Android Quick App: Madden NFL 2011

EA Sports' series of Madden NFL football video games is easily one of the most popular sports video game franchises. So it's easy to see why we'd be excited to see it on Android. But Madden NFL 2011 on Android -- and the Motorola Droid X, specifically -- has gotten off to an inauspicious start. Read on to find out why.

YouTube link for mobile viewing

The came comes preloaded as a stub app on the Android 2.2.1 update to the Motorola Droid X on Verizon. That is, the game itself isn't actually preloaded; instead, you get a small application that prompts you to download the complete game data. And because the stub app is preloaded, you can't uninstall it without first rooting the phone.

It gets worse. Not only do we have a stub app that can't be easily removed -- when you finally download the game, it's not even the full game. No, you have to shell out $10 (which will be conveniently billed to your Verizon account) to play the full game. That's a big, fat fail, in our opinion.

But none of that is the game's fault. Madden NFL 2011 on Android is a decent diversion. The graphics are smooth, and are pretty good considering you're playing on a smartphone and not a game console. They're not nearly as deep as you'll get in the full console version -- the crowds are what stood out the most -- but they're not bad.

Gameplay is pretty consistent with what you're used to. You have a number of plays on offense and defense from which to choose -- running plays, passing plays, special teams -- and choosing formations is pretty simple.

You get a virtual joystick in the lower left corer, and virtual buttons with which you select players, tackle, toggle slow motion, etc. The joystick works fine, but there are a few too many buttons for our taste. Gameplay of this sort on a touchscreen is difficult at best -- we don't want to have to think about which button we're pressing. But that likely will fade with use, too.

All in all, Madden NFL 2011 is properly priced at $9.99. But Verizon blew it by first preloading it as a stub app (that's crapware, plain and simple) and again by not giving access to the full game. And that's pretty unforgivable. But, again, that's not the game's fault. Madden NFL 2011 is a decent diversion, and it looks pretty darn good on the Droid X's 4-inch screen. And it's nice to see Madden make it to Android.

Phil Nickinson