Madden NFL 11
Football is the ultimate team game. Eleven individuals have to execute their duties in perfect synchronicity with each other to achieve positive results on the gridiron. Though EA Sports has strived to recreate the high drama and jaw-dropping athleticism we watch every NFL Sunday, Madden has only allowed individuals to match wits and skills in one-on-one competitions for too long. EA Tiburon’s hopes inject the teamwork we’re used to seeing on Sundays with the new Online Team Play mode.
Madden’s new co-op mode isn’t a full blown 11-on-11 experience like FIFA’s Be a Pro Mode, and it’s probably tough to find people who want to play offensive line anyway. Instead, Online Team Play builds on the bare bones co-op game mode from Madden NFL 10 to offer 3v3 online games. To get in some practice against the computer or team up on a buddy who thinks he’s Otto Graham reincarnated, you can also use any combination of player numbers under the 3v3 cap, such as 3v0, 3v1, or 2v1.
Online Team Play’s unique setup gives players control of one squad on each side of the ball. Offensively, you can control the quarterback, running backs, or wide receivers/tight ends. The squads break down naturally on the defensive side of the ball, with players taking control of the defensive line, linebacker corps, or secondary. You can only switch between the different players in your squad, and each player is responsible for making adjustments for their group. For instance, the defensive line will control gap assignments, the linebacker squad leader has control of linebacker alignments and hot routes, and the secondary squad leader controls coverage shifts. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the quarterback handles playcalling, audibles, offensive line shifts, and on-field timeouts. Receivers and backs are responsible for hot routes and motion.
“Communication is key, says Madden designer Yuri Bialoskursky. “That is an integral part of this, and that’s intentional. We want people talking to each other. We want that conversation to happen and for them to strategize and plan out what it is that they are going to do.”
If you don’t want to be locked into a particular squad, you can also choose the “any position” option to control any non user-controlled player on the team. This versatility could help you create a dominating passing attack with two human controlled receiver options, but the advantage is offset by losing control over a particular squad and the adjustment options that come along with the responsibility. You can still call hot routes if you’re an “any position” player, but that’s it.
On special teams, the person controlling the quarterback handles the kicking responsibilities, but the other players can assume control of any other special teamer. The team captain (the first guy setting up the team in the lobby) handles substitutions, packages, penalties decisions, injury decisions, challenges, and timeouts called from the playcalling menu.
To keep players engaged in the Online Team Play experience, you can complete squad accomplishments to earn performance boosts for the players you control. Each squad has its own set of accomplishments, most of which are tied to statistical records. For instance, throwing for 250 yards and five touchdowns in a game unlocks small permanent boosts to your quarterback’s awareness, middle accuracy, and short accuracy. The game offers four accomplishments for each squad, and the boosts are persistent, meaning they carry over into every game you play.
When paired with the new Gameflow technology, EA Tiburon hopes Online Team Play will draw in former Madden players who are intimidated by the wealth of information players need to process to play a regular one-on-one game. “This isn’t necessarily built for hardcore users,” says development manager Ryan Ferwerda. “The idea is to hopefully get your buddies that have been on the fence in the past and we’ve made it really easy for you to do that. You don’t need to know a lot, you don’t need to worry about playcalling or any of that. You’re the receiver, just go out there and get yourself open and I’m going to throw it to you.”
To see Online Team Play in action, watch our exclusive interview with EA Tiburon development manager Ryan Ferwerda: