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