As I wrote earlier this week, the Madden NFL 11 Demo is available on Xbox Live for your football playing pleasure.  I grabbed it and played through a few games and wanted to share my impressions about the latest version of this historic game franchise.

Let me start by saying I think EA has done a very good job with this game.  When the first indications started coming out earlier this year about some of the new features a lot of hard core Madden gamers were worried that the complexity they loved about the game was going the way of black and white TV.

That is not the case though.  Those players who want to delve into individual play selection can do that in the classic madden mode for play calling or they can use the new GameFlow feature. 

GameFlow simulates the offensive or defensive coordinator talking to you through your helmets communications system.  I admit it was pretty cool to have them explaining to me the play we were running, what to watch for and how to take advantage of things.

You see GameFlow selects the plays for you based on your game planning – just like NFL teams prepare for different teams with an idea on how they want to attack the other team on the field GameFlow does the same.  It is fully customizable or you can use the tendencies of your favorite football teams coach.

The graphics are a further upgrade from last years and includes all new motions – called LocoMotion – on how the players move around the field, swarm to the ball and react to other players.  I most especially notice how players swarm to the ball carrier – just like in an NFL game.

Some items of note on the game:

  • Turn the volume down on your headset – the coordinators voice is LOUD when using GameFlow and the headset.
  • GameFlow can be done without the headsets.  The comment will be displayed on the game screen and most of the time you can hear the coordinator. However, if the announcers are talking it does not get verbalized.  With the headset you always hear it.
  • The coordinators comments about how to approach a certain play or situation can become repetitive but I did not notice it so much that it drove me crazy.  That might change as the number of games played goes up.
  • You can now use both analog sticks to control your players.  The right stick allows combo moves and the balance of the player to lean in a certain direction.
  • The kicking meter has changed again.  It now sits sideways in the lower center of the screen on all kicking plays.  The speed at which the indicator moves is related to the level you play the game at (Rookie, Pro, All-Pro). The more difficult the level the quicker it moves.
  • The game moves much faster using GameFlow because your not spending time in the play selection screens in between plays.
  • Your not just restricted to GameFlow even when using that mode in the game your playing.  Classic play calling is available with a push of the X button on your Xbox 360 controller plus you can audible out of any GameFlow play that has been selected.
  • Audibles appear along the bottom of the screen as well – quick stick move and a button push lets you pick an alternate play to run.
  • You still have control over your defensive alignments to shift players based on what you see on the field in the other teams formation.
  • Gus Johnson is absolutely superb as the play by play announcer.  His energy during the calls is right on the mark.

Madden NFL 11 will be available on retail shelves 10 August 2010.  Walmart already has it on pre-sale and will give you a $20 eGift card with the purchase and give you free shipping along with release day delivery.

So have you played it yet? What do you think?