I am a pretty big fan of American football. I'm an even bigger fan of American Football games. Unfortunately at the moment, there really are not a lot of options when it comes to purchasing a gridiron game. As of right now, publisher Electronic Arts has exclusive rights to the NFL license up until 2012. What does this mean? If you want to play an American football game, EA and Madden are the only way to go. While one can easily argue that the lack of competition doesn't really help spur new innovations in the franchise, we'll shelve that thought for now and save it for another time. The main thing I want to focus on here is the Superstar mode in Madden NFL 11.
Superstar mode was introduced to the Madden series in Madden NFL 06. If you are not familiar with the game mode, basically, it allows you to create a rookie and watch him progress through the NFL. In the earlier versions of the game, you took control of the player in workouts, an IQ test, practices, and of course the games. Also in the earlier versions, you had the ability to choose your own agent and even go on to make statements that could make you popular or a complete jerk. It was all pretty well done and added kind of a quasi-story mode to the game.
In Madden NFL 11 there is a ridiculous amount of this missing from Superstar mode. In this year's iteration (possibly last year's as well - I missed out on it), basically, after creating the look of your character and setting his attributes, you take the IQ test (which is pretty simple) and then get drafted. In the earlier games, you would be invited to attend different training camps of the teams that were interested in you. That's completely gone. You used to be able to do various training activities during the off-season to increase your stamina, strength, and what have you - again, completely gone. You can no longer choose your agent. Now, your agent is a faceless nothing that you can spout of ridiculous comments to that don't amount to anything. For example, you have about three options when "talking" to the guy:
"Tell everyone I guarantee the playoffs this year!"
"We're going to destroy our next opponents!"
"I gotta go!"
As sad and pathetic as that sounds, it really never gets any deeper than that. It doesn't matter which one you choose, either. Using your agent in this year's Superstar mode is just a waste of 5 seconds of your life that you will never get back.
When you get drafted, you are immediately put into a starting position. Are you a running back and just got drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars? It doesn't matter that you have a 72 rating, you are going to start over Maurice Jones-Drew. Are you a mediocre linebacker drafted for the Dallas Cowboys? Well, somehow you are going to be starting over Demarcus Ware. It is unrealistic and is something that needs to be fixed in future versions.
When it comes to playing the actual games themselves...Where to start? Well, the core game play mechanics are in place and if you have played Madden game in the five years, you should know what to expect. Simply put, the game controls pretty well. There are a ton of other things I have complained about (and will complain about in just a few moments here), but EA has never failed to deliver when it came to controls. One thing that EA did take away this year was the "turbo" button. They replaced it with what is called the "locomotion system" that focuses the players acceleration and momentum, which essentially helps to make the game more realistic. It feels pretty good, generally works pretty well, and does give an added sense of realism to the game.
One other options that gamers have in Superstar Mode is the ability to simulate through parts of the game when your character is not on the field. While this definitely helps speed games along, gamers also have the option to control all aspects of the game. While this is a nice inclusion in the package, I felt that it was a bit limited and doesn't really reflect the same kind of game play that you would find if you are playing the game outside of the Superstar Mode. For example, when you handoff to your running back, you still are not in control. I don't know about you, but when I hear the term, "player control," I assumed that I (the player) WOULD BE IN CONTROL.
Play calling is very frustrating. My character is a quarterback, so thank God I can make changes at the line of scrimmage. The coaches make some pretty good choices about 60% of the time. Then there are occasions when they're calling for a hail mary when you're on your opponent's 12 yard line. There are tons of other examples I could give you that would make you cringe, but I'll stop right there. A majority of the time, things are okay. It's that other 40% of the time that things can get down right annoying. Honestly, during any given game, I probably audible out of about half of the plays that are called.
One other minor gripe I have, too, is in regard to the player celebrations. In the other game modes, you get to see every celebration that is made after scoring, making a big play, etc. In Superstar mode, these are sometimes cut short, especially if you have just scored. The game automatically switches to the super-sim mode and makes it so you can't see your guys celebrate. It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but if your character is a quarterback, for example, and you just eclipsed the single season throwing touchdown record, you can't really enjoy it - it gets cut off before you realize what just happened. Sure, this is just a minor gripe, and probably a way to remedy this would be to switch to "Player Control" mode if I think I'm going to make a touchdown. OR, EA can just fix it in the next iteration so we don't have to worry about it.
The AI of your teammates are borderline mentally challenged from time to time. Being the quarterback on the team, I cannot emphasize enough how frustrating it is to watch your running back miss a wide open hole in the defense only to gravitate towards the defenders for only a short gain or a loss. This happens with your receivers as well. I swear, it is almost as if they are magnetically attracted to the defense. In my opinion, this happens WAY more than it needs to in the game and in key situations, it can really screw your team up or even cause you to lose games. They are not ALWAYS making stupid plays, but it just seems like they are dumb enough for you to notice their misgivings.
Superstar Mode in Madden NFL 11 is definitely broken. One thing that is being brought up by the Madden faithful is that EA is supposed to be working on a completely revamped Superstar mode for Madden NFL 12 and that the reason why this year's mode was so lackluster was because they were busy revamping the franchise mode in the game. Whether this is true or not, I really hope that something is done next year. Superstar Mode in 11 is playable. Heck, I'm in my 5th season with my character! But there is just so much more that can be done. You would think that they would have at the very least left what they had in previous versions, but for whatever reason this just didn't happen.