Madden NFL 11 First Hands-On

EA Sports' new gameflow feature looks to capture the casual and hardcore football fans alike. Check out our first look.

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I'm driving the ball with the New Orleans Saints, re-creating the 2010 Super Bowl matchup between New Orleans and the Indianapolis Colts. All of a sudden, a coach is screaming in my ear about a receiver's route and the precise time to let go of the ball. Following his advice, I lock in on the receiver and let the ball go at the right moment. My receiver catches the ball as he nears the sidelines; then, with obvious effort, he gets both feet in bounds to move the sticks and continue my drive. Time to move on to the next play; this time, the coach has a screen play in mind and he's telling me what to look out for in terms of blocking…

Welcome to gameflow, the newest addition to EA Sports' upcoming football game Madden NFL 11. At its heart, gameflow is a feature that simplifies the play-calling process and is a direct product of the telemetry data that the Madden team at EA's Tiburon studios discussed back in March during the Game Developers Conference. After looking at the data gathered from many thousands of games played online, EA learned more than a few surprising things about its game and how Madden fans play it. These include things like the fact that an average game takes somewhere near an hour to complete. EA also learned that, despite having access to playbooks 300-plus plays strong, the average Madden user only tries about 13 different plays in a game. All of this data pointed to the need to simplify and streamline the Madden game experience but in a way that wouldn't alienate the hardcore Madden elite.

Enter gameflow--a new system that, when activated, lets the game take over the play calling for you, both on offense and defense. You can activate gameflow at any time in between plays, simply by pressing the A button (on the Xbox 360 controller). Your next play will be automatically called for you and you'll hear audio of a coach explaining the finer points on the play that has been chosen. According to Madden producers, the play chosen is based on such factors as the playbook being used, as well as the down and distance. Thanks to some in-depth research on the part of the Madden dev team, when using gameflow play calling, you'll be getting the same plays that a team's real life head coach or offensive/defensive coordinator would call in that same situation. Of course, if you want to make the call yourself, you can always open up your playbook and call your own plays at any time (or even audible out of a gameflow play call).

On its surface, gameflow is an ideal fit for casual Madden fans who don't know (or aren't interested in) the finer points of play calling. It looks to also have an effect on game speed--no more scrolling through pages of formations and plays to find a play you want. But there's another aspect of gameflow that should appeal to the more experienced Madden fan: game planning. Here, you can essentially design you plan of attack (and defense) from the ground up before your team hits the field.

When in the game planning menus, you'll be given a variety of down and distances--2nd and long, 3rd and short, and the like--then you'll be able to choose the plays you'd prefer to use in those situations. Prefer to run slants on third down and medium distance? Like to run the play action on second and long? You'll be able to set up the plays and formations exactly as you want. The gameflow system will have multiple plays to choose from in each situation, so you'll be able to rate the plays you've chosen with a five-star iTunes-like system; higher rated plays will appear more often in that situation. In addition to creating game plans from scratch, you'll be able to edit existing game plans if you're just looking to make a few tweaks to a system you already like. Of course, you'll also be able to make defensive game plans for specific situations (normal, trips, nickel, Hail Mary, and so on) Finally, custom game plans will work in online games when using gameflow.

The locomotion and dual-stick controls that are being used both in Madden 11 and NCAA Football 11 result in some tangible differences in feel when compared to last year's game. Receivers are more mindful of the first down line and out of bounds, while players with high acceleration numbers can be deadly off the line. This is especially true for defensive linemen when putting pressure on the quarterback and for receivers who are looking to make early separation from a defensive back on a short yardage pass play. Getting used to pulling off spins with the right stick will take some time, but the lean mechanic (used by pressing up on the right stick) feels like an improvement on trucking already.

Super Bowl champion, Madden cover star. Can Drew Brees avoid the Madden cover curse?

Other noticeable changes in Madden include a new kicking meter and increased use of the D pad. Instead of using the right stick to kick, you'll have a horizontal meter that appears onscreen. After aiming your direction arrow, you press a button to set a cursor in motion on the meter, hit the button once the cursor is on the right side of the meter to gauge power, and hit the button a final time once the cursor returns to gauge accuracy. Last year's kicking meter didn't really bother me, so I'm not exactly sure why it's been revamped, but I didn't miss any kicks with the new system, so it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal.

As for the D pad, it's been redubbed the "strategy pad" and is used for all of the pre-snap strategic decisions you made in previous Maddens with the left or right bumpers (or the L1/R1 buttons on the PlayStation 3 controller). You'll still have all the options you'll need for things like line shifts, squeezes, and blitz shows, but you'll just need a few plays to get acclimated to the new control system.

As in NCAA 11, blocking has received lots of attention in Madden. In addition to players simply being more adept at nailing defenders and opening up lanes to run through, you'll be able to look at specific blocking assignments before the snap, so you'll know who's taking care of whom on offense.

Naturally, there's more to Madden than gameflow and game planning--EA producers were saving details on changes to online play or Franchise modes for a later date. Our next hands-on look at Madden NFL 11 will be in May, just before the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and you can always follow our continuing coverage of the game at the GameSpot sports blog.

Discussion

74 comments
muvon
muvon

As for the average user using only 13 plays. We'll probably use more plays if we were able to create custom playbooks. Not creating our own plays (we'll wait on that one lol) but being able to grab plays from other books to make our own book. Also with audibles I understand the quickset buttons but why not also enable a user to open his play book to audible. This should get users using more than 13 plays besides fixing the plays that just don't work. And slow the snap clock back down, I don't understand why it needs to jump 5-10 seconds (whatever it actually is) after you call the play and your players are still walking into formation. Why am I being penalized.

baxwam
baxwam

I think EA football games make more money then WoW. :P

rmbuscedu
rmbuscedu

That background music was really annoying and distracting.

XsAirJordans
XsAirJordans

part of my yearly purchases, getting it no matter what they do to madden

QingJao86
QingJao86

Major, your an idiot too (this is fun!)

MajorGamer531
MajorGamer531

Okay, so now Ask Madden also explains how to run the play. Maybe someone can teach the Madden devs how to block though, because the players always do straight nearest man blocking which isn't how blocking works on every play. Ever heard of zone blocking? Crack-downs?

jazztrumpet5
jazztrumpet5

This is all fine and good - glad that blocking assignments are in the game. Gameflow makes no difference to me - I think it's part of football to call the right plays at the right time. Hopefully EA fixes things like... I don't know... the broken franchise mode? God, it sucks.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

"Super Bowl champion, Madden cover star. Can Drew Brees avoid the Madden cover curse?" Brett Favre did

grasshopper6
grasshopper6

lol defenders run so fast after the runner still little improvement on the realism

Lazay727
Lazay727

Gameflow isn't all that but at least it's better than that stupid Madden IQ quiz.

nickevilhomer
nickevilhomer

as i suspected except worse no changes at all stragty pad just a new way of call line auiables. that coaching thing just a new way of saying ask madden. in the first play anyone notice who caught Thomas a LINE MAN that was engaged in block. he get to him before the Safety or Corner Back. same game as madden 10 new roster no thanks EA has stopped trying i would rater was my money on backbraker it might suck but at least their putting their nutts on the chopping block. they are tring something new the camera view look cool

QingJao86
QingJao86

Okay do are people here so bad at reading that they don't get that you can practically tell your coach what play to pick. Ask Madden, he picks one play out of 350, here your coach picks one play out of 10 or 20 or so, and you can even rate which of those plays you like more then the others. THIS IS NOT AT ALL LIKE ASK MADDEN, and for those players that are good at calling plays but hate having to look though 15 formations and 20 plays in each one (or whatever) in 30 seconds, this is great. You can make your gameplan and fill it with all the plays you love in any given situation... I don't get what the problem is... yes they need other fixes, but to totally change the way the game is played. I like it.

DNOMYTE
DNOMYTE

I think i just broke my back!

lincolnhenry
lincolnhenry

Did anybody notice how they perfectly replecated Drew Brees's pre-game chant?

lincolnhenry
lincolnhenry

Did anybody notice how they perfectly replecated Drew Brees's pre-game chant?

IrishBulldog93
IrishBulldog93

ok so i duno much about theses american football games and i was going to buy 1 this year and start with madden but judging by the comments "Noriel222" for example haha !! i shud really be buyin the 2k version ?? i duno jus leave me a comment someone plz !

RedHawk4
RedHawk4

Oh good grief...this is what "Gameflow" is? I was hoping for more. All this is is an expanded version of "ask Madden", and yet another step towards making the game kid-friendly, as opposed to catering towards hardcore Madden and football fans. Why on earth would we want to have the crappy AI pick our plays for us? Why do the games need to be shortened to 30 minutes? EA needs to really just stop throwing fans a new gimmick every year, a few new animations, new rosters, and another $60 price tag. I'm not buying Madden 11, not even close. Let's just hope that Backbreaker can come through this year.

moe050
moe050

i see the haters are still hating... you guys work 24/7... it's silly to want madden to change so much each year... that doesn't even happen in the real sport. it's cool to want it to improve, but change? no. like, why would they? they've had a winning formula since the debut of PS2 and Xbox.... in any case, i'm looking forward to the game.

robram9
robram9

Move along kids, nothing new to see here...

pleezebeleevit
pleezebeleevit

NEED I SAY 2K, HELL EVEN BACKBACKER, SAME LAST SECOND GIMMICKS TO GET OUR MONEY, WTF IS UP W/ ALL THE MISS OR NON- TACKLING,THANKS FOR SHOWING YOUR PRODUCT CUZ IM DAM-SURE NOT BUYIN, THIS YEAR PEOPLE WILL GET A TEAM W/ A GOOD BACK AND RUN ON YO AZZ ALL DAY, WHERES THE D

bluezy
bluezy

00joker, I could be wrong, but I believe Madden 2000 had those measuring sticks.

Beesters
Beesters

have you guys played MLB2k10? Or heck, the past years of MLB, it has sucked! This year is a good step, but still slacks. Madden games are good, I dont know why everyone has to cry. Keep doing great work EA, you are listening to us!

00joker
00joker

Bring bac 2k bring back 2k 2k5 had the measuring sticks to see if its a first down or not how long did madden take before putting dat in their game.????....... 5 years that shows how 2k was advance way before madden BRING BACK 2k

kungfuj0
kungfuj0

If they will once and for all fix my franchise mode, I'll be happy. I liked setting hot dog and beer prices, dammit!

Noriel222
Noriel222

lol. even pokemon games evolve more than madden

deathstream
deathstream

This is year they fix the stuff that they added last year in a broken state to meet the yearly deadline. More people are starting to get bothered by the cash grab. If those people put their money where their mouths are, EA will have to go to a new model. I still want a NEW Madden game every two years and an off-year expansion/roster update. If enough people stop buying every year EA will see the light and only charge $30-35 in the off year.

The_MaiN_MeNu
The_MaiN_MeNu

Gameflow pretty much sounds like "ask madden" except it only tells you one play and instead of madden talking it's your coach. Doesn't sound so new to me. I hope they make some good additions to the Franchise mode.

Bowdown75
Bowdown75

The game still looks mierda. Players look like they are ice skating and floating around the field. The juke animation looks retarted, the bomb unrealistic hits the blimp over the stadium right at the WR. What a waste. A Beester's license it not over until after the 2012-2013 season.

Beesters
Beesters

I cant wait for the EA rights to be over with too, why? So we can prove how bad 2K sucks at making a game. But, I think we all know it will get renewed.

iamreallymad1
iamreallymad1

going to get it not because im a ea fan but die hard football fan

drewthousand
drewthousand

Thank god the Madden rights ends next year. Goodell don't resign

IAPrino
IAPrino

I hope that physics plays more into the game, as opposed to just animations dictating gameplay. I hope passing is more intuitive and more accurately recreated in this game. If not, I will not buy Madden or NCAA again.

Da_Skull_King
Da_Skull_King

i hope the blocking does get better, that was a major problem before, although theres a plethora of problems that probably wont be addressed....

csimonma
csimonma

i didnt realize that there are only 12 players on the Saints

Taevataat
Taevataat

EA Sports' sales allow BioWare to be left alone because EA is too busy counting their money.

tyco_ex
tyco_ex

You know you don't have to buy it every year right? If you only buy one every few years you would be able see a noticeable difference.

brandon6911
brandon6911

my god, so much complaining. if it wasn't EA screwing up football games it would be someone else. Backbreaker sounds good minus the graphics but no one has played the final version to say it's better. Madden is going to feel regurgitated because it's based on the same thing every year, just like any other sports game. So if you want players that have lazer eyes and missle hands start playing shooters and stop playing football games. either way quit complaining there are more important things in life than how bad Madden is going to suck, it's not that bad.

THA-TODD-BEAST
THA-TODD-BEAST

It's going to be the same damn game it's always been, just with one or two new features. Same crap every year. And idiots continue to buy it, year and year again. Sometimes I just don't get it.

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

The only good new feature in this game is Tim Tebow

qetuonz
qetuonz

I used to get super excited about Madden every year. Over the past few years my enthusiasm has dropped off a bit. This year it is at an all time low. Sure its great game every year, but is it really going to be a great step up from last year? I get sucked in every year with the hype, but this time, I think not.

raiden2223
raiden2223

And its you people that say im getting this befor it even comes out is why they keep pumping this same ol crap out. They know people will buy crap long as its the only nfl game, people wanting there teams

raiden2223
raiden2223

No thanks, Backbreaker looks like it will be much more fun and good for a change. Havnt bought a Madden in a few years and long as its this same ol ill never play another one.

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

lol. even pokemon games evolve more than madden

ERoBB
ERoBB

Alright, so according to this preview, this is the 8th straight year of one big addition that we'll probably not like and 5 "small but nice" additions that no one will notice. Jeez. I'm no Madden hater, but this is crazy. Take a chance. Just one. It's time for an overhaul.