Like countless others yesterday, I waited not-so-patiently in line at Best Buy to pick up my pre-ordered copy of Madden 2011. Having played the 2010 version up until the day this new one was released, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I hadn't read that many reviews, but the techie in me just knew I needed the latest and greatest of the legendary video game series. So, as I tore off the painfully well-wrapped shrinkwrap, popped the disc into my XBox, and settled myself into my couch for a night of gaming, here's what I noticed about Madden '11, from an Eagles point of view.
One of the great improvements to the Madden series over the past several years has been the ability to download updated team rosters throughout the season. This way, gamers can account for trades, new signings, injuries, etc. Of course, since the game has been released, there have already have been a significant amount of roster changes in the NFL (and plenty more to come as the preseason gets underway), so a new roster download was available immediately upon starting the game. I did, however, take the time to note some interesting changes between the default Eagles roster and the latest update:
- Eldra Buckley is not in the latest update, and has been replaced by J.J. Arrington and Charles Scott. In fact, if you look through the free agent list, you'll find that Buckley has been removed entirely. Harsh.
Marlin Jackson has also been removed entirely, and replaced by Kurt Coleman. This, I have a little more of a problem with. Just because a player is currently on IR doesn't mean that they shouldn't be available for the next season. Can't you take Franchise mode through 30 consecutive seasons? They must really think that Jackson's out of football for good. (On a semi-related note, Victor Abiamiri's in-game persona seems to be alive and well.)
- Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has been added to the roster, although his picture is blank. Jamar Chaney also makes an appearance, complete with a headshot. Keenan Clayton and Jeff Owens are nowhere to be found.
One of the loudly-touted features of Madden '11 is the fluidity of the runner. I'll admit, I was skeptical at first, having seen many "lifelike" movement upgrades over the years, but I think this one really takes the cake. Juking is a hell of a lot easier - case in point: during my first game against the Packers, I decided to go with a pass play about twenty yards out. Jeremy Maclin caught the ball around five yards short of the goal line, but was able to lay down a juke so fluid that it sent Al Harris falling flat on his face. The result? TD!
One negative though is the return game. In this new version, the return men no longer stand still while waiting for the ball to drop into their arms, but rather perform this ridiculous butt wiggle maneuver. Since the virtual Ellis Hobbs now apparently feels obligated to do a little boogie before returning the kickoff, I've been slammed behind the 20 yard line every time so far. Perhaps I'm pressing the buttons wrong, but it's just something I thought I'd point out.
One thing that annoyed the hell out of me in Madden '10 was all the little video clips that kept playing during the game. Every time a play ended close to the first down marker or goal line (which felt like almost every time) a clip would play where you'd see the virtual referees run out to check the measurement and determine if the ball had crossed the line. While this was kind of cool at first, it got really annoying if you were trying to get through an entire season's worth of games in one sitting. This new Madden appears to have been customized for players like that. Gone are the clips of refs mulling over plays with little or no effect on the game, gone is the lengthy (and frankly, pretty lame) halftime show with Fran Charles. This game is built for speed.
Oh and speaking of speed, if you're the kind of player who always likes to "Ask Madden" for every play (guilty), then you'll find the new "Gameflow" option to be pretty helpful. It lets Marty Mornhinweg and Sean McDermott choose the plays for you, while explaining the goal of each play. Don't worry though, you can still get Kevin Kolb to audible if you don't like what the coordinators have come up with.
True to their word, the folks at EA did include the "Fly, Eagles, Fly" fight song as an in-game track that plays whenever you score a touchdown at the Linc. E-A-G-L-E-S chants are also heard throughout the game when appropriate, creating a pumped-up atmosphere.
The in-game announcers also discuss the switch from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Kolb during the pregame warmups whenever you play the Giants, Cowboys, or Redskins. Interestingly though, this audio clip doesn't stop playing after the first year in franchise mode.
One negative, though: in the video that plays when the disc is first loaded, not a single Eagle makes an appearance. Granted, I realize that the game is supposed to focus on the Superbowl-champion Saints, but a few other teams are shown in the video. Surely the Eagles must have had one highlight-reel worthy play last season?
Griping aside though, for the price tag, Madden 2011 is well worth the money. I can think of no better way of bashing virtual Tony Romo's face into the ground after a frustrating day at the office.