Madden 12 [Review]

  • Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PSP, Wii
  • Published by: EA Sports
  • Developed by: EA Tiburon
  • Genre: Sports
  • ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
  • Number of Players: 1-4 Co-op 2-4
  • Release Date: US: August 30th, 2011

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the Madden football games. I used to buy numerous football games every year, dating back to the early Madden and Joe Montana Sports Talk Football games. I would sometimes buy four or more NFL games by different companies. Usually Madden, 2K, Gameday and NFL Fever which was back on the original Xbox. I love variety when it comes to sports games. Needless to say when I found ESPN NFL 2K5 it felt like I was finally home after a long journey. The game offered things that nobody had even heard of yet, like online leagues, stat tracking, cribs and a halftime show that actually showed highlights from your game. Competition was a very good thing, when ESPN 2K Sports games were released at a budget price of $19.99, EA had to follow suit. People were free to experience the best of both worlds. Why stick to one game when you could experience them all? Then EA did the unthinkable and bought the exclusive rights to the NFL license. Which meant there would be no more competition. I was personally upset because I knew it would be a while before we got the chance to see something new and inventive in a NFL simulator.

I know quite a few people who buy a Madden game only every other year or even every few years. Since you can always edit and make trades, it’s simple enough to keep your favorite teams roster up to date. Plus you could still play online, so EA decided to start taking down servers from the older versions of the games. Sales for Madden actually started to suffer and EA then started to actually play catch up to what ESPN NFL 2K5 was. Madden 2011 isn’t huge leaps and bounds over the other titles, but it does offer enough new and refined functions to justify picking the game up. Especially if you’re a die-hard NFL fan.

I’m going to start with some good things about Madden 12. Franchise mode is as deep as ever, a newly implemented feature let’s you make the big roster cut downs after each pre-season game. After each pre-season game you’ll be asked to cut a certain amount of players. This is an excellent feature and something that is long overdue. So if your like me, you play a lot of the second and third string guys during the pre-season and try to figure out who you will keep on your roster. It’s little things like this that make Madden 12 one of the deepest sports games of all time.

There are new, crisper player models and the games presentation has also improved. There are new camera angles that make the game seem more realistic, including a new shaky cam that follows the players. Sometimes at first glance you’d actually think you were watching an actual NFL game. There have been improvements in the running game as well, I’ve long hated how poor the running game, as well as the animations themselves were for Madden games. It was always difficult to break a long run, your blockers sometimes wouldn’t pull properly or would just let the defense right into the backfield. I would give up on trying to run the football in most Madden games, you can only take so many one or two yard gains before you just start passing the ball all the time. Thankfully EA has finally heard the cries and has done a lot to improve the running game. The blockers do a much better job and overall when your running the ball it just feels smoother. The defense doesn’t just magically sink into your player anymore either. In past Madden games this was a huge problem, it was like the ball carrier was a magnet and if you went within a foot of a defender, even if he was blocked he would magically cling to you and make the tackle.

The new player introductions are fantastic, they actually are using the authentic team run-outs. Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens is known for his entrance dance and he actually does it in Madden 12, as a Baltimore Ravens fan it’s a beautiful thing to behold in a video game. The computer A.I. is also a lot more fierce, even on Pro mode. Since the whole sinking blocks issue is fixed you’ll actually be able to get some pass rush on your opponents.

The A.I. has also improved when it comes to pulling starters for pre-season games. In the first pre-season game your starters will play only a quarter, in the second pre-season game your starters play the first half. It’s much more realistic and it brings an added sense of realism to the game.

The online league mode is also impressive, I am really looking forward to doing a deep playoff run with my Ravens in an online league I’ve created with some friends. Superstar mode is back as well, so get ready to create and have your Superstar player drafted and playing in the NFL. This is a feature I’ve always enjoyed and it’s even deeper than in past Madden iterations.

Now this game is far from perfect and I have a few complaints. First is the commentary, Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth have to be some of the worst commentators I’ve ever heard, they almost put me to sleep. They are wrong a good number of the time, they are slow with their calls and overall just make me long for the days when we had John Madden calling the plays with Pat Summerall. Why does EA have these guys recycle the same shtick over and over again is beyond me. They hardly ever call any of the players by name. Unless your last name is Manning or Brady they seem to not really care much about you. I do believe it’s time for EA to look into getting some new commentators.

I also am not a very big fan of the pre-snap options you have with the D-pad, it seems like there is never enough time to get setup the way you want to, especially if you’re in an online game. I have issue with the people in the stands as well, when you play games like Forza Motorsport 3 or NFL 2K11 and you see the fans or the crowd look so realistic, you begin to wonder why the folks making Madden games can’t pull off something similar. When the camera is on the players and especially the new angles you get totally immersed in the action, it’s so real. Then the game cuts away or you see the crowd and it looks so generic. I really hope now that the gameplay portion seems to be well enough done that EA takes their time and fixes things like this.

Another complaint I have is that when you play pre-season games and the second half of the game starts the computer subs out your starters, which is a good thing and it’s something Madden games have been doing for years now, the problem lies with the computer putting your starters on Special Teams, which can lead to injuries before the season even starts. The last thing I want is for Ed Reed or Ray Lewis getting hurt covering kickoffs.
One issue I found with the game is when the defensive backs look like they are in perfect position to intercept a pass, yet they stand there and drop the ball, sometimes they don’t even go for it. One game I played my DB who is rated 78, dropped four interceptions in one game. This has always been an issue with Madden games.

The online portion of Madden is solid as ever, there are even better measures to ensure you get a far match played, even if your opponent cheats or drops mid match. The multiplayer online modes are also fun if your into teamwork or more of a casual Madden fan.

There is definitely enough content in this game to justify a purchase, if you’re an NFL fan, sports fan or sports gaming fan then I’d definitely suggest picking up Madden 12. It’s not perfect, but they have made enough improvements and added enough features to keep you interested for months to come. I can wholeheartedly say as a huge NFL 2K fan, that Madden seems to have finally caught up to what ESPN NFL 2K5 was. If you’ve avoided Madden in the past because you thought it was the same game recycled over and over again, trust me when I say it’s not the case this year. Madden scores in the red zone this year and is well worth the price of admission.


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