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Sunday, January 25, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Light Snow
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Madden '11 is as smooth and fun as you'd hope, despite the haters
Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 & 3, Wii, PlayStation Portable (Rated Everyone)

I've been surprised to read comments of some discontented gamers online, writing nasty things about the new Madden NFL '11. I'm not talking about critics; critics love the game. But an incensed minority of gamers complain that the offensive line isn't working properly. (They're wrong about that.) They say that if you run play-action passes, you'll get sacked too much. (Wrong again.)

They gripe that Madden is geared mostly for casual gamers or for football fans - as opposed to hardcore gamers. (That's true.)

Me? I say this is the best "Madden" in two years. The offense is tight. The defense is strong. You don't throw interceptions or fumble all the time, as in some previous Maddens. And you can exploit the usual bonuses: competing against other gamers online, playing exhibition games, creating teams from scratch and playing through a whole season.

Once the real NFL season gets under way, the game will update its teams by importing statistics. So if your team gets better or worse in real life, so too will your virtual team.

My few complaints are fairly fixable. When you turn the game on, the game makes you choose (during every play from scrimmage!) whether you want to let the computer's artificial intelligence to pick your play or whether you want to open your playbook and pick each play yourself. That is ridiculously cumbersome. However, it took me only about 20 seconds to click a button in the menu options to remove that lunacy. I've not had to deal with it since. Problem solved.

I don't like that Madden NFL '11 adds more button-pushing to every down for those of us who change our receivers' routes at the line of scrimmage. But it's not a huge woe.

I agree with complainers that, essentially, this is almost the same kind of Madden we've been playing for years. That means I know how to manipulate the game. I change receivers' routes constantly on offense to score with abandon. On defense, I move inside lineman to the outside and blitz them, confusing rival quarterbacks into throwing too quickly. Thus, I can win games by scores of, say, 45-3. Okay, that's a little easy sometimes.

What's being overlooked by Madden haters this year (and I've been a Madden hater in the past) is how many options you get. The sprint button is gone, but you don't need it because this Madden has better run-blockers. At any rate, you can turn the sprint back on in the menu options. That's true of other attributes. You can, for instance, turn the "Rewind" button (a do-over) on or off.

I think haters are upset because either a) they're bored with Madden, because it is akin to every contemporary Madden; or b) they're angry at Electronic Arts for charging gamers $10 to compete online if they play a rented or borrowed copy of Madden.

I understand their frustrations. I feel the haters. I'm just glad I'm not one of them this year.

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