So, what is Madden 11? Basically the only NFL licensed game out there. I did a fairly lengthy review for it on the Xbox 360, but I was not sure how much this game and that one would have in common. Turns out - a fair amount in some places, and almost nothing in others. Probably my biggest gripe: no franchise mode. You have seasons and quick games, and they added local player versus player (which I haven't been able to take advantage of myself) since the release. They also added a mode called 'Vintage Voltage' - which really gave me a grin.
You ever play one of those tabletop football games, with the thin metal field that vibrates, and these little characters on green squares with 'feet' that move about as the table vibrates? I did - I got my uncle's when I was like 6. This looks like that, and it is pretty cool in my opinion. Sure, it's kind of a gimmick, but it's a very cool gimmick.
Another thing going for the game is that is has roster updates. I just ran one tonight in fact. You have your authentic players, their stats, season statistics, so it's got some meat on it - I just really miss franchise with progression. That's my favorite part of almost any sports series and here it feels like a huge omission. Let's break the game down a bit now, shall we?
Graphics - 7:
At first glance, I thought: these are really pretty good. The colors are nice, the players animate pretty well. Then you spend a bit of time in the game and you realize that players are a bit chunky looking and don't really look all that different from one another, and it sort of reminded me of a Sega Genesis version of Madden. It's better than that, but not great. I'm not sure if there's any weather or not - I played through about half a season and did not encounter any rain or snow, but then my primary team is a dome team. My guess is, there will be, but I can't really comment to it one way or the other. They do have some nice images of players.
Sound and Music - 6:
Probably the most startling thing for me was hearing Madden's voice going "Boom!" a few times. I'm not sure when the last time I heard John Madden's voice as part of the commentary, but it's been a few releases (or so). It was both kind of cool, and then like the graphics sort of reminiscent of the older versions like the Sega Genesis. However, repetition is the name of the game here. I got the exact same commentary chunk 3 straight plays on offense. The music was ok when it crept into things like the menus and pause screens and the on-field action was accented by the appropriate grunts and thuds that play out pretty loud and clear from the iPad speakers.
Gameplay - 7:
This is sort of a mixed bag for me. For one, the playbook was not as responsive as I would have liked. I found myself needing to poke 'short passing' or 'running' repeatedly to get a page flip in the playbook, so as a result I stuck with Gameflow because it sped up the whole process for me. I kind of liked Gameflow in the Xbox 360 version, but for the iPad I almost felt like it was needed just to keep the game moving along. The analog stick works fine, but it's easy to wind up pushing in the wrong direction because you're paying attention to the other action on the screen. Since there's no tactile feedback like you would get from an actual joystick, I found it just a bit too easy to be pressing in the wrong direction and not even know it - but honestly that's something that happens to a lot of iPad games.
The ability to create and save offensive hotroutes and setting up defensive audibles worked well and I liked it. There's a handy option you have to 'slow down' time by pressing a stopwatch icon. The thing is, it felt like more of a necessity than an option, even more so than Gameflow. Otherwise it was way too hard to keep up with the action in real time. Trying to perform a spin move with a defender in real time without changing direction can be tough - but as soon as I started to use the time slowdown, I managed 2 sacks in the second half (using Suh, who is amazing. Just saying...). I found it really hard to run, but really easy to pass (Calvin Johnson was my game MPV every game but one - Stafford was the exception.)
There were a lot of little things the game did well though, like having detailed help and guides in the pause menu, and they keep you from doing stuff like going off-sides pre-snap. I like to use the defensive tackle (Suuuuuuh!) and I found myself moving a lot of times with accidental 'touches' of the stick. If there wasn't that invisible barrier to keep me from going offsides, I would have no doubt accrued a good deal of penalty yardage.
Intangibles - 6:
The ability to do multiplayer is nice I suppose, but I'll probably never get to take full advantage of it. The vintage voltage feature was pretty cool. The updated rosters are very nice. There's a full season to be had here, which is pretty solid for a portable game. However, no superstar modes, no franchise modes and lack of true online play really hurt the package a bit, since they're my favorite modes. The game does a nice job of automatically saving your game should you need to close it out - a huge perk with a portable game like this.
Overall - 6.5:
I wanted to really like this game more. It's a solid game of portable football, and they did some very good things with it from an interface standpoint. It's good for a quick fix, but I don't use my wife's iPad enough to play out a full season real often. If I'm using it, it's for 5 minutes and I'm flinging some angry birds at brick walls more often than not. I got the game for 99 cents though, so I can't say I regret my Madden purchase. I've already gotten my 99 cents worth out of it, but for those considering it at full price, just be aware going in that it's a decent game of football, but a slightly stripped down version.