This year's Wii version has a fancy new franchise mode that is more SimCity than pure simulation.
Last year's Wii Madden game was the first game in the series made specifically for the system. The game's successes were largely in its revamped multiplayer modes, new art style, and finely tuned controls. What the game was lacking was a solid single-player experience, as it heavily relied on the previous year's franchise mode, which wasn't updated to fit the new style.
In Madden NFL 11, the developers at EA Sports Tiburon are adding a new franchise mode that is tailor-made for Wii, and is actually reminiscent of SimCity. Using the pointer interface, you maneuver through a small town that includes a front office building, a training facility, and even a smaller version of your team's stadium. Instead of going through the endless parade of menus in previous franchise modes, everything is boiled down to a few buildings in the complex, and you can easily go between them to change your team's depth chart, sign free agents, manage finances, and practice. Also, depending on your performance, the complex will change. Success or failure can be the difference between a complex made of pure gold or a shanty town.
When you begin the new mode you are introduced to your three advisors, who represent the key aspects of your franchise. There is a buff athletic director who focuses on the players; a business-oriented woman who deals with the finances; and a nerdy-looking fan who represents the fans. Your goal is to build up your team, finances, and fans until you become the most legendary franchise of all time, surpassing other great teams (such as the '80s 49ers, who are the top-ranked team).
Another big addition is GameFlow, which serves as a new way to play the game. Instead of going through long playbooks, the game's A.I. - improved over last year's - selects a play based on the situation and the strengths of your team. For example, the Minnesota Vikings make heavy use of Adrian Peterson, who is a superhuman running back in the game, while the Green Bay Packers primarily pass.
GameFlow speeds up the pace of the game considerably. According to Tiburon, players spent most of their time selecting plays, and not a whole lot of time actually playing. The new addition looks to combat this issue. Naturally, you can audible to another play if you wish, or even go to the playbook before the play if you want to.
Weather effects were oddly absent from last year's game, the first with the new art style, but they're now back in a big way. You can play in the snow or the rain, and watch as the players interact with the environment in different ways. The players' jerseys also change as you go through the rigors of each game.
Aside from these larger additions and changes, Madden NFL 11 on Wii has been refined in most other aspects. The pointer menus, which were a little clunky in last year's game, are now more stream-lined, and the practice jerseys used in the 5-on-5 mode are now modeled after the team's real practice jerseys.
Madden NFL 11 is due out on August 13. Stay tuned for our post-E3 coverage when we'll feature a series of in-depth articles about the game's art style, its new franchise mode, and more.