Madden NFL 12ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: Electronic Arts
19.24 MB to Save Game
Online Multiplayer: 2-6 players
Game Content Download
My passion for the NFL goes back 25-30 years, so I have to admit I was absolutely sickened with the thought of not having a football season this year. I was just disgusted with both the players and the owners as they bickered over trivial issues for what seemed like months on end. But when the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified a few weeks ago, I was jumping for joy and all of the sudden my sights shifted on EA Sports’ latest instalment in the Madden NFL franchise. Last year, Madden NFL 11 made some small leaps and overall was a better game than then Madden 10. Yet at the end of the day, it remained a Madden game where not much in terms of the core gameplay had changed. As for the most recent release, Madden NFL 12, the "if it ain't broke then don't fix it" approach has been taken yet again. In large part, it feels awfully similar to last year's version, but many areas have been improved. So this begs to ask the question: is Madden 12 worth owning?
Overall, the visuals in Madden NFL 12 for the Xbox 360 are once again a strong point for the franchise. There is no question EA Sports has again managed to pay great homage to the NFL game and yet again we see some visual leaps from last's year. Madden NFL 12 is far from a perfect visual experience, but it is the best we have seen in the franchise to date. New animations and an all new team specific pre-game player introductions are the two biggest improvements I noticed when playing this year's instalment. There are also many other tiny visual enhancements. On the surface it may not seem like much, but it is the little visual improvements and additions to the overall presentation of the game which makes Madden NFL 12 the best-looking NFL game yet.
Madden NFL 12 features 32 team specific run outs featuring player introductions, fireworks, mascots and cheerleaders. I found the introductions really get you in the mood for some football and the dynamic camera angles leads to an experience that feels very authentic. Having been a Seattle Seahawks season ticket holder for the past couple of years, nothing gets the hairs on the back of my neck standing like the pre-game player introductions. The crowd absolutely goes bananas when the fireworks go off, sirens are blaring, and the players run out into the field just before the national anthem. EA Sports has wonderfully re-created that aspect of the NFL game and ultimately moving the franchise a step closer towards being a true to life NFL experience.
The only downside in terms of the games presentation would be the lack of a halftime show. Granted, many of us, myself included, are guilty of skipping the halftime cut-scenes anyhow. Nevertheless, I have always enjoyed watching some form halftime show with stats, highlights from around the league, and other tidbits from the game now and then. So I was somewhat saddened when nothing was done in this department.
Another noticeable improvement in the visuals department is the field and lighting effects. The lighting and shadow effects are improved as the higher contrast lighting matches that of a HDTV broadcast. The field now features 3D grass that looks stunning and very true to life as players kick grass and create divots as they run on the field. The stadiums and fans look very much like they did last year but I struggle to see what else could be done to improve this area.
Another positive this year is the lack of clipping and texture problems. I hardly noticed any issues, which is something remarkable when you consider the amount of contact players have with one another on any given play. Much of this might have to do with the games new collision detection system where you can now maintain full control of your player up to the point of impact. Tackles and blocks will only trigger once contact is actually made with the ball carrier. This eliminates the suction effect we have seen in previous games in the series. This new collision system has resulted in more tackling animations and making for a game which also takes players momentum into consideration.
Madden 12 runs very smooth and suffers no slow down. On the downside, long load times were an issue for me. Logging onto the EA Servers, then loading your previously saved franchise, and then launching into a game can seemingly take an eternity. Okay, I am exaggerating, but you get the point. Needless to say, you will be waiting in some load screens a little longer than you were last year.
As far as the sound is concerned, Madden NFL 12 is good, but it left me with the same feelings I had last year — a tad underwhelmed. For starters, the commentary is deeper this year but once again far too repetitive. I was looking forward to a change with the broadcast team, but once again Cris Collinsworth is back and continues to grate the heck out of me. I just find he often comes across as a 'know it all' and somewhat pompous. I know many of you love him, but personally I could do without and would prefer a broadcast team consisting of perhaps Al Micheals, Jim Nantz, Joe Buck, or how about Tony Siragusa who is one of the more colourful sideline reporters in the NFL today. It has been a few years with Cris and I just think it is time for a change. That being said they do a decent job at calling the games and they are arguably the most accurate tandem we have seen in a Madden game to date, but as with any sports game they repeat themselves a tad too much. In the end though I recognize this is par for the course.
On a more positive note, the soundtrack is once again strong but not as good as last year. Madden NFL 11 featured Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” and other legendary sports anthems such as Thunderstruck, Song 2 and Crazy Train. They were all songs you would typically hear in any NFL stadium. So for that reason alone Madden NFL 11 scored high marks in the soundtrack department. Madden NFL 12 has taken a small step back as some of those big time sports anthems are noticeably absent. Songs by the Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters and Queen are all sweet but the soundtrack is dominated by a lot of hip hop tunes which frankly never sparked any emotion for me or contributed to the overall atmosphere in the game.
Madden NFL 12 does feature some great sound effects as all the bone crackling hits, grunts, whistles, on field chatter, and any other sounds you would typically hear in an NFL broadcast sound fantastic. All the sounds in the game seem to pack a punch as they all seem richer and the game just comes to life that much more. I highly recommend turning up the volume when playing Madden NFL 12 as the 5.1 surround sound is great.
Overall, the gameplay for Madden NFL 12 is once again rock solid, authentic and entertaining. It plays very similar to last year’s version but the difficulty has been amped up a bit as playing the game in Pro (default) difficulty is much more of a challenge. Casual gamers new to the franchise might have a difficult time getting accustomed to the game. Yet for those that have played the game on a yearly basis, you may absolutely love the improved defensive AI that results in a more challenging and less forgiving playing climate.
As I suggested everything seems just a little more difficult this year. Running and passing the ball is a little tougher and much of that has to do with the 100 defensive AI enhancements. EA Sports claims this years Madden game features the smartest Madden defence ever. After a just a few games into my Madden franchise season, I can confirm this is indeed the best defensive AI I have faced in over 10-years of playing the franchise. Defences adjust to every play. Slant passes are no longer accomplished with ease and slamming home a combination of 3 or 4 plays will not get it done this year. You need to attack defences with a good mix of pass and running plays as the defenders have a much better idea of their responsibilities, adapt to your style, and play more aggressive if the circumstances call for it. The game encourages you to put together a solid game plan and this has never been as important as it is this year.
Last year, Madden NFL 11 introduced “Gameflow”. This year Gameflow is back and it is improved. For those of you unfamiliar with Gameflow, it is a play calling system that provides gamers with the best play for the given down and yardage. In a way it is almost like you are asking the coach to call the play and you are putting trust in that coach to call the best play for your current circumstance. It is much more accurate than the former “ask Madden” option since Gameflow is based on your team’s play calling propensities and strengths and it also matches plays to situational game plans. It also reduces the length of time it takes to play a game. Typical Madden games take around 50-60 minutes to play. Gameflow cuts the gametime down quite a bit. Unlike last year, Gameflow is now more integrated into the game and appears in a small menu box on the screen. You can now customize your playbook which is used with the Gameflow system. So you are not strictly at the mercy of the AI choosing the Gameflow plays as you can now have Gameflow choose plays from your customized playbook. You can put together a playbook of up to 400 plays and select those plays from 75 different playbooks. Clearly this is geared towards the more hardcore Madden fan, but if you are going to invest the time into the game, and ultimately compete with other Madden gamers online, you will want to put together a playbook that suits your style and will win you games.
For hardcore Madden fans not interested in customizing your playbook or using the Gameflow play selecting system, you will be relieved to know you can still pick your own plays or use the “ask Madden” option; however, I enjoyed making my own playbook, albeit it still needs work, and preferred using the Gameflow system as I found it to be a much more balanced attack as opposed to my emotional and often erratic play calling. In some instances the plays did not seem to match the situation at hand, but for the most part if I stuck with the game plan it all worked out in the wash.
Another new feature in Madden 12 is Dynamic Player Performance. The idea here is merely bringing about even more realism. It is a sophisticated AI system that affects player behaviour based on their performance on the field. Dynamic Player Performance captures the highs and lows that professional football players experience in a game. If a Wide Receiver is struggling, you may need to change up your game plan in order to get him more involved in the offence. Each player also has a confidence rating which affects how consistent your players will play. Players rated a 1 or 2 out of 5 will not play as consistent as a player who is rated 4 or 5 out of 5. Madden NFL 12 ships with every player having a confidence level of 3 out of 5 stars. Such traits as being a clutch performer or a QB who is great at sensing pressure are all aspects of the Dynamic Player Performance which make the game all the more authentic.
The franchise mode, which is where I traditionally spend the bulk of my time, features a number of new features and minor enhancements. As I just mentioned Dynamic Player Performance now plays a bigger role in your season. If Alex Smith is struggling, as he typically does, his overall rating will be impacted. From week to week, based on player performance, your player’s ratings will be impacted. Mike Vick could be a 90 rating one week and after a bad performance his rating could drop to 70 the next week. You should be aware that hot and cold streaks only last for a maximum of 3 games before their ratings return to normal levels. Some other enhancements to the franchise mode include expanded rosters, new rookie scouting system, new free agent bidding system, cut days in pre-season, practice mode and player roles. What is the player roles feature you ask? In franchise mode players can earn different roles and can be assigned a role in-game. Deep Threat, Future Star, Injury Prone and Team Mentor are just a few of the 23-roles that players can earn in the Franchise mode. These roles are earned and lost based on defined criteria every offseason so players will not keep them forever.
The online gameplay seems to have been given a boost this year as well and offers up some of the broadest online feature sets we have seen in a sports game to date. Modes include Madden Ultimate Team, Online Franchise, Head to Head Play, Leaderboards and Online Communities. Your core online modes are all back, so I won’t examine the old and instead focus on some of the new additions to the online arena. The online communities appear to be the single biggest boost the Madden online experience. You can create and join a community with up to 2000 other like-minded gamers. You can play head to head against each other with your own rules and even your own leaderboards. Each community can have anywhere between 2 and 2000 gamers. Each gamer can now be a part of five different online communities.
Spruce up the online modes all you want, but at the end of the day Madden gamers just want a smooth online experience allowing them to put their skills to the test against another human opponent. The Madden Online Franchise is back this year and includes all the awesome features that made the mode a success last year. Taking advantage of many of the features is truly for the hardcore Madden online gamer as rookies will simply need to invest a lot of time to get up to speed with the sheer depth of the features. Nevertheless, the Online Franchise has come a long way.
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