Madden NFL 12 Review
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3
As each year rolls by we are presented with yet another Madden release. Will the new 2012 offering just be more of the same or will the series move forward with a wealth of new features and options?
The first thing that jumps out at you when you boot up for the first time is the exceptional presentation; something that EA Sports titles have always excelled at. After watching a game intro that is likely to hype up even the most relaxed of people, you are then taken to a well designed and easy to navigate menu structure, all the time surrounded by your favourite NFL superstars.
One thing that is abundantely clear is there is a hell of lot to do in Madden NFL 12. You can immediately jump into a quick game, start your own franchise, fiddle with depth charts, venture online or create your very own Madden Ultimate Team – the card collection that EA has been pushing more and more recently with each of their key franchises.
The most significant improvement in this new Madden offering is the franchise mode. This now presents the player with a comprehensive opportunity to guide their favourite team through the pre-season, regular season and all the way to the super bowl. There is however so much more to the new franchise mode than just playing games. Off-field activities such as the introduction of cut days where you have the chance to trim the under-performers from your squad in preparation for the regular season ahead, and the rookie scouting system which enables you to seek out talented youngsters and have the opportunity to add them to your squad at the end of the season are what really separates Madden NFL 12 franchise mode from previous offerings.
Ultimate Team returns for another season along with a raft of improvements such as the highly requested card trade feature. No longer need you worry about having your valuable legendary card sniped in the dying seconds at auction, trades can be worked out offline and then completed with very little effort. The presentation again is excellent and the cards look even more desirable than they did in Madden NFL 11. Talking of being collectable, as previously seen, EA have created a number of virtual collections within Ultimate Team that reward the player with a limited edition card and coins once completed. As the NFL season progresses, it’s a given that we can expect to see a huge number of virtual collections added to keep Ultimate Team fans happy and with the ability to purchase Madden currency with Microsoft Points. EA would be foolish not to introduce as many collections as possible.
If you've always wanted to play for an NFL team then you'll want to check out the Superstar mode where you're able to create yourself as the next big thing in the league. Once you've created your virtual self, you can either assign yourself to any roster in the league or leave your fate to the hands of the draft Gods and see which franchise you end up on – a very nice touch. Once you're on a squad, you enter a four week training camp period where you can put yourself through various training routines and warm up matches – each of these allowing you to unlock skill points that you can use to make yourself just that little bit better. Progression through the season lets you play as yourself and simulate the game when the opposite side of the ball is on the field. Once your first season is completed, you get to go again but this time you're not the rookie on the team any more, and expectation levels will be higher.
Taking Madden NFL 12 online is a pleasurable experience with the introduction of the online Communities – a clan-esque area that allows users to create a community and invite friends and like-minded people that can not only compete against each other online using the community pre- set rules, but also compete co-operatively in the online team play matches where players represent the community as a whole. Online play also extends to Madden Ultimate Team which allows you to see how good your card collection really is by facing off against an American teenager who has spent the first few weeks following launch to assemble a team rated 99 throughout the field. 32- player online franchises, complete with a full fantasy draft, can also be arranged – a mouth watering prospect I'm sure you'll agree. Once in an online franchise, your team can be managed on the web which is a fantastic addition – allowing you to play with your depth charts whilst in the office, getting ready for that important clash with your online rival in the evening!
At the time of review and after many many late night online matchups against fellow journalists and NFL fans, there was zero evidence of any lag during online gameplay – a reassuring feeling after the countless lag issues evident in titles such as FIFA 11. Even Madden NFL 11 suffered online with laggy kicks and disconnecting issues, but for now at least, EA appear to have sorted things out for this version of the game.
Madden NFL 12 impresses in just about every area. It's probably the biggest leap from one season to another in terms of new features and improvements that I've experienced – certainly from this generation of sports titles. The game flows effortlessly thanks to the new player animations and tackle system, and it still looks brilliant. Controls are easy to pick up for new players, but also difficult to master – especially when you start calling plays to counter what your opponent is doing. But the key thing is, it is a game that is playable by all. A crucial fact for the UK audience where the sport isn't yet especially popular.
For those not familiar with the Madden series, the game does a few things to ease you in gradually. Playing the game on rookie difficulty makes un-catchable balls catchable and gives your quarterback a good chunk of time in the pocket to make that perfect pass. Using the Gameflow feature means that your coach will select a play for you so that you can worry more about getting to grips with the gameplay and not with the playbook. You can get braver at any point during a game and chose to select any play from your playbook, or opt to "Ask Madden", who'll suggest 3 suitable options for you to select from. Controls remain mostly unchanged from previous Madden titles, which is no bad thing, but everything feels a lot tighter this time around which is down somewhat to the much improved player animations and movements.
It is impossible not to recommend Madden NFL 12 to any fan of the sport, add to this the glorious presentation and the wealth of content, it’s easy to recommend to gamers who are not familiar with the sport itself. If you are into sports, EA consistently lead the field and you could do a lot worse than picking this one up. If you are an American football fan, it’s a must buy.