Football! The game of burly men armoured up like gladiators, beating hell out of each other in a bid to move a deformed rugby ball 30 feet up a pitch just so they can do it all over again! Where something that is ostensibly meant to take an hour actually ends up taking more than three thanks to all the stopping and starting! Where you actually pronounce it as Ďfubbalí and in reality use your hands an awful lot more than your feet! Yes, readers, itís the American kind of Football weíre looking at today - the latest in the legendary Madden series: Madden 11.
On firing up Madden 11
for the first time, youíre presented with an insane number of options. First-time players will invariably be dazzled with all the stuff they can do; this is not a game for the indecisive. Franchise mode, Exhibition mode, SuperBowl - it can get a bit bewildering. So, in order to get a grip on the basics, youíre probably best off having a few try-outs on the one-off matches.
Every team in the NFL is available (with completely accurate squads and brilliantly realised stadia), and youíve got hundreds upon hundreds of detailed plays to contend with. So, where do you begin?
Of course, the Madden
series has been around since the 16-bit console days, growing ever more complex as the years have passed. Thankfully, EA has taken note and attempted to make the game a little easier to get into in recent iterations - this year is no exception with the introduction of a new GameFlow mode.
GameFlow is a pretty interesting feature: while Madden
is a game that has a huge number of possibilities in play, GameFlow takes the decision out of the hands of the player, instead giving it to the AI. Youíre assigned a virtual coach who chooses your offensive or defensive plays on your behalf. All you need to do if focus on the play itself - think of it as kind of halfway between the full Madden experience and an arcade mode. Brilliantly, if you have a headset, he creepily whispers tactics in your ear - itís a bit like Manhunt but more tactical.
Using GameFlow isnít necessary though - as with all recent Madden games, you can switch helpful options off to immerse yourself in the full experience, choosing the plays or consulting Madden himself for suggestions.
Get on the Coach
Thereís also a useful new Coaching Tips feature - if youíre playing in Rookie mode, the game pauses at certain points giving helpful pointers. When in game, you also have the usual range of things that can be adapted (switching directions of play, choosing the players youíll pass to, that kind of thing).
Thereís also the very useful Strategy Pad, the introduction of which has somewhat divided the community. Using it enables you to make subtle differences to your play selections. Initially it's probably best to not use it if youíre a new player because it can get pretty confusing. As in the real sport you only have a short period of time to make your choice of play, set it up and run it.
So, once youíve got the hang of how Madden 11
runs (and with all the new simplifications, youíll be up and running after a couple of games) what can you get up to? Franchise mode is the main meat of the game where you can run your team in a thirty year epic extravaganza; everything from Game Day through to the minutiae of day-to-day team management is on offer.
Curiously enough, if you donít want to play the actual game, you can treat Madden 11
as a management simulator, never even having to see a virtual player set foot on a field, just focusing on the stats. The game will simulate every single action in a match on your behalf - a bit less fun, but hey, if thatís what you like...