Madden NFL 11 review

  • Turbo-less running game
  • Better Super Bowl celebrations
  • Tackling looks better than ever
  • Glitchy presentation
  • Not-quite-on-point commentary
  • Tedious to play defense

 The annual August release of Madden is a day of celebration for sporting types across the country. Classes are skipped, sick days are called in, and a whole lot of people geek out in delight. This season, most of us who participate in Maddenoliday will be happy; Madden 11 delivers another solid gridiron experience, stuffed with new features, old favorites, and some serious work under the hood. All that heavy lifting leaves the final presentation feeling a little unpolished, though, and a couple yards short of greatness.

Madden feels pretty different on the field this year, due mostly to the long-overdue removal of the Turbo button. Because of this – and some seriously improved blocking - the running game is a delight. Ballcarriers are greatly rewarded for being patient and letting their blockers do their work. Getting rid of Turbo was a gutsy move, but we love it. It forces us to play smarter and removes an undeniably video-gamey mechanic.

Passing isn’t really revamped, although some subtle improvements have been made in how receivers adjust to the ball in the back of the end zone and on the sidelines. More often than not, though, the defensive side of the ball feels gimped. Our linemen consistently got overpowered by their counterparts, while defensive backs seemed incapable of making many open field tackles. More than ever, playing defense is an exercise of trying not to screw things up too badly instead of a way to dominate an opponent.

When defenders do make contact, the improved locomotion system produces spectacularly realistic tackles and physical reactions to collisions. Players still get caught in animations on occasion (particularly quarterbacks in the pocket), but we haven’t tired of the array of brutal hits that pepper each game.

Online play is always huge with Madden, and the newest twist – 3 vs 3 Team Play – is a hit. You and two buddies divvy up the roster three ways to take charge of groups of players (QBs, RBs, and receivers, for example) and coordinate your attack on both sides of the ball. We can see this being pretty darned awesome when you’re teamed up with friends; unfortunately in our limited pre-release play we suited up with a couple of strangers and hilariously uncoordinated failure ensued. It’s a great concept, though, and we’re pumped to give it a more thorough spin once everyone has access.

Another big change this year has been the creation of GameFlow. It’s a lazy Madden player’s dream (or, if you’re all about using the gameplanning feature, a great way to quickly execute your vision). When turned on, it will pick your plays for you and pipe in an assistant coach’s explanation. If you haven’t pre-set a game plan, it’s not particularly effective at anything other than shortening the game a few minutes. Purists need not fear, though, as standard play-calling options still remain.

Our biggest problem with Madden 11 is the less-than-stellar presentation, which is worse than last year. Five years into the life of these consoles, Madden should be buttery smooth from start to finish. Instead, we’re given twitchy transitions between plays, visual pop-in during cutscenes, players gliding through referees, and more-than-occasional half-second pauses just before the snap.

Not all of our presentation gripes are about bugs, either. We love watching our heroes get filthy during rain-soaked games, but that’ll never happen in Madden 11. We played multiple games in different grass stadiums in torrential rainstorms, and not once did the players get a speck of mud on their uniforms. The new audio commentary doesn’t sound quite right, either, as if newcomer Gus Johnson and holdover Cris Collinsworth were calling the same game from different locations. All of these little things add up to a game that just doesn’t look and feel how one of the biggest titles of the year should.

Ultimately, Madden 11 is a good effort, and one that’ll keep most sports fans happy this season. Having said that, it’s not a standout season, unlike some past hallmark Maddens that hold up well today. The guts are there for greatness, but there’s still some work to be done until it reaches that high level.

Aug 9, 2010

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PSP


  • kidzworld - August 13, 2010 5:25 p.m.

    Like with the recent NCAA game, the presentation of Madden 11 is really awesome. If you watch football on TV regularly you will recognize the animations, music and sounds. People unaware might just walk in and think that you are watching a real life game instead of playing Madden. It's that good.
  • swankytarzan - August 13, 2010 3:17 p.m.

    So the game pretty much sucks this year?
  • KingMiedus - August 11, 2010 2:58 a.m.

    The contract is until 2013, one of the head guys at EA though said there will always be an exclusive NFL license whether it be with EA or another company, so we will likely never see proper competition again in the NFL football game department.
  • yonderTheGreat - August 11, 2010 1:47 a.m.

    How long til that stupid contract w/ the NFL expires? I can't wait for quality to return to NFL videogames...
  • revrock - August 10, 2010 5:53 p.m.

    Got it for the Wii this year instead of PS3... I don't play online and just wanted something different (11's demo seemed too similar to 10 on PS3 to me)
  • Samueltehg33k - August 10, 2010 2:26 p.m.

    "+Better Super Bowl celebrations" GAEMS RADER LIBERAL BIAS SHOWING JUST BECAUSE OBAMA SHOWS UP. I kid I kid. :P
  • Samueltehg33k - August 10, 2010 2:23 p.m.

    Did they fix that terrible strat pad from the demo?
  • Draeth - August 10, 2010 1:51 p.m.

    Hard to believe that there's any reason to play Madden 11 over Madden 10 or 09 other than the fact that it's the newest iteration. Seems to me like they're doing the exact same thing the Dynasty Warriors saga has been doing ever since DW 4.
  • usmovers_02 - August 10, 2010 1:06 p.m.

    The patch for Backbreaker is TRASH!! It took the already bad passing game and ruined it by making it so unless you hit FOUR buttons sighing 2 seconds of eachother even a wide open receiver will drop the ball. Wait for the second patch or don't install the patch. That being said, PLEASE REVIEW BACKBREAKER!! (pre patch though)
  • Haxorz - August 10, 2010 6:46 a.m.

    Lol, one page review, ouch xD then again not much to say bout a same old game....
  • KingMiedus - August 10, 2010 4:20 a.m.

    Yeah they fixed a bunch of the crap stuff in Backbreaker apparently, although a little too late given that the majority of a games sales are in its first 1-2 weeks. I think I'll be looking into getting it now though if the patch is as good as I've heard it is.
  • MACGRUBER7693 - August 10, 2010 3:32 a.m.

    I will never be excited for a madden game untill they install a phyiscs engines. Backbreaker pulled of the physics but everything else sucked pretty bad. One of the most broken things about it was the fact that on ofence you could only run straight ahead. It's like they don't have necks.
  • MACGRUBER7693 - August 10, 2010 3:28 a.m.

    @garnsr They can make a hell of alot more money selling it for 60 bucks thats why. Madden may never sell as good as cod or halo (duh) but it's still a profit making machine. People will always buy this at least as long as 2k is kept out of the game and the exclusivity deal holds up
  • Redeater - August 10, 2010 3:28 a.m.

    Line up and buy it once again you cogs.
  • KingMiedus - August 10, 2010 3:26 a.m.

    They should have a 2 year development cycle to really make a complete game. But its a juggernaut and draws in so much money each year that it'll never happen.
  • TheWebSwinger - August 10, 2010 3:26 a.m.

    Really? I've heard only good things about this year. Are GamesRadar...haters??
  • garnsr - August 10, 2010 3:16 a.m.

    Why don't they just upgrade rosters every year? They've had great games in the past, they should just stick with them and use the Online Pass fee to update every year. Will they ever get to that point, or just keep releasing annual so-so games?
  • KingMiedus - August 10, 2010 2:36 a.m.

    Can you guys do a review of Backbreaker now that a new patch has just come out? I heard from one source that it made it much better, but with like to get more opinions on the matter.
  • mahabat - August 10, 2010 2:04 a.m.

    i hope you never get the opportunity to ruin a message board for another article ever again jack
  • jack0827 - August 10, 2010 1:59 a.m.


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