If you’re taking the time to read this review, you’re probably a fan of the franchise or have some interest in picking up Madden NFL 12, and so I won’t make you wait until the end to know if it’s good or not. This is the opening kickoff, and we’re taking this one all the way back for a touchdown. Yes, Madden NFL 12 is an outstanding football game and it is definitely one that you are going to want to purchase.
It’s common practice to compare a yearly title to the previous year’s entry, but I didn’t play Madden NFL 11 and so I can’t do that. But I can, at times, compare the game to another EA Sports football title that was released a little over a month ago called NCAA Football 12. In our review of NCAA 12, reviewer Brian Hall scored the game an 8.5, or “Great,” and I agreed with that. I’m a fan of college football and don’t particularly care for professional football, and I’ve put in a lot of hours with NCAA 12. And having spent a little over a week playing through various mode and many games of Madden NFL 12, I can safely say that it blows its collegiate little brother out of the water.
One of the biggest complaints regarding NCAA 12 was that it shipped as an unfinished product, and I agree with that complaint. The game to this day still features way too many bugs, glitches, errors, and broken modes. While Madden NFL 12 isn’t perfect (I’ll get to its glitches in just a bit), it most certainly does feel like a finished product. If you’ve pre-ordered Madden 12, you’re not getting ripped off and you’re not going to have to wait a month or two for a patch that finishes the game. Unlike NCAA, Madden’s menus are fast and smooth. The game doesn’t freeze, doesn’t have a bunch of errors, and it doesn’t have super linebackers and magical safeties either. It’s a far superior product from the menus, to the modes, to the presentation, and in gameplay as well.
There is one glitch or bug that I’ve seen several times now though, and that is an invisible player. It doesn’t occur for the whole game, but just for one play (more if no huddle is being used). Once it was the CPU’s receiver, and I could just see his name. Another time it was on my linebackers. And the last time I saw it, the CPU was going for an onside kick and my guy who picked the ball up was invisible. I was able to get a few yards, and it was just a ball floating in the air. It doesn’t happen a majority time, and doesn’t hurt anything, but it has happened enough to warrant being mentioned and hopefully will be patched by the time the game actually releases.
To stay on the glitches for a moment, you can expect the usual; players clipping through one another, the ball occasionally going through someone, players walking through the goal post or disappearing behind the stadium wall after scoring a touchdown. With the exception of the ball clipping through a player, these little issues don’t really affect gameplay and can be humorous. Gamers should be way beyond used to this by now. These little issues are pretty much my only complaint with the game, other than the commentary (which I both like and dislike).
The problem with the commentary is that it sometimes gets behind. I’ve seen a sack get called like it just happened right before the ball was snapped again. I’ve seen a long pass finally get called, with over excitement, as the game was already starting up the replay. More often than not, the commentary is on pace with the game and just fine, but do expect the occasional delay. At other points, I’ve been extremely impressed with the commentary which is much more alive and varied than what you’ll hear in NCAA. Early in one game, I tackled a running back behind the line of scrimmage and he fumbled the ball. Later in the next quarter, thanks to the new Dynamic Player Performance, that running back was a little off his game. The commentators pointed out that he’s slower on his take off than usual, which led to one commentator bringing up his fumble from earlier in the game and how that seems to have shaken him. That was a rough description, but it was very cool and realistic when actually hearing it in game.
I was skeptical when I first heard about Dynamic Player Performance, but I think it works pretty well. Player’s get on hot streaks and they start to do better. If they get on cold streaks, then they’re not going to be as good. The example here would be the cold wide receiver dropping the harder passes (fast and into coverage). You’ll want to build his confidence up by tossing him a few easy passes to catch in the open, which is usually a slant. This feature does add some strategy while in game to where you will want to consider rethinking what you’re doing if you start getting players on cold streaks. The other side of that is maybe thinking of doing a little more risky stuff if you have guys on hot streaks. I’ve had receivers who were hot made some spectacular catches (rocket, diving, and even catch off the defender’s tip) that I shouldn’t have even attempted throwing.
To once again compare or contrast Madden NFL 12 with NCAA Football 12, the passing game in Madden is a lot better and a lot easier. It’s not easy in the sense that the AI defenders are bad, they’re actually very good. Zone works, and you will need to scan the field and make smart throwing decisions. What makes it easier is that you won’t be getting robbed nearly as much. There’s not a physic CB coming out of the woodwork to deflect or intercept the pass. Likewise, the linebackers don’t jump and swat down nearly as many passes as they do in NCAA 12. It does happen, particularly if you throw a bullet in the direction where there happens to be a middle linebacker in a position to logically do it. I’ve been finishing most of my games with anywhere from 57% to 63% completion for 400-500 yards passing with few interceptions, so you can see that moving the ball through the air is relatively easy if you make smart decisions. Running the ball is great too, though a little harder than it is in NCAA 12 (as it should be since these are pros).
Also, Madden does feature pass interference. In well over a hundred NCAA games, with sliders at 100, I never once saw pass interference in NCAA 12. I’ve seen it three times in Madden on default sliders in a fraction of the games. Luckily, it’s been in my favor each time, but I was beyond happy the first time I saw it.
Madden, like was introduced in NCAA 12, also includes the no suction tackling system (either stick for big hits or the tackle button [square for PS3] to wrap the ball carrier up. No suction means that you actually have to make contact with carrier and actually tackle him. The defender isn’t going to magically slide or be suctioned to the carrier for an auto tackle simple because the carrier came within a specific distance. Using the tackle button, when close, is the much safer option. It can be easy to make poor contact and have your tackle be broken, so play it safe when possible rather than going for the big stick hit.
I like Franchise mode a lot, and assumed it would be my most played (more on that in a moment). Dynamic Player Performance is in effect, you can now have 75 man rosters, you can use practice mode within Franchise, and generally have fun making all the coaching and general manager decisions. Online Franchise works exactly the same, but I was a little disappointed that the EA Franchise website wasn’t up for Madden NFL 12 yet to try out the web options. Superstar Mode is also fun, and world’s better than Road To Glory. In Superstar mode you have three options; 1.) Take over the career of any NFL player, 2.) Take over the career of any NFL rookie, or 3.) Import your NCAA 12 RTG character and continue his career in the NFL. Since I haven’t finished my RTG, I decided to play as Greg McElroy for the New York Jets.
My favorite mode though ended up being the mode I thought sounded stupid: Madden Ultimate Team. This is the trading card game mode, that’s just a ton of fun. You start out with a free bronze pack of low rated players, and if you played the demo, you’ll start with an additional three cards (and those will be your highest rated players). You can then take your team and play against friends, strangers, or the CPU, and compete in tournaments. Playing games awards you coins (and the better you play the more coins you get), which you can then use to buy new cards or new packs. You can trade cards with others, or put a card up for auction and gain some new coins for its sale. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyone else playing Madden Ultimate Team on PS3 during my week of playing it, so I wasn’t able to test out a head to head game or trade cards.
But MUT has become my most played mode and I’m really looking forward to when the game releases and EA really gets cranking with the mode by offering up single card for purchase and running deals and tournaments. There’s an RPG/strategy element to this card game (which plays out as a regular football game) that’s almost addicting. I want more coins; I want to collect more cards.
Madden NFL 12 is, simply put, an outstanding football experience. It is easily the best football game I have played in years. The graphics are great, and everything looks wonderful and realistic. The gameplay is superb and it doesn’t have all the issues that have plagued NCAA Football 12. This isn’t the year to skip Madden, and so I really can’t recommend it any more than that. If you liked the demo and/or like NCAA Football 12, then you should absolutely love Madden NFL 12. You’ll definitely want to pre-order this one if you have not yet done so.
Madden NFL ’12 gets a four out of five: GREAT.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.