The release of Madden NFL 12 has become one of the biggest days of the year for football fans, aside from the start of the season. Local retailers are flooded for midnight launches, and a vacation or sick day is often used to get in precious time with the title. With the game seeing a yearly release, could this year’s Madden warrant a purchase? You’re damn right it does.
If you haven’t been following the news, videos, screenshots, or had the chance to play the demo, the two biggest focuses for Madden NFL 12 seemed to be gameplay and presentation. When reading through numerous message boards and articles written about the series, those have easily been two of the biggest complaints in previous years. While the title may not get everything right in the two respective departments, the advancements are easily noticeable and add just that much more enjoyment in the Madden experience.
The presentation is geared much more towards a television-style approach. From the cinematic entrances of teams and individuals players (Ray Lewis easily has the best entrance), to the stat overlays during your games, it’s easily to tell that Creative Director Mike Young knows what he’s doing with the presentation.
Simple things such as seeing how many rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns your player has throughout various times in the game help keep you involved in the experience. After a huge play, the camera may show players on the sideline congratulating the player who made the huge touchdown or caused a big fumble. The more you play, the easier it is to feel like you’re watching a television broadcast of Madden.
One of the biggest features in the series is without a doubt Franchise mode. The mode has received a much more streamlined look, which may put off fans initially. After selecting your team and options, franchise mode simply appears to only present you with an option to play your game or simulate it. However, by press “Y” or the triangle button on your controller, you’ll receive the all familiar menu options to run your franchise just how you intended.
In previous years, the free agency bidding process was rather easy and could take quite a bit of time. Once you found the players that you wanted and won the respective players, simming the rest of the free agency period took quite a bit of time. The mode has been overhauled, being currently dubbed, “free agency bidding”.
Free agency bidding is essentially a race against the clock to get the free agents that you prize the most. Once a bid has been placed on a free agent, you’ll have less than a minute and thirty seconds to battle against the other franchise owners to secure the player. The mode has become incredibly fast paced, more realistic, and will become a mode that fans will enjoy rather than painstakingly trudge through.
While there are other additions to franchise mode such as revamped rookie scouting and cut days during the pre-season, the most noticeable is easily the hot & cold streaks that may change how your player does throughout the season. Consistency ratings for each player take into effect how much a good or bad performance may effect them. For example, Peyton Manning throwing three interceptions in one game will effect him less than if Rex Grossman throws the same amount.
However, have Tim Tebow and string together a few impressive performances, and you’ll see a temporary spike in his ratings. The feature works for all positions, and truly allows you to have a young player or an old veteran have a great impact on your team. After playing through two full seasons, I was able to use DeMarco Murray after my starting running back went down early in the first year. Murray struggled at first, but after putting up impressive numbers against a defense, he performed much better and finished the season with just over a thousand yards. His ratings slightly increased during his hot streak, and his progression went up more than it typically would have in the following season.
While there’s definitely plenty to love in Madden NFL 12, the game doesn’t come without its fair share of gripes. In franchise mode, the status for both offensive and defensive players still do not seem to be consistent with real world stats. Passing yards and rushing yards, for example, still seem too high for the league average in recent years.
If you happened to play the NCAA Football 12 title, you’d find similar zone issues in Madden as well. While the zones are much better than in previous iterations, defenders can become stone blocks when dealing with a mobile quarterback. At times you’ll find that mobile quarterbacks can completely freeze defenders in certain zones. Along with the previous issue, certain defenders may be too slow to recover or react on certain routes. While not all defenders should be able to dominate in zone coverage, you will find that some of the more “elite” players still suffer from this issue. Is it enough to frustrate you? Not consistently. Overall, you’ll appreciate the revamp of the defense more than the issues will plague you.
When examining the gameplay, it’s easily the most fun and balanced Madden gameplay that we’ve seen this generation. After playing through two full seasons, numerous Ultimate Team games, and a few online matchups, it’s hard to find that either side of the ball has a blatant advantage. Through any route or play that the computer or an individual may use, it appears that there is a counter for it on the opposite side of the ball if attacked correctly.
Moreso than ever, Madden NFL 12 seems to reward you for building a strong team and playing smart. Throwing constantly into coverage will do nothing more than increase your interception total, and leave your quarterback in a cold streak. Playing the game “correctly” and making smart decisions on either side of the ball seems to be the best way to win this year, and it’s refreshing. While we’re sure that people will still be able to “cheese” and attempt “exploits”, it doesn’t feel as if those methods will be as rewarding as previous years.
Chris Collinsworth and Gus Johnson return this year, and after a few games, you may find yourself tuning them out quite frequently. The audio feels sometimes delayed as compared to the action on the field, and you may even hear Gus Johnson say the incorrect name of a player that scores a touchdown. While you won’t quit the game of the commentary, it’s evident that the series needs to rexamine the commentary and possibly think of using multiple commentators going forward.
The biggest feature for the online portion this year would be the “Communities”. Communities allow you to create your own custom community of up to 2,000 players. The community allows you to have custom head to head leaderboards, and even organize teamplay games against other Communities. While the feature is somewhat basic this year, it’s something that we’d love EA SPORTS to add depth and more features to going forward.
If you’re an online franchise fan and hoping for a wealth of changes, don’t get your hopes up. EA SPORTS stated earlier this year that the mode wouldn’t receive much of an update this year, but we’re hoping to see a rehaul next year. If Madden could deliver something similar to what NCAA Football offers for the dynasty/franchise mode, we have a feeling that fans would be in love. However, if you enjoyed the mode last year, there’s not a reason you won’t enjoy it this year.
Having the final product in your hands will do nothing but net an enjoyable experience for football and Madden fans. Moreso than over, you’ll have to value your possessions and make smart plays on the field if you want to succeed. While Madden NFL 12 isn’t the perfect football game, it’ll deliver a ridiculous amount of fun and excitement for passionate football fans.
Madden NFL 12 was developed by EA Tiburon and published by EA Sports. An Xbox 360 copy was provided for the purpose of review.