You know you're playing a good football game when you're as excited to play defence as you are handling the ball.
Of course, Madden NFL 11 continues the franchise's storied supremacy of video game American football, yet this year's instalment is like nothing I've ever played before. For the first time, EA Mobile puts forth a balanced game - one that is just as fun on defence as it is on offence.
Even without online multiplayer and performance niggles, this is easily the biggest rush forward for the portable version of the series in years.
Top of its game
It takes no more than a minute to see what makes Madden NFL 11 a powerhouse: awesome defensive gameplay. Better graphics, more easily drawn hot routes, automatic plays via the new GameFlow recommendation system - these seem minor in comparison to the enormous progress made on the defensive side of the game.
Defence has been transformed thanks to an inventive new team control system. Referred to as Total Defensive Control, it enables you to direct all of your players on the field during play - not just one player.
Tapping the Total Defensive Control button in the lower-left corner freezes play so that you can issue orders to players.Unbeatable defence
Draw a line from a linebacker to the ball carrier, for example, and when play resumes the linebacker will follow the ball and attempt to tackle the carrier.
Using multi-touch, you can issue instructions to another linebacker to run ahead of the ball carrier as insurance should the aforementioned player fail to get the tackle.
It's sheer brilliance. Playing defence is actually fun because you feel as though you're in control of your entire team, rather than scurrying about the field like a chicken with its head cut off in control of a single player.
Better still, the game has been appropriately balanced to ensure that these new controls don't provide an advantage to defence: instead, it's now on a level playing field with offence.
Whether you have possession or not, you always feel in control of your team and that neither offence or defence has an unfair advantage. Going back to the days of one-man defence seems unfathomable.
Pretty please, but without the cherry on top
Given the innovation for which EA Mobile has worked so hard, why didn't it go for the whole enchilada and throw in online multiplayer and a Dynasty mode? The lack of online play is particularly disappointing, but at least Bluetooth multiplayer has been included on day one (no three month wait for an update adding the feature this year).
In terms of the presentation, EA has done a bang-up job. Whether you're playing on an iPhone 4 in glorious high resolution or making the most of an iPod touch, the game looks great. Performance across all devices is solid, although predictably better the more recent your device.
Aside from online multiplayer and a Dynasty mode, there's not much more you could ask of Madden NFL 11. The core gameplay is nothing short of fantastic, advancing the ball further than expected.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of Madden NFL 11 articles!