Madden NFL 11, this year’s iteration of the perennial best-selling football franchise, is due out on August 10th. For once, its demo offers a meaty chunk of game: full five-minute quarters, commentary, all settings and sliders, and the ability to test out new features such as GameFlow and Gameplanning.
The first thing that jumped out at me in the demo was the audio, which was spectacular. I can’t overstate how great Gus Johnson is as the new play-by-play announcer, and he’s even better with analyst Cris Collinsworth in the booth alongside him. Particularly impressive in the demo was the breadth and specificity of their comments about the demo’s teams, the Jets and Colts; if they’ve recorded this much audio for each of the other 30 teams as well, then we’ll have to deal with much less repetition.
Equally notable are the subtle visual upgrades. The large video boards at the New Meadowlands Stadium are lit differently than the game “world,” thanks to high dynamic range lighting considerations, so they appear as they would on a TV broadcast and really stand out. And in the postgame highlights segment, shots of the stadium show a thinning crowd as fans head for the exits. I also like the newly added cutscenes, like the one that shows a suited-up Peyton Manning stepping off the team bus.
Most importantly, the Jets and Colts feel completely different -- and that’s due in large part to this year’s gameplay upgrades. Getting anything going on the ground with Joseph Addai is damn near impossible, thanks to the Jets’ stingy defense, while Shonn Greene’s agility is a great showcase for the new dual-stick controls. I had no problem using GameFlow for most of my playcalling. Just as you’d expect, the Colts will pass a lot on first down and only run to spice things up, whereas the Jets try to run it down your throat. (For specifics on GameFlow, Gameplanning, and more, check out my Madden NFL 11 preview from April.)