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Madden NFL 11

Quarterback once again.

There are a few twists thrown in: contracts have to be managed so you don't lose your hard-earned cards, and only 55 player cards can in your possession at one time. From playing through it for several hours, this is nothing more than a distraction for someone disenchanted by the lack of updates to the Franchise Mode.

Franchise Mode has been the most neglected part of the Madden series in recent versions, and this year is no different. There are just five notable changes, and other than the addition of a new Rookie Draft Class, most of them fine-tune what should have been fixed years ago: better simulation stats, more reasonable contract values, increased salary cap amounts, and more logical free agent decisions.

If EA Sports feels like it can pass off a significant portion of its game as new with a simple cut-and-paste job, then forgive us for cutting and pasting from last year's review as well: "There is a lot to Madden that remains unchanged and, well, bad."

Which is not to say that the actual experience of playing videogame football is bad in Madden NFL 11. It is actually very, very good - even though the proliferation of in-game advertisements is starting to get annoying. The control scheme has been simplified (the right analogue stick controls things like shielding the ball and spin moves) with the new Locomotion smoothing out player movement while adjusting the speed of the game, eliminating the need for a turbo button.

This, in turn, has allowed the running game to make some much-needed strides (sorry), like improved run-blocking, block-assigning and nuances like the manner in which ball-carriers fall to the ground, reach for first downs, and celebrate mid-air.

And, yes, you wont have to worry about Tom Hammond calling your every move because he's been replaced by the more dynamic and energetic Gus Johnson. If you can get past the fact that some of the play calls are quite delayed (it takes him five to 10 seconds to acknowledge that you just scored a touchdown), he is one of the best commentators we've heard in a sports game this decade.

The Online Franchise mode has not really changed all that much, but a new web management site implemented by EA is pretty nifty and allows you to read through mock news stories of league games and view selected images from recent games automatically compiled for you.

Madden NFL 11 plays a good game of football. Unfortunately, about 80 per cent of the game has not been given any attention, and the question is whether or not this version is worth it for those who need their Madden fix - especially when it essentially amounts to paying a yearly subscription fee.

Only those adamant about having the latest game in their collection will feel compelled to pick this one up. Others can probably bench this version and wait another development cycle, hoping that some of the more neglected parts of the franchise will finally be given the ball.

7 / 10

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