If you’ve every played a Madden NFL title, you’ve no doubt seen the iconic play call menu showing the various X’s and O’s drawings that pops up before each play. EA has announced that in Madden 11, to streamline gameplay this menu will no longer exist.
The last time EA attempted to reinvent their play call system was for Madden 07 for Xbox 360 and PS3, when they introduced a nine-play window with a visible cursor. This interface was functional, especially for online play, but it didn’t really enhance the experience and after Madden 08 they returned to the classic setup.
For Madden 11, EA is introducing what they call the Game Flow system which essentially transforms the game’s AI into your coaching staff and it calls your plays for you. The AI can identify which situation you find yourself in and use that to determine which plays are appropriate given your team’s personnel and their real-life play calling style. The developers are boasting that this will shorten game lengths and create a more seamless experience.
To ensure that players aren’t stuck with an AI bent on calling five-yard curl routes every time you’re third and long, they have also developed a feature called Game Planning which allows you to modify your team’s play preferences in certain situations to mirror your play style.
This will no doubt add a level of preparation going into each game that previous Maddens have lacked, which will either add a massive depth to the entire gameplay experience before and after kickoff or another menu that players will have to wade through.
Game Flow could prove to make the game more accessible to people who don’t currently play Madden, because the megalithic playbooks are one of the greatest obstacles new players have to overcome. In this case, new players will be able to pick up a controller for the first time and not have to settle on a play because they couldn’t shuffle through the playbook before the play clock runs out.
This will certainly reinvent the way we play Madden, and when the game launches on August 10th, we’ll see if that’s for the better. We can expect this to improve the gameplay experience, but if past innovations are any indicator we likely won’t see this system really shine until Madden 12 due to the game’s short development cycle.
That’s no worry though since the developers have made this feature optional and included the classic play call options.