Madden NFL 12 ReviewBy Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Aug 30, 2011
The Madden series is as dependable as the calendar when it comes to marking time. This year's edition is better in some ways, but not as good in many others, as its predecessor. The end result is a surprisingly hollow version of the normally outstanding football simulation.
- Solid, dependable Madden experience remains mostly unchanged
- Improvements like Cut Days and customizable playbooks are nods to fans
- New collision system makes hits look vicious
- Game presentation is a little off from previous iterations
- Online play has some lag issues
- Too much extra content without attention being paid to the game itself
Madden NFL 12 Review:
Like an old friend once again returned to mark the passage of the years, Madden NFL 12 comes to us to remind us that, though there might have been a chance we'd lose the actual 2011-2012 football season, we were never in danger of not getting our hands on a copy of EA Sports's flagship game. However, some of the uncertainty of the world of actual football seems to have crept in, and makes the overall effect feel like there was too much work to get done at the last moment, leaving the game with a sort of hollow feel.
Don't get me wrong. Madden NFL 12 is still good, and it's certainly not a disaster by any means, but it does feel like the venerable franchise has taken a step backward in a lot of ways, which is a little disappointing.
What's Best For the Team
On the positive side of things, EA has placed a lot of importance on making changes that fans have been requesting for a long time, which means that, finally, you can create a custom playbook for your team, or change teams at the end of a franchise season. One of the most simultaneously satisfying and sad changes is the addition of Cut Days, which allows your to cut your 75-man roster through the course of the preseason, to allow you to get to your final team. There were long moments spent contemplating who to cut, and players' pleas on the way out don't make it any easier.
Also, you can now practice with your franchise team between games and before playoff games, which means that you get the chance to gameplan without having to make it count, just like you would in real life. Free agency has been beefed up, too, to get a little closer to the Wild Wild West feel of the offseason we just experienced in real life, allowing you to bid against the other 31 teams in the league to get to the player you want.
There are some curiosities, however, and I firmly believe that these are related to the uncertainty of the NFL in this offseason. Madden calls itself the most realistic football simulation there is, but, if that's the case, why don't I have a 90-man roster going into this season? Contract negotiations are based on old numbers, not the way the CBA has dictated new contracts go. These are nitpicky items, for sure, but if you only claim to do one thing and do it well, you should do it completely.
Rumblin', Bumblin', Stumblin'
Madden has always been at the forefront of sports gaming when it comes to presentation, often providing some of the best HD experiences one can have in the world of gaming, and this year's edition is still beautiful, with extra attention being paid to new cinematics and introductions that are truly breathtaking. The problem, however, is that some of the things that are typically so well done are a little off this time out. For example, your field goal team will have just finished kicking, and it will cut to an animation of an offensive huddle with completely different personnel, including your QB, who is actually on the bench.
The commentary, provided by Cris Collinsworth and Gus Johnson, is good, but often repetitive. Playing franchise mode with the Eagles, I heard Collinsworth's description of Nnamdi Asomugha in exactly the same way in each and every game. Also, not every stadium is one of the most difficult places to play on the road, but every stadium is certainly described that way.
Wrong players being namechecked, wrong numbers called, and splintered voiceover during which Johnson gamely asks questions that are never answered only adds to the confusion, which is so not like Madden that it's startling.
Never Trust Your Coordinators
Returning in a new way is the GameFlow system from Madden NFL 11, which means that your offensive and defensive coordinators call plays for you, and all you have to do is press 'A' to send them in. Here's the problem. Your coordinators are often wrong. The other team's AI is smart enough to recognize that you've run four play action passes in a row, and loads up accordingly. They are, unfortunately, smarter than your own coaching staff, which keeps calling the same play action a fifth time, ensuring a deep sack.
What it means is that you're going to have to be vigilant and learn the game and the plays you can call, instead of depending on the computer to do it for you. It's so frequently wrong that it seems like the plays might be picked at random. Also, with hundreds of plays at your disposal, why does the system continue to pick the same five plays over and over again? It's a conundrum.
Also, just so you know, if you're playing in franchise mode, even if you've been murdering teams over and over again, if you choose to simulate a game, you WILL lose that game, even if the other team is vastly inferior. Also, every two or three games you simulate means that one of your superstar players is lost for the season. It seems much more than simply random. Be aware.
Let's Play Together!
Online is, of course, really comprehensive, with head-to-head and 3-on-3 online co-op still at the forefront. Of course, when I played online, it was very, very laggy, causing my opponent (who I didn't know) to ask for a friendly quit after one quarter. The cool new online feature is Online Communities, which allows you to create and join a community of up to 2,000 players who share your preferences for online play, whether that be game length, injuries, penalties, or any number of other variables. You can play ranked matches within your community, or against other communities. This seems like a good way to weed out some of the chaff in the Madden community to make sure you get the experience you want.
Madden NFL Ultimate Team, the football version of Magic the Gathering, remains from last year if you like your football a little more on the theoretical side. New to Ultimate Team is the ability to trade players, which is nice. Madden Moments are back, consistently one of the more fun parts of the game, and this year's edition is no different, though four of the five Moments that come unlocked with the game are nearly impossible to accomplish.
Are We Rebuilding?
Overall, Madden NFL 12 is going to be satisfying to Madden fans who buy the game year after year, regardless of what's changed and what's not. Usually, steps forward are made in the franchise, but this year, it seems that the steps forward have been made in the parts of the game that aren't the fundamentals. In other words, it's just fine to add lots and lots of extras, but when the core game takes a step backward, you need to really think of what's important.
As I said earlier, I can't help but think that a lot of this has to do with the fluctuation in the world of the NFL over the offseason, and the uncertainty of what football would look like when it returned. Maybe it left a lot undone until the last minute, but this year's edition of Madden feels like a stopgap, as if we should just be happy it's here, and not necessarily expect too much more than that.