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Review

Review: Madden NFL 12

Fumble!

Madden 12 is one of EA’s huge yearly sports titles. As such, it’s very difficult for me to review it, or for you to buy it, based on its own merits. No matter what EA tries to tell us about the game’s presentation or controls, it comes down to one simple question: Is it better than last year’s?

The answer to that is a confident yes. Madden NFL 12 is better than last year’s iteration. So, the next question should be obvious: is there enough of an improvement to warrant spending money on it again this year? That question is much more difficult to answer.


It looks really good.
Like the teams it recreates so painstakingly, Madden NFL returns with each new season having made a number of additions to its line up. Like the fans of the real life football teams, Madden players get their hopes up each year that this raft of new additions are what will make their franchise soar once again. And like most of those real life fans, Madden players will have to cope with the slow realisation that although there are improvements, your franchise still isn’t perfect.

The presentation has been tightened up slightly to more closely emulate the television presentation of America’s most beloved sport. There are some slight tweaks to the gameplay which make the game incrementally better than Madden 11 but at its core, this is a very similar game. The pre-game presentation has been lavished with more love and it looks extremely good, building tension before kick off with steadycam close ups and cheerleaders tightly-costumed acrobatics. Ultimately, this attractive presentation will end up being skipped after the first few times a player watches it and once it’s out of the way, we’re left with the familiar view downfield and the same Madden gameplay we’re used to from Madden 11.

The in game commentary is likewise feeling a little stale and stilted. Calls are made late and the worn out clichés are more grating than ever. It is presented in a believable way but after a few games it loses most of its charm and simply becomes irritating. Not only are they late to call, they regularly regurgitate lines that were heard only minutes beforehand. It wasn’t long until I switched Johnson and Collinsworth off completely and began enjoying the game markedly more.

EA Sports are touting over a hundred new animations for players in this year’s Madden and it often shows. The animation is a particular strong point, with reactions to tackles and weight-shifting runs all offering very realistic movement. Initially, it sounds like a small thing to pick up on but the minor variations in the way a player makes a catch, for example, really makes the whole seem much more believable.

Gameflow returns and it is still a boon for inexperienced players, offering advice on how you should approach certain situations. Gameflow takes all the baffling complexity out of picking plays and means you can get down to actually executing them. You no longer need to be a great play-caller because the game will help you through that. Of course, the other side of that benefit is the fact that you’re not really encouraged to become more knowledgable about the intricacies of the sport. Gameflow isn’t perfect and it oversimplifies a lot so it is certainly worth making the extra effort to learn more about the plays it advises you to make.


The tackling system upgrade makes a big difference.
So Gameflow can help inexperienced players pick their plays, the new animation system not only makes them look better but also makes them play better, as there is no sliding or popping into position to make plays. This goes hand in hand with an updated tackling system which is much improved. The increase in the number of animations seems to have made the whole tackling system work much more precisely. You no longer have the fear, as an onrushing attacker, of being brought down unrealistically by a tackler who shouldn’t have made such heavy contact. Similarly, as a defender, your tackles feel much more weighty and meaningful.

The Franchise mode, although not online, is fantastic in Madden 12. You can sing free agents with bids happening in real time and against the clock. It adds another level of pressure to proceedings and although it’s all menu-based, it really does increase excitement for when your new signing finally takes to the field. You can simulate many aspects of Franchise mode, although it can be seemingly inconsistent in the way it decides the outcome of aspects you choose to simulate. For example, the trades I simulated ended up in almost total capitulation for my AI-controlled negotiator.

When you have put together your best team and taken to the field, there are earned nicknames for players which have an effect on how they play. For example, a wide receiver might become known as “fumble prone” and subsequently feel more pressure in his catches. It’s an extra layer of dynamism added to the season and that is always a benefit to a game where, in real life, so much takes place away from the field that can have an influence on it.

You can get lucky and have players hit a hot streak though, thanks to the way the game puts together dynamic performance and traits to gauge a player’s usefulness. This system can lead to two players with almost identical stats playing in noticeably different ways due to the way it gives credence to confidence and consistency. It’s a great addition which really makes the game feel a lot more rounded and realistic.

To say that the extras on offer in Madden 12 are underwhelming is slightly unfair but the fact remains that it might not be worth upgrading if you have last years. Madden 11 was the best instalment in the franchise for years and this year is an improvement but in several small ways rather than any grand, meaningful change of approach.

In many ways, it’s the same old story for Madden. It makes enough improvements to be a markedly better game but still leaves many frustrations that fans will want cleared up for next year.

Pros:

  • Much more accessible than Madden games before last year.
  • Animations and tackling system make it much more realistic.
  • Looks beautiful with fantastic presentation

Cons:

  • Commentary is dreadful.
  • Not a lot to make it stand out over Madden 11.

It’s a familiar tale for Madden fans, then. This year sees your franchise make a few decent steps of improvement but without really changing much at all. It’s very noticeably still Madden and that will either be the best news you can hear or another indicator that you should just switch off and stop caring. If you like Madden, you’ve probably already bought in to this. If you’re curious but have yet to take the plunge then Madden 12 is a perfect moment to jump in but you would be well advised to push yourself past the Gameflow system a little in order to grow your expertise. It’s a solid game but one which bears too many similarities to previous versions for us to wholeheartedly recommend it.

Score: 8/10

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15 Comments
  1. DrNate86
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    I haven’t played Madden for years, used to love it though. “He stuck his big ol’ bear paw out!” I can still remember the commentary to this day being terrible, great stuff!

    Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 09:50.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      I don’t think it would be the same experience if the commentary wasn’t generally awful.

      Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 10:01.
  2. KeRaSh
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    You could basically swap “Madden XX” with “FIFA XX” or any other EA Sports franchise and the review would only need a few tweaks before you could post it year after year.
    That’s my biggest problem with sports franchises. You get full price incremental upgrades year after year. Why not buy the game from last year for cheap when it’s basically the same game as the new one? Fans of the series will disagree with me. In the review it just felt like Madden was the only franchise that follows that pattern of small updates with each new release when in reality basically every other sports franchise out there does the same. :P

    Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 10:01.
    • tonycawley
      Pint! Pint!
      Since: Feb 2009

      But what do you expect? Football is football, they can’t exactly make it a shooter can they? What would you like them to change? They make improvements and adaptations every year, don’t really see what more they can do.

      Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 10:18.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        I personally would like to see a release every 2-3 (maybe even 4) years apart rather than yearly – They could just release an update on the respective stores each year (or whatever) to account for team changes & whatever, as the gameplay doesn’t really ever change too much. That way, they could work on the title in the rest of the time & then each release might actually see some sort of significant changes.

        Of course they won’t ever do this, as they still make money doing what they do now.

        Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 10:27.
      • bajere
        Member
        Since: Aug 2008

        people always say that, and yep, football is football. but apart from tweaking the game not alot they can do. but….

        one thing i would like to see is a more, is life like presentation of the game. so more in game animations. I remember the first time i got hacked down and the player was on his knees shouting and complaining to the ref, brilliant! but after the 100th time of seeing it i was fed up of it, and lost the feel of a ‘real’ game. I reckon, if they loaded the game with animations, maybe take some real life reactions from players and situations (ie; a premiership player getting a yellow card on a harsh decision, a La Liega player diving and getting caught out, an injury, or a good goal celebration), then load them up to a server and feed them to our console over time, it would give the game a real random feel.

        You could further that by recording the commentators in real games, then adding them into the game as and when the fixture arrives. Having the commentator say something about the spurs game getting canceled on the first game of season due to riots, mentioned only once, would be a good example. or real madrid dropping the cup out of tour bus getting a mention when you win the cup is another thing.

        Both the animations and commentary, only need to be done/said once or twice, then deleted from system as some thing new arrives. I would happily pay and extra £10 to have a season of that!

        Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 10:48.
      • KeRaSh
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        What Forest_01 said. I don’t want them to completely overhaul the game every year. I just don’t see the point of paying full price for a game that is marginally different from it’s previous outing. Some games receive DLC that has more content than the difference between two sports games. Just because they have been doing it for ages doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to offend any EA Sports fans but that’s just the way I feel about those games.

        Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 10:50.
      • Crazy_Del
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Read them all I love Madden NFL I buy them ever year but I do agree with breaks from it and as for football I still got and still play Fifa 10! I don’t need Fifa 12.
        Madden NFL 12 is fantastic =D

        Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 14:59.
  3. tom_lord
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Apr 2009

    Hitching….

    Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 16:49.
  4. Origami Killer
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    Should just be a yearly squad update every year at a reasonable price then when they make a new breakthrough to change the game a lot then they should release a new disc. Fifa is the biggest rip-off to date

    Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 18:59.
    • Origami Killer
      Member
      Since: May 2010

      argh! That was in response to tony cawley and kerash

      Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 19:00.
  5. Mundham
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    Agreed Origami, because basically that’s what this iteration is. At least FIFA has changed some of it’s mechanics (for the better I might add).This is virtually this year’s teams wrapped up in last year’s code.

    Comment posted on 30/09/2011 at 19:59.
  6. spooferbarnabas
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Good review cb, glad you thought the tackling impact system and the animations were great as, for me, they were one of my favourite changes from last years version to this years. Completely agree with the presentation aspects as well because although it’s fun to watch each individuals team intro when they run on the field, i end up skipping them mostly anyway.

    I always play-call myself because i’m a huge NFL fan but what i find strange about the gameflow system is that you don’t get an image of the routes of the play you’re picking which i find a bit baffling as you should know that before you choose the play.

    My biggest annoyance with this game is simply the online system which makes it ridiculously difficult to complete and online game through server issues and the like. It varies from being pretty steady online to horrifically unstable.

    Anyhoo, good review cb!

    Comment posted on 01/10/2011 at 12:25.
    • spooferbarnabas
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      also, the ultimate team is still brilliant on madden,, love it!

      Comment posted on 01/10/2011 at 12:25.
  7. Rocket_345
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    Not really a NFL fan but i played the demo of this last night and loved it. May get this at some point.

    Comment posted on 01/10/2011 at 12:52.

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