The summer has come to an end and what a summer it was. Most of the diehard football fans around the country and world spent each day wondering whether or not the NFL season would actually happen due to the battle over money between the NFLPA and the NFL itself. Unlike the NFL and its players, the Madden franchise has no one else to contend with. So another annual release was never in doubt. Madden 12 has arrived on time like the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park. The only question is if this year’s release actually improves on its predecessors or is it just another expensive roster update?
Once again we’ve been treated to some upgrades by the folks at Tiburon Studios like NFL Films new camera angles which for the first time really deliver the feeling of being in the huddle. The overall presentation has been given a nice facelift in fact. Thanks to the collaboration with NFL Films, each game feels like nicely done television production on Sunday afternoon like you’d expect from CBS (here in the States). Turbo is still absent which means that Madden is continuing with the pursuit of realism. Like last year’s release, Madden 12’s action revolves around actual player stats.
The improvements in presentation continue with the return of both Chris Collinsworth and Gus Johnson in the announcer’s booth. Thankfully the two seem to mesh a little better this year than they did in last year’s awkward and unbalanced game calling. Commentary flows much better this time around because the two actually seem to know what’s happening on the field. It’s not all a bed of roses of course. You still grow weary of hearing the same lines over and over as you continue playing.
It’s not just the presentation that’s been polished. Madden 12 is more than just some new camera flybys and detailed stadiums. The Franchise and Superstar modes have gotten a long overdue tune up. It’s nothing amazing, which is the EA Sports’ way. The AI in Madden has changed too. To put it simply, the gameplay is a little smarter. Thanks to the smarter AI and missing turbo, players feel like they’re really breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage for a first down and returning kickoffs and punts in an actual game. We like arcade games, but we like our football sims to be a little more simulation. Tiburon has clearly gotten the message.
This time around, the player’s traits have been improved too so that their on the field tendencies can really shine. Quarterbacks take snaps completely different from one another and even seem to drop back in their actual styles. This, as usual, is only the case for the big name stars. We’re guessing EA didn’t take the time to study Denver’s third string Brady Quinn to see what his check down method is. The player habits, their body size and on the field speed is even clearly visible to the untrained eye of star running backs.
Madden 12’s passing game had been a thorn in the side of the series for years with gamers complaining of magical interceptions by leaping linebackers. This time around the defense appears to have left the “stick ‘em” on the sidelines. It’s still a little difficult to fine the perfect “touch” to attain the exact desired velocity on the ball, but at least Madden 12 has a lot more tips and knock downs this time around. Play fakes still take far too long and open your offense up to getting completely crushed. It’s obvious that there’s still some work to be done in the AI since Madden still can’t seem to master the play action that 2K Sports was able to pull off in NFL 2K5 over seven years ago. It would be nice to pull off a play fake more than once a game without your quarterback getting blown up by a blitzing corner who should never had had enough time to get in the pocket.
As mention before, the graphics and presentation are the biggest improvements. This is nothing new since Electronic Arts has put visuals above gameplay in Madden since it went 3D. Seeing the players run onto the field is really cool. No matter who you root for, it’s hard not to get pumped up when you see the Chicago Bears head onto the field waving the Bears flag. The camera angles really add to the feel of the game and provide a genuine NFL experience. This is a first for franchise built on simple gameplay.
Madden 12 is exactly what we expected. As Dennis Green would say in regards to EA Sports and their minimal annual upgrades – “They Are Who We Thought They Were!!!!”. Sure there are some improvements and the presentation is better this time around, but it’s hard not to think about how much better Madden would be if it had some competition. Even with the increased realism, Madden 12 falls short of being the simulation that NFL fans were treated to by 2K Sports. Casual football fans, which make up 99% of Madden players, will enjoy the beefed up Franchise and Superstar modes. Since you have no other options out there, Madden 12 is worth checking out. It looks like we’ll spend another year hoping for a complete NFL simulation. We’re not holding our breath.