In a gaming landscape that has grown increasingly splintered, EA Sports’ Madden NFL franchise remains one of the select few names that not only attracts a massive annual audience, but can rightly be called a mainstream cultural touchstone. Yet Madden’s die-hard following -- the people who line up to grab the game at midnight on launch day, year after year -- has been shrinking.
Perhaps the most significant factor in Madden’s flagging sales is that the series has tended to become only more complex. By 2009, playing the game competently required more than a knowledge of the sport of football; players also needed to have an awareness of the franchise’s characteristic quirks, nigh-arcane controls, and often-confusing interface. Basically, they needed to know the history of the Madden games in order to succeed at the current one. Of course, veteran Madden players liked things that way; when you know the ins and outs of a game, you can exploit your opponent’s ignorance of them.
Madden NFL 11 embodies the essence of that casual/hardcore struggle. Its developers, in an effort to bridge the gap between those polar-opposite demographics by designing a game with a larger potential audience than ever before, have enacted sweeping reforms to long-standing systems. Have those changes turned out for the better, or for the worse? Hit the jump to find out.
[Editor’s note: The servers for Online Franchise were down every time I checked, so I did not touch upon that particular game mode in this review. -Samit]