With the opening games of the NFL season starting this weekend, we felt that the best way to celebrate it is with our review of the annual EA Sports release, Madden NFL 12. The beginning of the NFL season is a special time for any fan of the sport. Your hopes are way up for your team, praising the moves that they made during the off season, and expecting nothing less then to see your team hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February. However, about mid-season, you start to realize that your quarterback can’t string together two passes in a row for gain, your running back is older then your father, and your defense can’t stop a girl scout troop from running into the end zone. Madden NFL 12 replicates this feeling perfectly, start off with all the promises and hope, but soon turns into a mediocre outing for a franchise that has seen one to many falls.
Story and Gameplay:
There is only one goal in Madden NFL 12, and that is to simply win; win the next game, win your division and win the Super Bowl. So I want to focus on the many different game modes that you can play in Madden NFL 12, instead on any type of writing or story line, which is simply not there. In Madden NFL 12, you have your simple custom Quick Match games, which are played between teams of your choosing, Superstar mode with follows a created player through his career, Franchise Mode which puts you in charge of every aspect of a team, and Madden Ultimate Team which combines playing the football game with sport card collecting.
The Superstar Mode is pretty much unchanged from years past. You create your player and outfit him with a wide variety of equipment choices, choose his stats, then wait to get drafted. I created my rookie quarterback and waited with baited breath for draft day to come around. This is where Madden NFL 12 first earned my ire, because it drafted me to the Detroit Lions. Really, Madden? Really? Well, I’m big enough to move past it, so I started my camp and the season. The Superstar Mode focuses solely on your time on the field. You skip game play until your superstar is able to play, then focus on his game time. Overall, I really enjoyed this game mode. It was quick and I only had to focus on my superstar, which was hard considering how porous my offensive line was. Seriously guys, block someone.
Franchise Mode had the most new things added to it for Madden NFL 12. You are pretty much in control of everything, and I mean everything, in the franchise. You start off in preseason, inviting your rookies to training camp to see if they can earn a spot. The cool thing here, is that you don’t get to see your rookies’ stats until after preseason, so you don’t really know if you have a diamond in the rough on your bench, or someone who is destined for the waiver wire. As preseason continues, you are forced to make cut decisions to trim your roster down and get ready for the start of the season. You also have to keep an eye out for free agents that may be able to help you right away and make decisions on those aging free agent contracts that are coming up. This mode is deep, I mean really deep. Put some time aside for this one, because it will take a while to really enjoy.
Madden Ultimate Team is a cross between the normal Madden game and sports card collecting. You are given a pack of cards that are randomly selected from a list of positions to fill your starting roster and given a team. You then play either other players using the same style of roster, or the cpu in games to earn coins. With this coins, you can buy more packs to help upgrade your team or buy free agents outright through the new trading system. While I thought it was a cool idea, I had a hard time getting into this mode. It just seemed that the people who were willing to buy upper rated packs with Microsoft Points were going to have an advantage right away, versus us underpaid writers who were trying to earn coins by actually winning the game.
Besides the changes to the game modes noted above, game play is pretty much the same as it was last year. The controls felt tight and easy to use, in fact they seem much more stream lined then the last Madden NFL game that I played. I liked being able to hold B and point to the defensive player that I wanted to control, instead of cycling through every one on my roster that was on the field. Controlling players felt natural, I felt like I could move my quarterback out of the way of a charging lineman and make a nice pass down field. I still have a hard time seeing if my passes are complete if I try for anything more then a 10 yard pass, I usually have to wait for my quarterbacks reaction to see if the pass was even caught. Playing defense is what frustrated me the most, I could never seem to get my hands on anyone who had the ball. Now, admittedly, I am much more of a hockey fan then a football fan, but I know enough to see a run coming right up the middle, I just could never seem to actually tackle anyone.
Graphics seems to be where EA Tiburon really made some progress. The presentation of Madden NFL 12 is greatly improved, the camera angles and stadiums really come alive. Oh, and Soldier Field is finally rendered in all it’s glory, that is enough for me to sing Madden NFL 12 some praises. The player animations look much smoother, though the player faces still seem to be lacking life. I also really loved the lighting effects in Madden NFL 12, the shadows really made the players pop out on the field and bring another level of depth to the visuals.
The audio is good, not great. Like any sports game, the announcing is where I have the most issues. It is tough making a sports game where the announcers don’t just sound like they are reading off of a cue card and its even tougher to have enough lines so the player doesn’t get many repeated lines. Unfortunately, Madden NFL 12 hasn’t figured out how to beat these negatives. Other then that, the sounds from the field are really well done. With my surround sound, it sounded just like a real football game.
Madden NFL 12 delivers a very solid game play experience that I feel is the most complete football game to this date. Madden NFL 12 has a wide variety of game modes to keep anyone busy, from the casual foot ball fan to the die hard fanatic. Madden NFL 12 is also great to look at, with a presentation that is very well done and player animations that really look like you are watching a real football game. Online play was flawless and without lag, at least for me. Where Madden NFL 12 suffers depends on whether or not you own Madden NFL 11. I just feel that Madden NFL 12 just isn’t a big enough leap forward to justify buying if you own Madden NFL 11. Now, if its been a few years between Madden games for you, like it was me, then Madden NFL 12 is a great buy. If you bought Madden NFL 11 and have to have Madden NFL 12, you will enjoy the slight upgrade, but don’t expect much more.