We’re nearing the end of August which can only mean one thing to any self-respecting football and video game fan: the release of Madden NFL 12. With an impending player lockout looming, the build up to this year’s title has been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride ever since the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLV. NFL players, team-owners, and fans alike had no idea how things would play out and whether or not there would be an NFL season at all. If you ask EA Sports, there was never any doubt that Madden NFL 12 would make it to retail but with so many distractions and uncertainties surrounding the NFL season, how would it all play out? Read on for my full review.
Last year the series introduced us to two big new features, gameflow and online team play, both being met with mixed results. Both features make their return to this year’s iteration; however, there isn’t as much emphasis on either this time around. While this year’s additions weren’t as bold as last year’s, I think purists will notice and certainly appreciate more of what’s under the hood.
The game’s new collision system is one of the biggest behind-the-scenes changes that players will notice once they start playing. No longer will players on screen be sucked into piles and blocks. Once contact is made things like speed, momentum, and position are among the deciding factors that will determine how successful a block or tackle will be.
If you’re like me and you run the rock like it’s your job, then you’ll immediately notice the difference from the new system. Last year’s run blocking was good, but this year’s feels great and much more natural; that’s thanks to the new collision system. Using the momentum of run blocking linemen, who actually engage the defender instead of just standing in front of them, running the ball has never been better.
As of right now Madden is one of three big players in sports simulation. Sony’s MLB: The Show for baseball and 2K Sports’ NBA 2K series for basketball have managed to take what is expected from a sports title to whole new heights. Now, more than ever, the game’s presentation is something that I feel will be under much more scrutiny; with Madden NFL 12 unfortunately, the series starts to show its age.
During my review time I had a buddy (whom I normally play sports titles with) come by to check out the title and its multiplayer modes, and one of the things he immediately said was, “Wow, everything in the background looks pretty bad.” And come to think of it, he’s actually half right. The problem is that everything on the field (player models and faces) looks so good that you start seeing the flaws everywhere else; as it turns out, the flaws happen to be 60 thousand people in the background.
One way that the presentation does move in the right direction this year has to be with the authentic broadcast cameras. While playing you may not notice all of them, but when you take time to really see what’s going on (whether it’s on kickoff, field goals, or replays), you really get the feeling of what it’s like to watch the big game on Sundays. They’ve also added unique stadium run outs for all 32 teams, and yes, that includes the Ray Lewis shuffle in Baltimore. Again it’s just unfortunate that the rest of the package on the field doesn’t match this level of realism.
Series favorite, “franchise mode”, is back, and junkies of this football RPG will be pleased to know that certain aspects have received some great improvements. For those who get off on micromanagement, this year’s Madden will have you hooked. For the first time ever players will actually start out their pre-season with 75 man rosters, cut-days and all. The rookie scouting system has finally received a much need revamping as well as the ability to bid for free agents, which was perfect timing considering how crazy the actual NFL free agent market was post-lockout.
The standout feature in franchise mode that will have long time fans letting out “oohs” and “aahs” without a doubt is Dynamic Player Performance. Finally players will see progression not only throughout the season, but during the games as well. Player ratings, performance, and confidence can be affected on the fly depending on how well/poor a player is performing, just like, you know…real football. If there was one complaint I had to make about franchise…where the hell is training camp? We need it to come back!
Much of the online portion of the title remains the same, at least with what we know about it at press time (I had issues redeeming my online pass). One of the newer additions to Madden 12 is online communities. With these communities players will get to join groups of 2000 similar players and create their own leagues, tournaments and leaderboards. Besides communities, it seems like the team went light with online features this year.
Following last year’s stellar performance, I went into Madden NFL 12 with super high hopes. And while most of the new features met many of my expectations I can’t help shake the feeling that this year’s title could have been just a little bit better. I don’t know if I would put all of the blame on EA Tiburon because it could very well be that I’ve been spoiled by the “other” amazing sports simulation titles over the past year. Either way Madden NFL 12 is a must have for any fans of the series even if the changes or updates aren’t as robust as years prior.