Madden 12 ReviewJames Pugh
Death and Taxes... Death, Taxes, and Madden; three things we know to be true. Madden as a series seems to follow an interesting pattern. Every year a new feature is introduced but it usually isn't until the next iteration for said feature to be fully realized. Last year's key addition was the game flow play calling system. While the system has only been slightly tweaked, it does work better. This year however, does not seem to have any additions of note. For the first time in a while it seems as though the motions were made but there was no attempt to push the series further.
On the field subtle improvements don't mask the stagnant system beneath the presentation. The presentation is very good by the way. My main problem with the on the field game has always been the logic behind blocks. Whereas most of the game follows, or at least appears to follow, normal logic patterns and the laws of physics, getting a Fullback or a Tight End to make a rational decision in the backfield is almost impossible. Numerous times I was on offence with a TE on a look protection scheme. Instead of picking up the block on the blitzing corner heading right at his gap, he decided the better option was to run a few yards up field and block a Safety in zone coverage. Pull something like that and you won't have a job anymore in the NFL. While this may seem like a minor complaint if you are a fan of Madden, it becomes painfully apparent that the systems in place dictated a successful blitz and whatever play you had was irrelevant, the opposite of immersion and realism.
Staying on the subject of offense, the game seems to be pretty heavily in this side of the ball. Madden goes through changes every now and then between which side of the ball seems a bit overpowered. Longtime fans will remember how insanely strong defense was in 05. While not quite that bad this year it is certainly a much easier game for offense then it is defense, which I know some would agree is the state of real football. I just can't remember a year since the defense revolution in 05 when I converted so many deep bombs to receivers on simple fly routes. Confounding this issue is the fact that this didn't seem to be the case last year; the game seemed to play more even.
Franchise mode is given a bit of a makeover. Menus within menus within menus still, can take a while to get used to but when it clicks you can see this interface is superior as it allows for the quickest access to information. The importance of offseason is increased with more tasks that have a tangible affect on your team. It is tempting to allow the CPU to sim most of it but I challenge you to see it through, you will be rewarded. The scouting is amazing with hours of potential time sunk into finding the best draft picks both number ones and sleeper. Tom Brady was a sixth round pick. The most attention was given to free agency, where players are more or less put up in auction where you can bid on players. Once again the logic is a bit suspect; why is the cost of Carson Palmer reaching Payton Manning level? Franchise mode is still my mode of choice and football fans will spend hours upon hours making their teams win. My Chargers have to win a SuperBowl somehow, even if it's only in Madden. A guy can dream.
As should come as no surprise to EA Sports fans the Ultimate Team' initiative is in full force this year. It's not a new mode but has been given a lot of attention this year. I have to say I was a pretty big detractor from the mode at the beginning, yet ultimately (pun intended) I spent most of my time there. If you are unfamiliar, MUT "Madden Ultimate Team" works like a card game with football where the player can earn points coins through games to buy pack of cards with players, coaches, stadiums, uniform, etc. to fill their team. It's simple and addicting. Each new pack brings the possibility of an Ed Reed or Adrian Peterson to improve the overall rating of your team. The cynic in me points out that EA sells in game coins for real money, so of course this mode received some attention. It makes one wonder what's more important an interesting way to play the game, or a new revenue stream.
Online play hasn't received any important tweaks other then games seeming more stable and better on the field presentation. Playing MUT online however is a blast, seeing your opponents players and load out is almost as fun as playing the game. If you're a fan of Madden online you will not be disappointed but know that this is one area where the game truly feels like a roster update.
I may sound so negative but that's not to say that this year's Madden is bad, it's not, in fact I still love it. This love though comes more from my admiration for the NFL. I played Madden 12 for close to 40 hours and see no reason why I won't come back from time to time. The action on the field is still solid, aforementioned gripes aside. The only real problem, and admittedly it's a big one, is Madden 12 makes it harder than ever to justify it being a boxed retail game. I said in the beginning that every game introduces a new element that they either refine in the next one (defense being equalized in Madden 06) or completely dropped (remember the QB cone a couple years back), but this year's game doesn't have one. Madden 12 is still worth your time if you love football but I can only hope next year we see some innovation, or at the very least more salient refinements.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.