The Madden series hardly needs an introduction, as football player turned coach turned commentator John Madden has had his name on football games for the better part of 20 years now. On home consoles, it has become tradition for EA to release a new Madden game each year with updated rosters, a few new features, and other various tweaks. As of tonight, the second yearly installment of the Madden series has arrived for the iPhone.

Last year we took a close look at Madden NFL 10 and thought it was a really great football game for the iPhone. Madden '10 came loaded with all the licensed players, stadiums, logos, and everything else you'd expect of a Madden game along with game modes ranging from single exhibition games to full seasons. The two hip new features of Madden NFL 10 for the iPhone were hot routes allowing players to draw on the screen to control players, and "action control time" which switched the game to slow motion mode allowing for precise maneuvers with the virtual controls.

There wasn't much to complain about with last year's Madden, which really left me wondering what EA was going to include in this year's release to up the ante. The preview we got revealed substantial graphical upgrades including Retina Display support, but it wasn't until I got to spend more time with the game today that I realized just how much more fun the other new features made playing Madden NFL 11.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a sports person by any means. I don't remember the last time I watched anything more than the Super Bowl on TV, and the only sporting events I've attended have been the result of friends with extra tickets. I play sports games, but generally gravitate towards arcade style sports games like Homerun Battle 3D [$4.99 / Free], or sports games that have RPG elements such as Baseball Superstars 2010 [$4.99 / Free].

I mention this because I generally never really got into a Madden game, or really any full football game. The weak link for me always came in choosing from an endless array of both offensive and defensive plays, with each yearly iteration of football game boasting even more plays to choose from. I don't know enough about the strategy of football plays to have ever felt like I was making a wise decision, and when it got down to it, play selection just always seemed like a needless interruption every few seconds while playing the game.

GameFlow changes all of this, and I really can't overstate how awesome a feature it actually is. Using some new AI algorithm likely designed by a team of people who know way more about football than I ever care to, Madden 11's GameFlow will intelligently chooses plays for you. It is absolutely insane how much this changes both the feel and the pace of the game. Using GameFlow, endless submenus of plays are a thing of the past. Instead, you just play football. The plays it selects work fairly well too, or at least, much better than my typical choice of plays which usually alternate between the hail mary and the fake field goal kick-- both favorites of mine.

What's also shocking is how much this actually speeds up playing the game. You can tap the screen to skip through the extra animations, victory dances, and other junk and play through a whole football game in what barely seems like any time at all. Of course, if you are the kind of person who knows exactly what every play does, all you have to do is flip GameFlow to off and you have complete control of each and every play.

The hot routes functionality from last year has been expanded, and at any point during the game you can pause the action and draw paths for your players. If you're playing offense and do this, you can save those routes as an audible, or if you're playing defense you can just send your players wherever you want. The whole system works very well, and by drawing lines you can send dispatch players to man to man duty, follow the ball, or really anything else. This really makes defense a lot more fun because you can now actually sensibly direct your team around instead of just tabbing in between players and chasing after whoever has the ball. Check out my top secret LOL offense:

As mentioned already, the graphics of Madden NFL 11 look fantastic. The stadium crowd has actual depth now, and they even wave around signs for the home team. The included weather effects look good, and overall it seems like all the player models and animations are more detailed. Every texture in game also seems to have been substantially improved, making going back and forth between 10 and 11 seem fairly drastic.

Madden 11 also is host to some other noticeable tweaks over last year's as well such as controls that feel a little better and a spruced up interface. There's an in-game store which currently is home to a free roster update, but seems like it might be used for future DLC . Finally, Madden NFL 11 behaves beautifully as an iPhone game, gracefully saving your game and resuming quickly when you load it again.

Like last year, the inevitable comparison between Gameloft's NFL 11 [$6.99] and Madden NFL 11 will likely take place in our forums for months to come, but in my opinion, Madden wins by a landslide. Gameloft's offering seems to run at a higher frame rate, but Madden looks better overall-- rspecially when it comes to how the crowd and stadiums are rendered. Madden NFL 11 has local bluetooth multiplayer while NFL 11 is single player only, and the commentary in Madden seems less repetitive than Gameloft's. Where Madden really wins though is in the extra features. With how much I've fallen in love with GameFlow I can hardly bring myself to deal with NFL 11's play selection, and Madden's total defensive control makes playing defense in NFL 11 flat out boring in comparison.

At the end of the day, people who like Madden games likely don't need this review, or anything more than the iTunes link to download the game for that matter. Who I really expect to sway into checking out Madden NFL 11 are the casual sports fans, or people like me, who are vaguely interested in sports games but found the various technicalities of football games to generally be annoying. GameFlow fixes all this, and I can hardly believe that I spent the majority of my day today playing Madden 11 on my iPhone-- not because I was trying to power through it to write a review, but because I was actually really enjoying a football game for the first time since Mutant League Football on the Sega Genesis.

The iPad and iPhone versions are essentially the same aside from the price difference and UI tweaks to make the controls more comfortable for playing on the iPad. The iPhone version is workable with pixel doubling, and the only thing you're really going to be missing out on is the upcoming "Vintage Voltage Football" mode which is basically just Super Shock Football [$1.99 / Free] with Madden graphics.


International App Store Link: Madden NFL 11

TouchArcade Rating

  • SalsaMD

    "Another feature called “pass and play” is exclusive to the iPad. It lets users tap on buttons on the right bottom corner of the device to execute a pass instead of tapping on the receiver to make the same action happen. Chris Dreyer, a senior product manager for EA Mobile, said the feature made sense for the iPad, where a user might not want to let go of the device to tap on something in the middle of the screen. It didn’t make sense to offer it on the iPhone, which has a smaller screen and less space for such buttons, he said" -WSJ blog

    • Eli Hodapp

      Yeah, this is part of the control differences I mentioned. It plays the same, they just moved things around a bit.

  • SalsaMD

    "Another feature called “pass and play” is exclusive to the iPad. It lets users tap on buttons on the right bottom corner of the device to execute a pass instead of tapping on the receiver to make the same action happen. Chris Dreyer, a senior product manager for EA Mobile, said the feature made sense for the iPad, where a user might not want to let go of the device to tap on something in the middle of the screen. It didn’t make sense to offer it on the iPhone, which has a smaller screen and less space for such buttons, he said" -WSJ blog

    • Eli Hodapp

      Yeah, this is part of the control differences I mentioned. It plays the same, they just moved things around a bit.

  • Greg K

    Wow... That's all I can say. I've always been an "arcade" sports game fan, but this looks to change that!

  • Greg K

    Wow... That's all I can say. I've always been an "arcade" sports game fan, but this looks to change that!

  • SalsaMD

    “pass and play” is exclusive to the iPad.

  • SalsaMD

    “pass and play” is exclusive to the iPad.

  • Jared Nelson

    Ha! You pretty much described my feelings towards football video games. I haven't played a Madden extensively since the first one for SNES circa '92. I'll watch football on TV, but I don't understand it like I do with baseball or hockey. It made choosing plays a total chore in the games. I too would just pick the hail mary or fake field goal, both of which worked way more than they ever do in real life.

    I'm actually really excited to play this now, where before I was more meh towards it. And that LOL offense looks incredible, second only to the WTF and ROFL offenses.

  • Jared Nelson

    Ha! You pretty much described my feelings towards football video games. I haven't played a Madden extensively since the first one for SNES circa '92. I'll watch football on TV, but I don't understand it like I do with baseball or hockey. It made choosing plays a total chore in the games. I too would just pick the hail mary or fake field goal, both of which worked way more than they ever do in real life.

    I'm actually really excited to play this now, where before I was more meh towards it. And that LOL offense looks incredible, second only to the WTF and ROFL offenses.

  • Metalbear

    Blake: 5
    Eli: 4

    Thanks. Downloading now.

  • Metalbear

    Blake: 5
    Eli: 4

    Thanks. Downloading now.

  • http://www.madfingergames.com MADFINGER Games

    Wow... Finally somebody from big companies did really good game for iPad..

    congrats !!!

  • http://www.madfingergames.com MADFINGER Games

    Wow... Finally somebody from big companies did really good game for iPad..

    congrats !!!

  • mosxs

    Why separate iPad and iPhone versions? Why do I have to pay twice for the same game?

    • Wegmans

      +1

    • Wegmans

      +1

  • mosxs

    Why separate iPad and iPhone versions? Why do I have to pay twice for the same game?

    • Wegmans

      +1

  • SalsaMD

    "Also, for anyone who hasn't noticed, Gameloft's NFL 2011 also has a game flow type feature. It's in the playbook as GL Choice."

    • Eli Hodapp

      Yes, but it's in the playbook. GameFlow is totally seamless and completely removes the break in the action created by needing to go to a play selection submenu. Gameloft is on the right track with their "GL Choice" but it still makes the pace of the game feel very slow compared to Madden's GameFlow.

  • SalsaMD

    "Also, for anyone who hasn't noticed, Gameloft's NFL 2011 also has a game flow type feature. It's in the playbook as GL Choice."

    • Eli Hodapp

      Yes, but it's in the playbook. GameFlow is totally seamless and completely removes the break in the action created by needing to go to a play selection submenu. Gameloft is on the right track with their "GL Choice" but it still makes the pace of the game feel very slow compared to Madden's GameFlow.

  • Dan Dare

    looks good but strange that nowhere on EA's website is it mentioned as being available. So no how to play or anything like that. It does look really good but might wait a week to see how it plays for more folks.

  • Dan Dare

    looks good but strange that nowhere on EA's website is it mentioned as being available. So no how to play or anything like that. It does look really good but might wait a week to see how it plays for more folks.

  • Dan Dare

    OK I take that back it's just ea.com/ipad. All info there.

  • Dan Dare

    OK I take that back it's just ea.com/ipad. All info there.

  • Vertig0

    This made me want to play mutant league football and hockey again. Those games were awesome!

  • Vertig0

    This made me want to play mutant league football and hockey again. Those games were awesome!

  • AkCharLIE

    GOOD GAME ! It's just very Laggy at times running on my iphone 4..

    • Frumius

      It's not at all laggy on my son's 2nd Gen iPod touch.

    • Frumius

      It's not at all laggy on my son's 2nd Gen iPod touch.

  • AkCharLIE

    GOOD GAME ! It's just very Laggy at times running on my iphone 4..

    • Frumius

      It's not at all laggy on my son's 2nd Gen iPod touch.

  • blackHose

    Bear men, ok!

  • blackHose

    Bear men, ok!

  • gjtbackwards

    The thing I want to know, and can't find information on anywhere, is whether there is a multi-season (or Dynasty) mode in Madden 11. Can anyone shed some light on that before I hand EA $8?

    • cjmegatron81

      One one regular season at a time. No Dynasty or multi-season.

  • gjtbackwards

    The thing I want to know, and can't find information on anywhere, is whether there is a multi-season (or Dynasty) mode in Madden 11. Can anyone shed some light on that before I hand EA $8?

    • cjmegatron81

      One one regular season at a time. No Dynasty or multi-season.

  • LJ

    "In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a sports person by any means. I don't remember the last time I watched anything more than the Super Bowl on TV, and the only sporting events I've attended have been the result of friends with extra tickets."

    This is where I stopped reading. How can I trust a review for a sports game, if the reviewer doesn't watch sports?

    • Eli Hodapp

      If you would have kept reading you would have found that this was thoroughly explained.

    • Mystic

      So can only skaters review skate boarding games? Give me a break sports snob.

    • Mystic

      So can only skaters review skate boarding games? Give me a break sports snob.

  • LJ

    "In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a sports person by any means. I don't remember the last time I watched anything more than the Super Bowl on TV, and the only sporting events I've attended have been the result of friends with extra tickets."

    This is where I stopped reading. How can I trust a review for a sports game, if the reviewer doesn't watch sports?

    • Eli Hodapp

      If you would have kept reading you would have found that this was thoroughly explained.

    • Mystic

      So can only skaters review skate boarding games? Give me a break sports snob.

  • noah

    When will the NCAA Football version get these upgrades, do you think?

    • Will090

      NCAA 12 (IE, never. The next edition will have them)

  • noah

    When will the NCAA Football version get these upgrades, do you think?

  • noah

    When will the NCAA Football version get these upgrades, do you think?

    • Will090

      NCAA 12 (IE, never. The next edition will have them)

    • Will090

      NCAA 12 (IE, never. The next edition will have them)

  • chris

    i can not show EA any love till they fix there old games.. which obv they do not care about.. so yeah i will never buy another EA game.

  • chris

    i can not show EA any love till they fix there old games.. which obv they do not care about.. so yeah i will never buy another EA game.

    • HipHopTouch

      Good shout Chris... I fancy this game though. But yeah, they really don't care about maintaining an app, which is a shame.

    • HipHopTouch

      Good shout Chris... I fancy this game though. But yeah, they really don't care about maintaining an app, which is a shame.

  • chris

    i can not show EA any love till they fix there old games.. which obv they do not care about.. so yeah i will never buy another EA game.

    • HipHopTouch

      Good shout Chris... I fancy this game though. But yeah, they really don't care about maintaining an app, which is a shame.

  • Timroyce

    I can speed up gameplay much more, by not playing this at all.

  • Timroyce

    I can speed up gameplay much more, by not playing this at all.

    • Frumius

      You could totally save all kinds of time posting meaningless posts by not posting at all, too.

    • Frumius

      You could totally save all kinds of time posting meaningless posts by not posting at all, too.

  • Timroyce

    I can speed up gameplay much more, by not playing this at all.

    • Frumius

      You could totally save all kinds of time posting meaningless posts by not posting at all, too.

  • Helmacc

    Yarn!!

    Another ea junk for suckers to flock to!!!

  • Helmacc

    Yarn!!

    Another ea junk for suckers to flock to!!!

  • Helmacc

    Yarn!!

    Another ea junk for suckers to flock to!!!

  • Helmacc

    Yarn = YAWN!!!!

  • Helmacc

    Yarn = YAWN!!!!

  • Helmacc

    Yarn = YAWN!!!!

  • Alex

    It's really frigging slow. How could you not mention this at all in you review?

    • Frumius

      What do you mean by "slow"? You get bored with it? Or it's laggy? How could you not clarify this in your post?

      It's not slow to me, it's fun. And it's not laggy on the 2nd Gen iPod touch I play it on.

    • Frumius

      What do you mean by "slow"? You get bored with it? Or it's laggy? How could you not clarify this in your post?

      It's not slow to me, it's fun. And it's not laggy on the 2nd Gen iPod touch I play it on.

  • Alex

    It's really frigging slow. How could you not mention this at all in you review?

  • Alex

    It's really frigging slow. How could you not mention this at all in you review?

    • Frumius

      What do you mean by "slow"? You get bored with it? Or it's laggy? How could you not clarify this in your post?

      It's not slow to me, it's fun. And it's not laggy on the 2nd Gen iPod touch I play it on.

  • BlueOrchard

    They should port Bc2 or Medal of Honor (when it comes out). That would be awesome and i probably will have no life when it happens...

  • BlueOrchard

    They should port Bc2 or Medal of Honor (when it comes out). That would be awesome and i probably will have no life when it happens...

  • BlueOrchard

    They should port Bc2 or Medal of Honor (when it comes out). That would be awesome and i probably will have no life when it happens...

  • fredostarr

    12.99 for madden and 15.99 for chaos rings??? Ipad games are getting too expensive.

  • fredostarr

    12.99 for madden and 15.99 for chaos rings??? Ipad games are getting too expensive.

  • fredostarr

    12.99 for madden and 15.99 for chaos rings??? Ipad games are getting too expensive.

  • Nicole

    haven´t been able to play this game. it keeps on crashing when i launch it.. am i the only one having this problem?

  • Nicole

    haven´t been able to play this game. it keeps on crashing when i launch it.. am i the only one having this problem?

  • Nicole

    haven´t been able to play this game. it keeps on crashing when i launch it.. am i the only one having this problem?

  • mental note

    I grew up loving the madden series. I stopped playing video games in 2007 at home and now I have the ipod touch. I decided to download this for old times sake and let me say I would rather play madden 07 any day on playstation than all this random crap you can't control on the touch screen.... lame!!