Madden 2011
EA Sports

For many of us living outside the Great Satan, American football might as well be Martian tiddlywinks.

We tend to sneer at the pageantry, commercialism and sheer lunacy of American sport, without noticing the same things in our own. Around here, "the seventh innings stretch" refers to Jesse Ryder shaking off the effects of a curry and beer night with another quick quadricep rub.

For that reason, EA's brilliant Madden NFL series hasn't had quite the same traction on these shores, or anywhere else that schoolkids don't stand to salute Old Glory each morning.


But the Madden beast - perhaps the most successful sporting games franchise in the business - is worth checking out. It's the grandaddy of EA's stable and, if you haven't dipped your toe before, this year's edition is a good time to dive in.

When you come to a sports series for the first time, the complexity can be off-putting. Who - other than stoners, students, John Banks and Chris Carter - has got the spare time to learn all the fiddly thumb moves and jinky bits required to get the most out of an electronic game?

Madden 2011 allows you to get used to the play with a stripped back control configuration. Best of all, the mind-boggling tactical options that flopped on to a player's screen before every play, like maps of Baghdad on the coffee table of Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf's situation room.

In the new GameFlow system the brainy stuff - don't snigger, this is a subtle sport - is done for you, with the best tactical options set in motion. From quarterback, you then pick your runner and hit the pass. Satisfying as all hell when you complete, a drag when it flops.

The downside of Madden for those who aren't nutters for the sport is tending to the defensive duties.

Who wants to be shuffling fat linebackers about when you could be chucking Hail Marys?

Regardless, this is a great game.