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Madden has had its ups and downs with each sequel, but each game has retained the "Madden feeling"; a balanced football sim. Madden 11 may not be a bad football game, but it's not a good Madden game.
The GameFlow AI isn't great and anyone who is an experienced Madden player will balk at the plays chosen for them. The D-Pad mapping of defensive plays just adds another step to the "select formation then select play" routine. Gus Johnson's commentary, is energetic but broken with noticeable pauses between phrases.
While all these are "improvements" end up falling flat, they are minor problems compared to the "auto-sprint" feature.
To their credit, the AI that determines when your player will sprint is pretty good. However, experienced Madden players will hate having control taken away from them. Sometimes, I will let go of the sprint button a little earlier or later than ideal because it helps me time my spins and jukes better. With the auto-sprint, you to run the way Madden wants you to run and I think anyone who liked Madden 10 will find this problematic.
Ultimately, the biggest flaw of Madden is its balance; the game favors the offense noticeably. Opposing running backs will get 6 – 9 yards per carry even on a run blitz. Receivers will routinely beat their cover-men even on double coverage.
The balance is so out of whack that even the COMPUTER realizes it. For example, I decided to redo my fantasy draft to get some better cornerbacks. Picking Adrian Peterson and Matt Schaub (top tier players) in the first 2 rounds, I went to get a cornerback.
The best cornerback left was rated 79. In the meantime, Tom Brady and several other 85+ quarterbacks were still left. Even the AI realized that the game's skewed balance required cornerbacks as soon as possible.
Madden seems to be catering to the casual gamer who doesn't like the deeper aspects of football and just wants to see touchdowns. This is unfortunate because previous Madden games, while still providing depth and balance, allowed adjustable difficulty and quarter lengths so that casual gamers could get involved. And yet Madden 11 has decided to cater to the casual gamers while leaving their true fans high and dry.
Madden has now been around for a decade, and there's absolutely no reason that after so many baby steps forward, it should take a gold-medal winning triple-jump backwards.