Shackpets | Available on iOS and Google Play Store

Madden NFL 12 Review

The Madden series has settled into a pattern of adding flashy new features to bring players back for another run, instead of improving the core football game. Flashes of promise here and there offer some excitement, but the game remains stuck one step awa

23
NFL fans possess incredible resiliency. No matter the win-loss record from the season before, a wave of new hope accompanies the arrival of the next. That spirit used to carry over to the annual release of a new Madden game as well. However, I've since grown wary of buying-in to the hype. The series has settled into a pattern of adding flashy new features to bring players back for another run, instead of improving the core football game. Despite new faces working on the game, Madden NFL 12 follows the same approach, and yields the same results. Flashes of promise here and there offer some excitement, but the game remains stuck one step away from championship greatness. That struggle stems from the same issue veteran teams face in the NFL. The theory goes that a solid core only needs a couple of key additions to bring it all together. While that may be true in some cases, the lure of being so close often obscures the need to retool at a more fundamental level and create a new foundation to build on. Such is the case with Madden. The game boasts its typical list of improvements and new features. None of them, however, makes the meaningful improvement in the football basics the game needs. They focus on finer points instead, like better tackling physics. While it's great to see this in action when I hit a running back trying to get to the corner and the resulting collision believably reflects the momentum of guys flying around the field, that highlight can't offset the breakdowns in execution that happen on too many plays. As has been the case for several seasons, poor offensive line play makes broken plays more the norm than the exception, particularly at the two higher difficulty settings. Madden has done an admirable job at picking up on the many innovative defensive schemes in the NFL, but its offensive lines have not. Too often, linemen stand idly by, obliviously looking on as a defender runs past them unhindered and breaks up a play. This inability to rely on blocking significantly changes the complexion of the game. After watching a pulling guard run right past a free linebacker a few times, it becomes impossible not to second guess following that block the next time, or even calling the play in the first place. The passing game equally takes a hit. Simple four man fronts blow past blockers effortlessly, and think twice about running play action. The moment it takes to fake the hand-off is all it takes for those defenders to be right on top of the quarterback before there's any chance to look up. Failures like these set up the allow players to miraculously break free for a big gain, or chuck a ball down field for a spectacular pass. Fun as pulling those off may be, they don't add up to a good game of football. They also leave me at the end of the game feeling that the outcome was determined as much by some twist as the plays I called. It also doesn't help matters that as in years past there's an eerie way dramatic things just happen to disrupt a game. I've certainly learned that if I turn it over on my side of the 50, then the computer will likely turn that into a score almost right away.

Madden NFL 12

Take Madden 12 online and the game evens out considerably. At the very least, facing another real player provides a sense of being on even footing when it comes to dealing with the issues. I've enjoyed good games online; the outcomes feel much more a result of my making the right calls than when playing single-player. And the game definitely suits online play well with a number of easy ways to get a game in, including the new communities feature. Madden 12 also touts an improved, more broadcast like presentation of the game. But for such an important element--essentially the face of the game--it is shockingly incomplete. I've watched literally hundreds of NFL games over the years. Never once has one started with mood music like some sort of art film. But that's how games start in Madden. An aerial shot of the stadium drops directly to the PA announcer introducing the home team running on to the field. It goes downhill from there. Commentary has never been a strength of the game and it continues to come up well short. The game lacks anything approaching the amount of voice work it needs, resulting in the same lines being repeated not just game to game, but within the same game. But that's the least of its issues. Many times what's being said has no connection to what's happening in the game, or, worse yet, is outright wrong. I've heard names called in the play-by-play for players that aren't even on either team on the field. In another case I've heard several times the booth team tells me about how the cornerback supposedly just missed an interception because he's a risk-taker, which leads to a long conversation about putting too much pressure on the safety. This after the corner actually made the interception. And how anyone could think it a good idea to do a close up on the hideous cheerleader models as the game cuts to halftime is beyond me. Maybe it's to create enough shock value to mask that there really isn't a halftime. I wonder sometimes at how these things become such distractions for the game. Team entrances, cheerleaders, and all that are great the first few times but let's be honest, I'm not the only one mashing the button to skip them by the second or third game out of the box. From then on what I'm most interested in is sitting down and getting in a good game of ball. Madden 12 does its usual serviceable job at that, but remains stuck in its ongoing rut of being more concerned with detailing the updates that make this year's game a little better than the last over simply being the best game of football it could be.
[This Madden NFL 12 review is based on a final Xbox 360 version, provided by publisher Electronic Arts.]
From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 1, 2011 9:15 AM

    Garnett Lee posted a new article, Madden NFL 12 Review.

    The Madden series has settled into a pattern of adding flashy new features to bring players back for another run, instead of improving the core football game. Flashes of promise here and there offer some excitement, but the game remains stuck one step awa

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 9:19 AM

      [deleted]

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 9:43 AM

      looks like EA got to Garnett before he could finish his synopsis

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 10:19 AM

      I'm pretty happy with 12 having not bought it last year. I think the tackling improvements have a bigger impact on the game then you give credit for.

      I have to agree that there are nagging issues that just dont go away from year to year. backfield players tend to have some super human ability to cross the entire width of the field to make a play on a ball that they absolutely have no business doing. Linebackers make miraculous interceptions on passes moving way too fast for them, etc...

      • reply
        September 1, 2011 1:24 PM

        at this point I am really hoping for a big rewrite at some point just to address basic locomotion. The way players look and feel when they run just isn't there and it doesn't seem like any year's worth of tweaks every fixes the underlying problems.

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 10:44 AM

      How long has it been since Peter Moore went to EA Sports? I was just thinking... what if they have been working on a whole brand new reboot for Madden since he got there... at the same time another team is just working on iterations of the old engine? That would take some time to reboot the whole franchise from scratch and make a whole new Madden? Definitely a long longer than the one year between releases of the game. I'm not saying this is happening but I can't help but wonder if maybe in the background somewhere they are working on a totally re-done Madden and they are just going to push it out one year and blow everybody's mind. It just seems like Peter Moore is too smart and too good to be supporting these minor updates to the franchise. I really expected him to come in and shake things up a bit more.

      • reply
        September 1, 2011 10:49 AM

        Why would they bother with that? There's no competing franchise because of their exclusivity agreement. Peter Moore is there to make them money.

        • reply
          September 1, 2011 11:41 AM

          Yeah, I hope the many years of Madden serves as a warning to the whole industry about exclusivity and IP agreements. Probably not though. They probably see it and think "oh man, what if WE could get an exclusive deal like that!" At least I can hope that the NFL and other licensors could get a sense of how much money they are losing by giving out exclusive access. (See the last quote here for why: http://www.shacknews.com/article/69894/no-porsches-in-forza-4-thanks-to-ea)

          • reply
            September 1, 2011 11:49 AM

            how much money are they losing though? Prior to the exclusivity Madden and NFL2k5 were the only sim games that sold in volume, I think Blitz had kind of died out by then. If EA paid more for an exclusive contract than the sum of the prior contracts to EA and 2k then the NFL of course profited more from the exclusivity.

            • reply
              September 1, 2011 1:27 PM

              It's impossible to know, it's like an alternate history comparison. But there's no question that the NFL is an amazingly strong brand. Competition among developers would probably keep both the EAs and the smaller developers trying to bring new things to the game, advertising more, etc.

              Right now I think gamers just expect the Madden series to be on auto-pilot and when the new product comes out, they buy it more out of excitement for the new NFL season than out of excitement for whatever new things this year's game is bringing with it. At that point, the NFL is bringing the revenue to EA moreso than EA bringing revenue to the NFL.

              • reply
                September 1, 2011 2:46 PM

                I'm certainly not arguing it wouldn't be better for us if the exclusivity was gone (I was a 2k diehard when the deal was signed). Madden really struggled in the transition to 360 and product quality fell significantly (as did sales). They got a new dev team in Madden 10 and I think they've been doing a good job overall both on the yearly front and communicating on their multiyear deliverables.

            • reply
              September 1, 2011 1:32 PM

              Goodell wouldn't let them make Blitz anyway these days unless they toned everything down. EA made that arcadey NFL game but I didn't hear much about it after it was released so I assume it sucked. it sounded like it was sort of generic and uninteresting.

              • reply
                September 1, 2011 2:47 PM

                yeah they effectively neutered Blitz to the point that it couldn't exist, but at the same time Blitz was trying to go more extreme by adding a story mode with steroids and all that.

                • reply
                  September 1, 2011 4:10 PM

                  they could make one without an NFL affiliation (and I think they did?) but non-licensed sports games traditionally sell like shit so unless you can make it for fairly cheap and pray for good pickup via word of mouth and stuff it's pretty much going to be doomed :(

                  what I really want is EA to revive the Mutant League series though :(

                  • reply
                    September 1, 2011 4:24 PM

                    yeah, Backbreaker had a pretty good hook despite no license but they seem to be finding more luck catering to iOS/XBLA with the tackle alley stuff. NFL2k8 didn't sell well but it also wasn't a very good game...

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 11:13 AM

      Setting up an online league here at work. Does anyone remember if you can shuffle the divisions around or is it fixed?

      • reply
        September 1, 2011 12:23 PM

        Shuffle the divisions? Teams are set in stone, but you can hold a fantasy draft instead.

        • reply
          September 1, 2011 1:13 PM

          Hm, interesting. We only have 8 people but I wanted to ensure people play each other a lot. We'll probably just pick an AFC and NFC division that plays each other regularly.

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 12:09 PM

      I agree with the reviewer regarding all the crap with the cut-scenes, and this and that. After every play it seems you have to hit the button so many times to just get to the stupid play calling. Then there is the play calling where it has way too many options. I wish you can customize the play calling to where you choose what you want and eliminate the other options. For me, I want to choose "by formation" and then see the plays and choose and BAM get back to the game. I don't need "madden's choice" and all the extra garbage.

      Madden just keeps getting worse for me. I want the simplistic football games of the past but with the flair of the next-gen systems. Now we have way too much drama with the game. It seems they want it to be too much like what you watch on TV these days.

      Just give us "real players" and tecmo bowl please! Madden can die with the rest of their football franchise.

      • reply
        September 1, 2011 1:16 PM

        11 had a customized playbook where you could select like 15 plays by situation (down, distance, red zone, etc). I loved it.

      • reply
        September 1, 2011 1:18 PM

        some of us want a football sim

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 12:26 PM

      Setting up the "Madden 12 CAG PS3 Online Franchise" id love if a few guys from shacknews were on it too. Heres the link to request a team http://www.cheapassgamer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=302606

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 2:01 PM

      The Road to Glory import from NCAA 2012 blows...I transferred my college player and automatically was picked on the Houston Texans team...no draft. The game play is so scaled down you can finish a game in 10 minutes.

      • reply
        September 1, 2011 2:47 PM

        huh? Gameflow is indeed explicitly designed so that a 5-7 min quarter game only takes more like 20-30min instead of an hour but it's entirely optional.

        • reply
          September 1, 2011 2:56 PM

          I guess I missed that setting, but it would have been nice to go through a Draft. I was thrown on a NFL and automatically the starter.

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 2:43 PM

      Well, with no competition this is what you get, so no need to qq since there is nothing you can do other than not buy. But, I've said it in the past, and I'll say it here again, free ideas for EA on this turd of a game.

      1) We need full stat tracking and achievements (number of tackles, solo tackles, completions, runs > x ... you could have hundreds that every play might get you close to accomplishing something). Maybe the game has that already, but two years ago it did not (or, it was so pathetically implemented it was not noticeable).

      2) How about integrating the game INTO THE NFL FANTASY EXPERIENCE! Who the hell cares about franchise or other garbage 99% of the playerbase ignore. I want the game to either allow me and my friends, who will be doing the official NFL fantasy league to a) conduct the draft online, b) trade online, c) setup a full league where we not only play each other in the fantasy game BUT WE PLAY OUR TEAMS IN MADDEN.

      2.5) Setup tons of achievements in the fantasy game THAT I CAN ADD AS ADDITIONAL THINGS WE CAN WIN ON...passes completed, first down, tackles, sacks etc. Every week, who ever has the most of X gets another $2 or so.

      There, just two things that would make me buy another MAdden and I won't until they are implemented and implemented well.

      When does that exclusivity contract run out? Other devs would have had the above years ago.

      • reply
        September 1, 2011 2:51 PM

        Isn't the whole crux of Garnett's complaints that they keep adding silly candy like you're suggesting instead of fixing fundamental on field problems? You basically just asked for more cheevos more cheevos more cheevos... and some gambling tied to cheevos...

        In any case, online franchise has a whole web based view akin to fantasy football stuff and inludes mobile apps for access on the go. You can do a fantasy draft in Madden instead of using real teams and have been able to for ages. Asking for Madden to act as an additional thing to gamble on is just never going to happen.

        • reply
          September 1, 2011 3:41 PM

          Who gives a shit about the blocking. This isn't some sim, it's an arcade game. Stop crying about the core game, it's the same fucking game it has been for 20 years. So, give up on it being a sim and put in some other stuff that the VAST MAJORITY OF USERS WILL APPRECIATE.

          Get it? Hopefully you do.

          • reply
            September 1, 2011 3:49 PM

            Madden is pretty sim-y. Not much of an action game, and hasn't been in some time.

          • reply
            September 1, 2011 4:06 PM

            You speak for the VAST MAJORITY, do you?

            Sounds like a lot of people here agree with Garnett, I know I do.

          • reply
            September 1, 2011 4:23 PM

            yeah I get it, you don't know anyone about Madden or its userbase. Madden has been a football sim for ages as best the technology allows, same as 2k was in the 2000s. Franchise mode, owner mode, superstar mode, online franchise, all for sim functionality. Just go play Blitz and bet $2 on which one of your bros can make the most big hits in a game.

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 4:36 PM

      Madden remains as an excellent example of why competition is a good thing.

    • reply
      September 1, 2011 7:48 PM

      I rented it from Gamefly. Played it for an hour and sent it back. It feels so much like 11 I can't justify spending $60 on it. I'll just keep playing 11.

Hello, Meet Lola