Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Madden 12 Review

I think of myself as a super nerd; I don’t go out much, I’m not the most social person. Really if you asked me to go see The Avengers I’d probably decline and stay home and play Call of Duty. I am the traditional nerd in many senses. But I’m a guy, and that primal, that longing to watch football rages through my veins like any other man.

I was hooked on Madden towards the end of the PS2’s lifespan. My father and me played the hell out of Madden 05 & 06. I haven’t had that same passion resurface for the current generation of Madden, and I think I know why. There isn’t a singular problem that can be fixed – especially within one year. No, the problems stretch on to an absurd number, and I think EA needs to look at this Madden and the reviews that have been coming out and rethink their approach.

Madden 12 is just an okay game. It may be the worst in the series, but I don’t know if that’s saying much since each Madden has gotten steadily worse in the eyes of many. So it’s par for the course.

The brain storming room had to be full of people trying to appease both the hardcore Madden-heads and newcomers to the franchise. It was unsuccessful.

The big emphasis this year was improving the Franchise mode, Superstar mode, and the overall presentation of the game. None of these areas feel very new or innovative at all, and frankly it’s a joke how little has changed despite what EA claims.

We've got more tackling animations. That's something.

The Franchise mode has had some tweaks to it. Namely you feel more like the manager of your team, and other organizations actually compete with you. The computer will no longer make stupid trades. For example, even if you give them two first round picks the 49ers won’t trade Patrick Willis. Free Agents are snapped up quick by other teams, and you actually can have a bidding war during the off-season to see who gets the big named star on their roster.

There are a host of other smaller options buried beneath the turf. The core Franchise hasn’t changed though. An off-season where I can actually train my squad had to be included, maybe even a rookie combine simulation. I know I’m not the only one that thinks some of the off-season stuff with rookies is just as fun as the regular season itself.

A big change to individual players is dynamic performances. And that just means a player will go through hot and cold days. If Greg Jennings is going over the middle and is blown to pieces by Eric Berry, and drops the pass, one of two things may then effect Greg throughout the game and even the next week: he may get the cold streak label, and it would say something like “drops open passes” and “braces for big hits.” I really do like the fact that players have their ups and downs. They’re human after all and this year’s Madden reflects that very well.

Superstar mode hasn’t been given the same attention as Franchise. Once a rookie is created you have the choice to allocate points to each of his attributes. Want to run faster, jump higher, or throw further? Just put points into that stat and you’re one step closer to the Hall of Fame, kind of.

Superstar mode still has some fundamental issues. Firstly the only thing that has changed seems to be gaining experience to make your player better, there’s little else new here. That has to be amended. Superstar mode is very, very unspectacular and needs to be redesigned from the ground up. Starting with the ability to manage more than one player in a season. I’d rather play on both defense and offense than just press the simulate button and watch my team get spanked. Because you can only play as one player your influence on the outcome is grossly limited. Wouldn’t it be great to have control of both an upcoming linebacker and running back, that way you can manage both sides of the ball?

Add stats. Get better. That's all there is to it, right?

I love cheerleaders, who doesn’t? When you say you are going to put more into the presentation of a game to make it feel like a real NFL experience you better not be bluffing. The intros are better, and mascots and cheerleaders are visible during the opening ceremony -- after that there’s little sideline action to speak of. The crowd still feels lifeless and dull. All the coaches animate like robots. And am I the only one who is tired of seeing the same referees each year. What little enjoyment that can be had from the intros is gone quickly and you’ll eventually skip them, one view is enough.

Has the gameplay change though? Well it certainly is much tougher to score than in years passed. I could drop a 40 burger on anyone in Madden 10 and 11…this year All-Pro is the new All-Madden, and it’s finally tough to win. Sure I’ve only lost 3 games in the season and I am playing as the Jaguars – an average team. I still only win by about 3 points. And little mistakes can cost you the game.

The defenses are substantially more reactive. Cornerbacks and linebackers are rarely out of position, and even scrub players can pick you off and run it back for a touchdown easily. Receivers have a very difficult time getting separation and defenders close fast when the ball is in your hands. It can be downright brutal and cheap, but it finally feels satisfying to score a touchdown, which is something that felt hollow, do to its frequency in previous games.

Tackling animations are more crisp and believable. Running backs stumble to regain their balance, receiver’s bobble the ball when catching, and I’ve yet to see the same tackling animation repeated more than once in a game. Certainly this is the best looking Madden in many areas, but looks are superfluous especially when the authentic NFL experience is lackluster.

Much needs to be improved in the next Madden. Unfortunately I don’t have my hopes too high. I just wish they didn’t have to come out each year. NBA Live is on hiatus in order to reinvent the series, why can’t Madden do the same? At least 2 years of polish needs to go into Madden to make it gleam. Cash rules the world though and EA certainly won’t go a year without Madden. And the community will continue to live with a subpar product.

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