Madden NFL 12 Review
When I wake up in the morning and feel a cool breeze and the smell of fall in the air, one thing comes to mind: football. After months of the NFL being locked out and fearing that the season would not happen, we are now a week away from Opening Day. With a new season comes a new “Madden,” but is this a new “Madden” worthy of your hard earned cash or is it just a glorified roster update?
Let’s be clear: for the last couple of years, “Madden” has been the same with little changes here and there, and that was fine. This year, however, they boasted how they added so much and changed so many things. Here is a list of the new features they offer:
- Kick-offs are now from the 35 Yard-Line(They changed the rule so kick-offs in the real game are from the 35, so this isn’t a new feature, really.).
- Onside kicks can be performed from the Standard Kick-Off Formation(so that dick friend everyone has that does nothing but onside kicks can be even more annoying).
- If a player suffers a concussion in the game, they cannot return to that game to support Concussion Awareness
- New Collision System, which means new tackling animations and new gang tackle animations.
- New Defensive Player AI: they will no longer just follow the play. If they see that they can stop a play by changing things up, the AI will do so.
- Players can now customize play books or create their own by selecting plays from different play books.
- New Presentation, including Pre-game celebrations. That includes mascots and cheerleaders for all teams that have them (The faces on the cheerleaders will haunt my dreams.)
- Player traits will change during the game depending on how they are playing.
- Quarterbacks now have distinct throwing motions.
- During the off season, signing players is now done through a bidding system.
- You start the pre-season with a 75 man roster and have to make cuts each week to get down to 55.
- You can trade future draft picks.
- New 3D Grass
- New Scouting System in Franchise Mode
- Uniforms and helmets will show wear and tear depending on the weather.
Okay, so those are the main features that they are pushing so hard as evidence of why this is a new, better “Madden.” Let’s take each one and talk about if they are worth it or not:
- Both New Kick Off Features: Moving the Kick-Offs up is a new NFL rule. If they did not do it the game wouldn’t be real, so that doesn’t go for or against them. The onside kick from the regular kick off formation Is cool. Have not tried it yet, but it will be helpful.
- Concussions: Yet again another one that does not go against them or for them
- New Collision system: Is pretty cool. It’s nice to see my running back shake off a hit but stumble and have to put a hand on the ground to keep himself going for a few more yards. This also carries over to catching the ball; there are no more magnet catches, so that’s nice and while playing a game I saw some truly awesome catches that I have never seen.
- New Player AI: Works…sometimes I saw it work against me more times than it did for me, but still a good feature.
- Creation: The “create a play book” is okay but, I have a bone to pick with the creation process. First off, when creating a player it should not take me 20 minutes to change position because the game is going to generate a player that fits that position for me. Also, if I am creating a running back he doesn’t have to be black every time. Secondly, I am one of those nerds that enjoys creating a team so I can see what I can do through trades and FA Signings, but for years they have offered the same ten ugly logos. When you do play as your created team the uniforms look shitty and like they belong on a PS2, not a PS3. This bothers me because other games have offered more variety and the created teams don’t look as crisp as the real ones, but close. In “Madden” that’s never the case. “All-Star Baseball” did it best; they had 32 teams already programmed into the game with unique logos, team colors, stadiums, and uniforms that looked like they belonged. I would love to see more sports franchises do this.
- Franchise Upgrades: They have added a few things to Franchise Mode and they all suck. The expanded rosters and cut days is a good theory, but they don’t let you pick the extra 20 players you’re going to give a try. They auto generate 20 rookies whose stats are unknown, and when you see them it will say their overall rating is 95. All the stats are question marks, which is okay in small doses, but I do not want to release a bunch of people to bring in others to try ’em out. I say before the season you get a list of generated rookies to pick from and the rest is from the FA pool.
- The trading of Future Picks would have been a great feature five years ago. Now its just an “about time” feature.
- The Scouting Feature is pretty useful. You pick what players you really want to look at, and by Draft Day you have a solid Idea of their abilities and ratings, which helped me score a WR with an 87 ranking in the 6th round.
- The Bidding System is horrible, and might be one of my most hated features in any game….EVER! In past “Maddens” you would go into the off-season Free Agent market, find the players you wanted or needed, offer them a contract and wait to see if they accepted or if another team placed a higher offer that you could counter. Simple, easy and made sure you got what you needed. This year they said, “Fuck it.” You now go to Free Agency and have 50 seconds to make an offer to a player, but you don’t control what the offer is. You just hit “X,” the offer goes up, and you see the team with the highest offer. It changes and you just keep hitting “X,” not knowing what the impact on your cap will be until the player accepts. Also, once you go to a group of positions the bidding starts on their top players, but that’s only if the top players were not on the main free agency page. If they were the bidding has already started and you are fucked. I went into the off-season needing a back up QB, a full back, a top WR, a back up TE, two offensive linemen, a starting end, three defensive backs and a punter. I left with a WR, a defensive back and an offensive lineman because I ran out of cap and time. Also on a side note, my 7th round pick should not be turning down my contract offers. That was annoying.
- Presentation/3D Grass/Uniform wear and tear/Gameplay: This is something that covers many aspects, some which are good some that are bad. The Pregrame Runouts with mascots and cheerleaders and on-field cameras showing the aerial view of the stadium is very cool stuff. When they go to the aerial views of the stadiums and you see the detail they put in it’s awesome, but there is a lot wrong with this. Let’s go to the first thing: the broadcasters. Gus Johnson and Chris Collinsworth are so bad that after four games I muted my TV and either played in silence or listening to music. I will be honest, I hate Chris Collinsworth. I hate the fact that he is on “Inside the NFL” and I think CBS or NBC’s football coverage. He is the worst football analyst in history; he adds nothing to anything.
I understand they probably recorded their tracks separately, but it is painfully obvious and bad, which is sad because EA makes a game with the best broadcasting voice over in gaming: the “NHL” series. I mean, there are times where Gus Johnson is yelling for no reason and Chris Collinsworth’s voice track chimes in with him chuckling and telling a pointless story. Also, unless the player is a superstar you will rarely hear the announcers call him by his name. They will either say “he” or “Number 33” ran for ten yards. I don’t expect them to have the name of the Cleveland Brown’s 7th round pick programmed in, but I played three games into a franchise with the Carolina Panthers, owners of the 2011 NFL Draft’s number 1 pick Cam Newton, one of the biggest rookie names in football in the past few years. In those three games I heard them call him Cam Newton or Newton five times. Even when he first takes the field and they give you the breakdown of the quarterback they go to stock audio of Gus Johnson going, “And the quarterback, who hopes to lead his team,” in an overly dramatic voice.
The product placement is painful. They also do a segment where they break down the Top Offensive Players and Top Defensive Players and they highlight one player as the Gatorade Player to Watch and the Gatorade Impact player. These parts can be skipped by pressing a button because Gus Johnson is telling you the players are Gatorade’s Impact Player. They also do the Verizon Red Zone Stats, like how many times your team has been in the red zone that game and if they scored or not. Now, Gus Johnson doesn’t mention this; it’s just a small screen that pops up in the corner and you cannot do anything for five seconds which is five seconds off the game clock. If you are in a two minute drill trying to win a game you just lost five seconds that you could have used to, I dunno, pick a play and get to the line. Also, they need to get rid of the accelerated play clock. I had to turn it off three times before it kicked in.
The 3D grass is something that I do not know why they ranted and raved about. Yeah, it looks cool about twice when you see a player get up from it, but a lot of the time it looks like the players are standing on top of it instead of in it, you know. In older “Maddens” when it rained or as you played a game on natural grass you would see the grass start to fade away and dirt began to show from being used so much. It was a cool little feature that added to the realism, one that with this new 3D grass should be amazing right? Well, it isn’t because it isn’t in the game anymore. I played a five quarter full-length game on a natural grass field and it looked the same the entire game, and there are times when Astro Turf looks like crap.
The QB motions and hot and cold streaks are nothing special, but they don’t hurt the game.
Okay, one more rant about the presentation before I get onto the gameplay: the uniforms look horrible. Okay, just the jerseys, but still. The helmets look amazing, the pants are all right, but the jerseys look choppy and like they forgot they needed to add them to the game. In some rare cases they look okay, like the Oakland Raiders’ uniforms look good but teams like the Dolphins look shiny, even in dark rainy conditions. Teams like the Jets’ green jerseys look horrible. I know people are reading this going, “Why do we care about the jerseys?” We I care because I have to look at them for twenty games a season. Now, the wear and tear aspect was cool back in older “Maddens.” Any player that was in the game at a starting position for more than two quarters had a uniform that got dirty. Now it’s more realistic. Also, it’s cool to see Larry Fitzgerald get tackled in the rain against the Raiders and come up with a big streak of white on his arm from sliding through the sideline paint.
Okay, now we get to the physical gameplay. Not how things look, but how the game runs and how it performs. The game on the field, when you get down to the nitty gritty, plays like the last couple of “Maddens.” You snap the ball, throw to your wideout, try to catch it, and I know the last couple of years it’s been playable, but for some reason this year it seemed dated and not as much fun as it once was. I mean, the game plays fine, but so did last year’s version and the year before. I think this year, with everything they boasted and talked about, I was expecting something new something better or even something worse, but once you strip all the franchise features away and cosmetic upgrades, the basic core gameplay is the same. Yeah, your player gets dirtier and his uniform is ugly and he might spin off a hit and fall differently, but the art of getting to that point is the same. “NBA 2K,” “MLB the Show,” “FIFA,” “NHL” and all the rest add new ways to play the game to score the goal, to throw up an alley-oop, or play a ball off the wall while “Madden” has the same cookie cutter gameplay as years past.
In short, most of these new upgrades and features fall flat and fail to impress. The gameplay is the same. This is really just a fancy roster update. If you are a die hard, you’re going to own this game. If you just want to play a couple of games during the season to pass the time, rent it or just go down and get any of the last three versions.
Final verdict for “Madden NFL 12”: