. So the lineman try to shed blockers rather than occupy them (fine for the run game but the AI rarely runs the ball). This means your linebackers can't get free as quickly (Laurence Taylor of the Giants was almost always a free runner because he was excellent at reading the linemen, not to mention he was great anyway). This means the quarterback gets all day to throw.
The pass coverage is still dire. Even Darrelle Revis cannot cover say...Eric Foster (Who? Exactly...)I don't know if these are glitches or EA misunderstanding how professional Cornerbacks operate but Cornerback reaction times are a tad too slow, but in the NFL a tad too slow may as well be a decade, this is a game of seconds and inches and just watch Revis, Asomugha, Bailey, Woodson. Those guys don't miss. They don't do a 360 turn on the spot before running after the receiver like a mad chicken and then miss the tackle - I can understand that for say...Mike Jenkins but Revis? Come on. There is no sense that the Madden versions of these players take away half the field like they do in the real game. The dominant players fail to dominate.
For Special Teams;
All I can say is, well, good luck. Because once you catch the ball you're on your own.
In the Kicking game, it's guaranteed. On the hardest difficulty setting with no cheats or anything you can get 100% on your kicks every time. It's nice to have those 3 points for sure but it does take away the realism somewhat.
Generally speaking the AI is poor, as is the Ask Madden feature. The new playbook system is not something I particularly admire, in fact for me it's kind of patronizing. I don't want this game to be dumbed down I want it to be clevered up. But hey that's just for me, It probably makes it much more accesible to new comers.
So why is the AI so poor? The opposition will more often than not come out with the incorrect formation, and I don't mean maybe the linebackers shifted to the wrong side. I mean if you come out with 4 recievers the AI will come out with only 2 corners. Likewise if you 'ask madden' it will recomend you to play in a base 4-3/3-4 defence against a spread 4/5 reciever formation.
This is just a niggle, but my gosh is it annoying. the AI kickers will at least half the time miss field goals from 30 yards or less, in clear coniditions too. This eradicates what little challenge there is to the game.
The Franchise Mode;
Is so stripped back is unbareable. There's no practice, the offseason is hardly worth bothering with. You can't scout rookies (as in put them threw drills etc), you can't have pro days. The players don't have personalities (in Madden 08 each player had 'morale' to manage which ment, hey I actually got to deal with T.O., now he's just another name on the roster.) In previous games you'd get newspaper articles to read, not any more.
The thing that gets me though is the coaches. Madden, listen, what is the point. Why have you bothered at all?
There is nothing, absolutly nothing to tell you how good a coach is, he doesn't have ratings, a personality meter, or a 50% good tag or whatever. Playing as the Saints? Fire Sean Peyton! It won't make a difference!
By far the worst part of this game is the Super Bowl itself.
Come on. it's the SUPER BOWL!
How can you tell it apart from any other game you'd play? Your players get a little badge on their jerseys and the field has Super Bowl written on it. There's nothing else. This is THE biggest sporting even on the planet. It's bigger than the Olympics, in terms of people watching it (viewing figures for Super Bowl XLV were 111million in the US and 162.9 million worldwide, I think only rivaled by the FIFA World Cup?), money and pretty much everything. This should be the climax of the game. The final boss like in a FPS! But it's nothing. There arn't even fireworks, there's no unique commentary, the AI isn't any better, there's no unique pre-game animation.
I could hardly feel bothered.
I am sorry if this all seems like a rant but this game is a real dissapointment - a bit like taking a bubble bath without a rubber ducky.
It is not worth the money. The only positive thing it gives to you is a chance to play your favourite NFL team and win 90-0 every time. (even on all-madden difficult this isn't hard - the clincher for me was when the anncouner said, "That's the end of the game, the score St.Louis...90....Pittsburgh...nothing...hmm erm? Likely?) Okay maybe I'm over exaggerating, but I play on All - Pro level and I can win 95% of the time. There is a fundamental reason for this. The AI does not adapt. The computer player will not make half time adjustments, substitutions or tactical changes.
(previously I said It's not worth it, however I'm changing my mind) It is on some level worth it to further your knowledge of the game, you can understand pocket presence (why it's important for a QB to stay still and throw rather than on the run - to increase accuracy, however staying still makes you a sitting duck for pass rushers), reading coverages (football tip - look at the safeties) and understanding blitz packages.
However in essence the Madden game is dumbed down, stripped back and in some places just bad. And the fact that you can give your Quarterback a towel and a handwarmer doesn't make up for anything.
Let's hope that Madden NFL 12 is a vast improvement. I wouldn't mind so much about some aspects of the gameplay if at least there was an atmosphere to the game that was similar to the NFL. I suppose the first thing to hope is the end of the lockout though so there can be a 2011 season and a Madden 12 game!