It’s that time of year again; the NFL is back and ready to consume your Sundays. Even though a lockout threatened the season from even happening this year, development never stopped, and Madden lives on. Like every year, EA Tiburon has updated their long running franchise, but do this year’s changes warrant a purchase?
The first thing you notice when starting a game is the presentation. EA really scored a touchdown in this department. With the addition of an on-the-field camera during cut scenes, alongside a plethora of angles used to show off the finely crafted stadiums, it feels like you’re watching the real thing. Each team has authentic field entrances, too. Also, the lighting effects have been totally rebuilt, and it shows. During a game, the sun will actually move positions, changing shadows on the field.
Player animations have also been an area that EA Tiburon focused on this off-season. In years past, when a player is about to be tackled, they had a tendency to get sucked in, altering their path straight to the defenders. Not this year. The animations and upgraded collision system work together beautifully and add a lot of individuality to the players in the game.
The AI system has been drastically improved with new player tendencies. It’s been done in other sports games, but this is the first for Madden. New this year, each player is attributed with tons of individual options. Does your Running Back fight for extra yards or not? How does your Wide Receiver play the ball in the air, aggressively or conservatively? What does your Quarterback do when he senses pressure in the pocket? Things like this really go a long way in making a solid and thoughtful game of football.
The only major addition to the gameplay is Defensive Assist, which is a fancy way of saying “you’re lazy.” If you’re not up to playing Defense, you can simply hold down a button during a play, and the computer will put you into the right position, basically playing the game for you. While helpful to novice players, this addition won’t help you make any big plays on D.
Every mode from last year is back (Franchise, Be an NFL Superstar, Ultimate Team, and Madden Moments) with a few improvements here and there. In Franchise mode, for instance, you can scout college players, jump into free agent bidding wars, and during the off-season rosters are expanded. Customization options are plentiful, allowing you to make your Franchise whatever you want it to be.
Ultimate Team is a card game that allows you to collect cards of real NFL players that then accumulate to make a playable team. The option to trade cards with other players is a nice addition in this year’s game. Overall, these modes are slightly improved, but generally they all feel the same, just like every year.
When playing online, however, communities improve the experience. You can set up groups with players of a similar mind or skillset. The Online Franchise also gained features, with additional contract options, a draft, and the ability to manage your team on the website.
With Madden NFL 12, you’re mostly getting the same game as its predecessor, with minor improvements strewn throughout the available options. The AI is smarter, the visuals show more attention to detail, and overall the gameplay is tighter. Fans of the series should feel right at home when they pop in the disc. Football is back, and just like every year Madden is only slightly better.