14 October 2010
Many months ago, after reading some of the hype about NCAA 11 and some of the early hype about Madden 11's new "momentum engine", I found myself writing how I felt that this may be a banner year for some EA Sports franchises. However, a week after publishing, EA announced the "Online Pass", and shortly thereafter, Madden's "big" features were revealed to be merely AI-suggested plays and online co-op. And, oh by the way, the news then game that there no enhancements to online franchise, superstar, or much else. Color me depressed and underwhelmed.
NCAA 11 turned out to be a quality release, and a very big step in the right direction for EA for a series who's quality was up and down over the current XBOX 360/PS3 cycle. However, Madden 11 seemed to me to be an "iffy" purchase, at best. The feature set did nothing for me, and I think I share that sentiment with other older repeat Madden buyers. Madden 10 "wowed", while Madden 11's feature set...upon reading...could induce snores.
That said, my good friend Patrick and I have played at least one online game per week against one another using Madden football since Madden 03. So, tradition- and low-level peer-pressure- won out. I went to my local Gamestop and purchased Madden 11. As usual, I played a few games against the AI, and I saw some things I didn't like. Chief among those things were too many 3 on 1 broken tackles for TD by non-power backs. Then, throw in the fact that there is no kick return blocking whatsoever, and Madden 11 was set aside pretty quickly. (edit: Many of these issues have been patched to a varying degree since release.)
Still, I did play my one game a week with Patrick. As with most sports games, if you know who you are playing against, it is much better than going against random cheeser from God-knows-where. So those games were fun. They kept my interest in the game, though not as much as Madden 10 did.
A few weekends ago, my wife and my daughter went shopping, and I had some time to kill around the house. That kind of thing is rare, but very welcomed! That means "Game On!".
That's about the time when I thought "Oh what the hell, I'll try GameFlow playcalling".
Then something funny happened. I didn't hate GameFlow as I had expected to. There seemed to be some "logic" behind the playcalling most of the time. There also seemed to be a foundation of run/pass playcalling balance at the onset of the game. I also noticed how I was whizzing through a game at a much faster clip (as advertised). Now, all that said, I think the offensive "GameFlow" playcalls are a bit better than the defensive ones. Your d-coordinator has a bad habit of calling all-out blitzes with nothing but a deep cover 3 behind it at inopportune times, but you can audible out of it. (And, thank God..because that defense is almost always something that leads to an almost guaranteed 15 yard completion to ANY eligible receiver.)
But even that wasn't without an easy remedy. I removed that play from my slate of "GameFlow" situational defenses.
I could feel myself going from being highly skeptical of GameFlow, to really warming up to it. it was actually starting to feel...dare I say it....very "simulation". Most NFL QB's, aside from maybe Brady, Manning, and Roethlisberger, have to bow to the play by play wishes of their offensive coordinator 8 times out of 10. GameFlow has that, while also allowing you to cancel out of any of those calls you want. What's more, you can write your own gameplan and slate of situational plays before each game, and save them. Don't like a play? Remove it, put in a better one.
..And if you don't feel the same as I do, and don't like GameFlow at all, you never have to use it.
As much as it pains me to say this, I feel that GameFlow, at least on offense, has made me a better Madden player. I'm throwing patterns and trying plays that I normally would have totally avoided, but the sim nature of what my virtual offensive coordinator is "asking me to do" has made me more open to trying them out. I actually find myself liking some of the plays I normally would not have ever tried. I'm doing a better job setting up run plays with pass plays and pass plays with run plays.
Defensively, I'm less enthusiastic about GameFlow, but I try it, and sometimes I like the calls by the D-coordinator, and sometimes I'm just on on-board with his thinking... but, I guess that is sim too, come to think of it.
The strange thing is, despite me liking the leaps that Madden 10 made far more than those of Madden 11, I predict I will probably play more Madden 11 games than I did Madden 10. The reason for this is simple... Even a 75% reliance on GameFlow equates to a game that has the same number of plays run, but about 15 to 20 minutes shorter than before per game. GameFlow simply creates more time for me to play, which is important for us older married guys with a child. The "sim gamer" in me has also warmed up to GameFlow as well.
However, all that said, I still feel that Madden 11 should not have pushed GameFlow as its core "feature". Yes, it can be a very cool feature for some people, however there is no denying that the incremental steps from the gameplay advancements of Madden 09 to Madden 10 are WAY more than what was added between Madden 10 and Madden 11. In short, I wanted- and had hoped for- alot more than EA Tiburon delivered in Madden 10. That said, I will concede that GameFlow is a very cool idea, and I hope the AI driven nature of it is improved and that the feature returns in Madden 12 and so on.
One thing remains clear though. EA really needs to "bring it" with Madden 12. They aren't making many friends with things like making Madden Moments Live a weekly pay-for download to play specific events from a few of the previous weeks' NFL games. Very cool feature, but charging for it? Come on EA! Where is that "Premium Content" that original disc owners were to get because of revenue to be generated by "EA Online Pass"?
...We are still waiting for that answer.
But in the mean time, I think my love-hate relationship with Madden 11 will continue because of some of the good..and some of the cool...and some of the bad...and some of the half-baked.
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