Read all about the changes that made Madden on Wii more than a PlayStation 2 port.
The first three iterations of Madden on Wii struggled to succeed in becoming a truly unique Wii experience. Sure, they had motion controls, Mii support, and mini-games, but those first three games were, for the most part, ports of the PlayStation 2 version. It wasn't until Madden NFL 10 that EA Sports, specifically EA Tiburon, made a concerted effort to make a unique Wii experience.
The art style was integral to this, but the actual gameplay also had to reflect this direction. The controls were refined so that they didn't have as many specific motions, and passing became based on pointer control instead of motions.
The main interface was changed as well, now being driven by pointer controls, though, as Art Director Tim Spangler admits, even last year's new model wasn't ideal. The pointer controls worked, but they moved too slowly. In Madden NFL 11, the controls are tighter, and the menus are more usable, according to Spangler. Even the team select screen will be more robust, showing full body characters, stadiums, weather, and more.
5-on-5 mode was given a bigger spotlight in Madden NFL 10's multiplayer-driven modes. Almost every mode featured two options, one for typical 11-on-11 and one for the arcade-style 5-on-5. This multiplayer-heavy focus was a surprise to pretty much everyone who played it. I can relate my own personal story of first cracking open Madden NFL 10 and being very put off by the multiplayer focus. It wasn't until I played the game with some friends did I realize the magic that EA Tiburon had created.
Madden Showdown was the main course, with a four-player round robin tournaments being the focal point. It introduced the concept of having every participant bet on the results of each game and on specific scenarios, and the person who had the most points, collected from winning games and bets, won the tournament. It was an engaging concept that could be done with regular-styled football, or with crazy tweaks that did things such as cause every player to fumble or make the game move super fast. It was additions and changes like this that finally made the series unique on the Wii, and strangely enough, more like the heralded arcade classic NFL Blitz.
Another one of the new modes from last year's game was Huddle Up. It's not much more than a regular exhibition game, but it allows a second player to jump in and point-and-click on the opponent's team, which sends them to the ground. It came in two varieties: three clicks per play, or unlimited. Even the development team admits that they never really toyed with the limited version, chiefly because it is too much fun to mow down the entire opposing team. "We started clicking on guys [and thought] oh my god, this is awesome," Lead Designer Matt Read recounts.
Read also went into the inspiration for the mode, which goes back farther than you'd think. "When I'm playing Nintendo games, I'd plug in the second controller and give it to my younger brother," Read said about the inspiration behind Huddle Up mode. "I'd be playing Ninja Gaiden and I'd be like 'yea, you're helping me out.'"
GameFlow, another addition, is the newest twist on play call, and is being implemented into each version of the game. It was the answer to the biggest dilemma that has faced Madden games for years. The average playbook consists of 300 plays, and the average user only selects about 13 of them a game. Additionally, a typical game lasts about an hour, and nearly half of that time is spent in the play select screen. GameFlow simplifies the process, and is the elimination of play call.
What it does is select a play for the situation and keeps the game moving. It's kind of like the franchise staple 'Ask Madden,' but it pulls from a lot more situational AI groups, and spans the entire playbook. The AI has been beefed up to satisfy this, and the game will constantly take into account who's on your team and who is on your opponent's team.
A shining example of this process in action can be drawn from my own experience with an earlier build of the game. Taking the role of the Green Bay Packers, I played against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers, who have an electric passing game, primarily ran passing plays interspersed with a few runs. On the other hand, the Vikings, led by Adrian Peterson, ran a lot of running plays. On the flip side, both defenses knew what weapons the other team had.
Of course you're not limited to what the AI selects for you. You can override GameFlow and go out to the play select screen, or you can easily audible.
Some of GameFlow's additions find their way into the 5-on-5 play call as well, which Read refers to as "Super 5-on-5 play call." It still features the same basic Run, Short Pass, Medium Pass, Deep Pass selections, but each one will be changed to be ideal for the situation.
One of the biggest letdowns of Madden NFL 10 was the absence of a unique single-player mode. The multiplayer was great, but the only in-depth single-player experience was Franchise mode, which was only unlocked via a password and retained the same look as Madden NFL 09. This year, for Madden NFL 11, EA Tiburon is adding a new robust Franchise mode that is designed with the Wii in mind. Next time, we'll dive into that mode.