Most sports gaming franchises come pretty close to mimicking the sport and league in their games, but none get as close as the “Madden NFL” series comes to recreating the NFL in a video game.
“Madden NFL 11” hit stores Tuesday to the enormous fanfare the game now enjoys. There are few video game franchises in recent years that have crossed over into pop culture — “Grand Theft Auto” and “Halo” come to mind — but the “Madden NFL” series is definitely one of them. The series has spawned massive worldwide tournaments, midnight launch parties, millions in sales and even a popular curse for the player lucky (or unlucky) enough to grace the cover.
I believe there are two reasons “Madden NFL” has resonated so well with gamers. First, the NFL is the most popular sports league, so the only game with the NFL license is bound to sell well. Also, the game portrays the league, the teams, the players and the sport accurately.
“Madden NFL 11” furthers the realism with a dynamic playcalling system — GameFlow — that draws from actual game situations. The developers watched hours of NFL film and developed tendencies for each team. The game added a playcalling format that has a coach tell you exactly how you should execute the play for the greatest chance of success. It’s a nice addition for those who use the “Ask Madden” feature. It takes that and adds play art and audio instructions for each play.
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The developers claim that GameFlow will cut a game’s length in half by cutting out the excess fat like replays and time spent in the huddle.
The game has a new locomotion system, and the developers retooled the rushing aspects. Running the ball seems smoother and easier than in recent years, particularly over the brutal rushing system in “Madden NFL 10” that made running the ball difficult.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on the cover after leading his team to a Super Bowl victory in January. The cover athlete was put to a vote for the first time, with Brees beating out the Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen and Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts.
The game added other small tweaks, like the exuberant Gus Johnson taking over the play-by-play duties.
Winning a Super Bowl results in a bigger celebration than in years past complete with a post-game ceremony, a parade and a trip to the White House and a meeting with President Barack Obama. The kick meter is different and a little easier to use.
The big changes and small tweaks just keep enhancing the realism in the series, and they continue to push “Madden NFL 11” ahead of all other sports games.