If I had to compare Madden NFL 12 to a current team, it would have to be the New York Jets. For the past couple years, the Jets have been talked about as a rising team, one that has the potential to put it all together and make a run at greatness. Unfortunately for Jets fans, Gang Green has been knocked out one round shy of the Super Bowl two years in a row. Likewise, the Madden series is slowly getting better, but isn't yet a spectacular game.
That isn't to say Madden is bad. There are numerous features that will amaze both Madden rookies and ten year veterans alike. The first thing you're likely to notice is the visual presentation. Players and stadiums look phenomenal. Player faces convey emotion, both happy and sad, and little touches like grass stains and helmet scuffs really push the graphics to new heights. Stadiums look superb as well, and as the sun moves across the sky, shadows make their way across the field. This can have an impact on gameplay, as I was unaware of open receivers that had streaked down shadow covered sidelines, notably at the new Meadowlands Stadium. New statistical overlays bring pertinent data to your attention in TV-quality styles.
While the game looks awesome, it doesn't sound up to snuff. Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth are knowledgeable and energetic, but the way their dialogue was implemented is nearly a total disaster. The digital Johnson calls players by their numbers, uses wrong names, and often spends up to 30 seconds stuck talking about something that went down two plays ago. Collinsworth regales players with lines that first were recorded for Madden 10. Lines from both men start to repeat after just a few games, and some Collinsworth tidbits repeat even in the same game. This kind of audio quality, especially compared to MLB 11: The Show and NBA 2K11, is borderline awful in a $60 sports game.
On the field, many new running and catching animations, along with post-play celebrations and cutscenes, are brought to the table and work well. EA Sports worked with NFL Films to identify actual stadium camera locations, making replays near-broadcast quality. Occasionally, this sense of awe is broken by a camera left aimed at an empty piece of turf, but these momentum breakers are few and far between.
Franchise mode got the biggest focus from the developers in the offseason, it appears. Preseason and postseason were the main focus, and the new level of control that aspiring coaches and owners will have over their teams is both incredible and a bit overwhelming. Cutting players after every preseason game to get your squad from 75 down to 53 in time for the regular season is a task gamers have demanded for years. After the Super Bowl, scouting, drafting, re-signing, and free agency could take up hours of your time, but with wonky text-based menus and a clunky interface, confusion could set in. It's best to keep a pen and paper handy to jot down your team needs, instead of backing out of menus to find what you want.
Online play also saw the addition of online communities. This allows groups of up to 2,000 to form a room of sorts, password protect it, and set their own rules and leaderboards. For veterans looking to avoid glitches and have their own party, online communities are a great alternative to normal online play.
Alternatively, Superstar mode is underwhelming, and for Madden vets, not worth your time. New players might find the aspect of controlling a single player through his career interesting, but with just minor changes from Madden 11, this is the low-point of all the modes in Madden 12.
Ultimate Team harkens back to the days of our youth, when kids would build imaginary teams of trading cards and battle it out with friends. Digital card representations of current and legendary players could provide for a few hours of fun as you build a club and then play or swap cards online.
Madden NFL 12 is another solid addition to the Madden legacy. Sadly, with sports games reaching new heights in baseball, hockey, and basketball, the other member of “The Big Four” doesn’t get its just due. The hype is there, and there is a lot of fun to be found, but hardcore fans are left waiting for next year once again.
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