MADDEN NFL 11 Madden, meet innovation. Innovation, meet Madden.

THERE ARE two kinds of people who buy football games. The first are the stereotypical superfans who paint their houses their team's colors and also happen to be into videogames. The second are the stereotypical superfans who paint their houses Mario and Luigi's colors and also happen to be into football. EA has always targeted the first demographic with their two big football titles, but this year, the team behind Madden NFL 11 has opted to target the more casual gamer, while the developers responsible for NCAA Football 11 aim for the hardcore football geek. The result: two games that depict a single sport in vastly different ways, and if EA is paying attention, hopefully a new direction for sporting games as a whole.

Madden and NCAA Football are the two most meticulously crafted simulations of football on store shelves; as is the case every year, both allow you to play gorgeously rendered single games with your favorite teams, or guide a single club through 30 years of virtual play as a coach, general manager, or university athletic director. Anyone who has bought an EA football game in the last decade shouldn't be shocked by any of this.

The big change comes in the form of Madden NFL 11's "GameFlow" system. Purportedly, it selects plays for you based on what your team of choice would actually do given the on-field situation. In practice, it saves players the hassles of flipping through a playbook, letting them get back to actually playing football. Especially compared to NCAA Football 11's system, which relies on the archaic play selection system from previous years, GameFlow makes games seem positively action packed.

While I can recommend NCAA to anyone who was already going to buy it, Madden's GameFlow system is such a radical change that the game deserves a look even by gamers who normally shun sports games. This is the biggest change the series has ever seen; it deserves a second chance from anyone with an interest in virtual sports.