They say that football is a game of inches. That it’s won and lost in the trenches, and not by the flashy plays that make the highlight reels. The same could be said then for Madden. The long running football series is built year after year by small improvements, rather than game changing new features (I’m looking at you quarterback vision cone). This year’s game is no different, new features like Dynamic Player Performance are a welcome addition, and it’s still a satisfying game of pigskin, but there isn’t much new here to separate it from last year’s offering. Though it may be more Kerry Collins and less Peyton Manning, Madden NFL 12 is still a great time for fans of the sport.
The biggest addition to this year’s game is unquestionably the Dynamic Player Progression system. Essentially, it helps players act more like their real life counterparts. Player’s ratings are now effected by everything from the hits they take, to the flow of the game and even how they’ve been playing in the last few games, meaning you won’t be able to constantly rely on the same plays to the same players all season long. For instance, if Green Bay Packer tight end Jermichael Finley is on a cold streak and has been dropping open passes lately, I may want to look elsewhere when driving down the field for that come from behind drive. These ratings are pretty true to life, as players like Manning, Rodgers and Brady have remarkable poise in tense situations, yet rookies and those known for being rattled easy like Jay Cutler will begin making dumb mistakes if you don’t change your game plan up quick.
Dynamic Player Progression is a big part of this year’s Madden feeling much more realistic than previous editions ; as does the presentation – mostly. This year, EA has put an obvious emphasis on recreating the same camera angles and production aspects you’d see on TV and in stadiums around the league. The first few times you see these new angles, you’ll be impressed, but when they happen every single game, they get old rather quickly. The stadium specific introductions are well done, though shortened; really, teams only introduce two to three starters per game.
The biggest question though? Why stop there? Being the only licensed NFL game on the market and the only game that can use the ESPN license could be a huge deal, but the Madden series continuously throws the opportunity away. Where are the ESPN video packages? ESPN branding is almost nonexistent in this year’s game. On top of that, why not take advantage of being the only actual NFL game on the market? Why not use the ESPN logos, tickers and graphics for games? I understand it would be hard to get the licenses for packages for each of the networks that carry NFL games, but how hard could it be to give me actual ESPN Monday Night Football presentation to make these games feel that much better. Hell, why not show me NFL network video packages?
Another disappointing aspect of the presentation of this year’s game is undoubtedly the commentary. Last year I applauded the addition of Gus Johnson, but somehow this year it just feels like it’s too much. Yes, it’s great when a remarkable, game changing play takes place and he shows true emotion, but Mr. Johnson is very excitable and makes every play, even short five yard passes seem like the best thing to ever happen to the game. Oh, and Chris Collinsworth? You may want to look into why they’re turning you into the game’s comedic value – I’ve had to listen on multiple occasions how you told me how great Greg Jennings’ arm strength is, and how he can riffle passes into tough spots. Yeah, Jennings is a receiver. I’m calling it – next year I want Joe Buck.
All of that aside, Madden’s core football gameplay is incredibly satisfying. Perhaps that’s as a result of the game’s hardest difficulty being ramped up to include smarter AI and better play recognition. The defense will pick up on tendencies and exploit them, and you better have a good adjustment plan. New defensive animations and tackling systems makes that side of the ball a ton more satisfying to play. I honestly couldn’t get enough of wrecking guys with guys like Clay Matthews and BJ Raji. With all of its downfalls, you can take solace in the fact that yes, Madden NFL 12 is still great fun to play.
Blast Factor: Madden NFL 12 may not be the best of the series, but it is a satisfying and fun football experience. The dynamic player performance system is an interesting addition the established formula, and should change how you at least play franchise mode. If Madden NFL 12 were an NFL team, they’d be the team that misses the playoffs, but only slightly.