Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Madden NFL 12 Review


As Australian's wind down from their respective seasons of sport, whether it be AFL or Rugby, we still need our football fix. Luckily for us the NFL has overcome lockout and is back on our screens as well as consoles with EA's annual Madden franchise. One of the most recognisable gaming series is back with a host of improvements to further blur the line between virtual NFL and the real thing. Despite the title being delayed due to the lockout and clashing with EA's other annual sporting titles such as NHL 12 and FIFA 12, nothing has been spared from making this the single game to play if you want some NFL action this year.

Electronic Arts made a controversial move last year by implementing 'GameFlow' to entice the casual fan to play Madden NFL 11 my simplifying and speeding up the game. GameFlow has been improved, Franchise Mode has been given a big makeover, a new tackling system is in place and the true NFL broadcast experience has been provided. These are just a couple of the improvements that has made Madden NFL 12 one of the most enjoyable sport games to date. There are so many positives to take out of Madden NFL 12, but has the work been done to drag players into modes such as Franchise and Be A NFL Superstar which are often crushed under the companies popular Ultimate Team Mode?

Presentation

For many years now Madden NFL 12 has been the most realistic NFL experience you could find on a console. While it has been looking great with solid player expressions and animations on the field, the game has always had the 'game feel' to it. Authenticity is now taking hold of all sporting games and providing a good game isn't the aim of the developers as that has already been achieved. Being able to recreate an experience that doesn't make you sure whether it is a game or a television broadcast has been EA's aim with this addition.


After working closely with NFL films, I feel like the overall presentation of Madden NFL 12 before, during and after the game is spot on. Personalized team entrances and celebrations are finally in the game, something that has been in NCAA for a while now. Camera angles are incredibly important and working with NFL films has allowed the developers to imitate the identical shots and angles used in a real game situation and placed it in the game. Just small things like these are what makes Madden so great. Along with the annual improvements such as slightly better lighting, facial models etc. there is also an improved tackling mechanic which also looks better visually. Instead of players getting so close and being sucked into a set animation for the situation, everything now happens naturally and provides a more realistic feel. Despite some average facial expressions and animations for lesser known players, it is hard to fault this game graphically.

For all the improvements made to create the broadcast experience, they forgot to focus on the commentary which is a vital part of the package. Last year the commentators changed and EA were left with a static, disjointed shambles of commentating that didn't do wonders for the game when the same lines were being repeated constantly. Sadly this year isn't much better as the commentators are only marginally better but don't provide the same deep level that games such as NBA 2K11 provide. I want to hear facts about playing and teams as well as dynamic, constant commentary. You don't receive this in Madden NFL 12 and it ruins the NFL experience slightly.

Gameplay

Sure the game looks great, but does it play like a true NFL title? Madden is the most immersive experience going around and the improvements to not only the way the game plays, but the modes involved makes this the most realistic Madden yet. The game has always run smoothly and anyone but true hardcore fans have appreciated the gameplay. The new tackling system implemented this year gives a more natural feel to the game and true fans of the sport will value the intuitive motion. No longer does the game feel like it is a set of pre-recorded actions in different positions and in fact a living, evolving game. It's getting hard to pick faults in the general gameplay. Some gripes I have come when the quarterback passes the ball and the CPU defenders will still fail to catch a ball which might be directly coming towards them. While this is made to help out easier players, wide open defenders should be aware enough to simply catch the ball. Apart from that the experience is essentially flawless.


The NFL experience isn't just aimed at on field action as any follower of the sport would be aware of their teams off field dealings also. This is where Franchise mode comes into play with a completely new experience. Gone is the basic, dry feeling we once received from the mode which has fallen behind other options in the game. From everything such as pre-match training and the ability to contract free agents, as much detail as possible has gone into making a true representation of managing a NFL, within reason. Small perks such as the ability to bid for players against a live clock in the off-season are cool ways that they have revolutionized the humble franchise mode. For the first time in years it isn't going to be the mode that is ignored by players.


Be a NFL Superstar Mode is also back in Madden NFL 12 with limited improvements, but still providing the same fun experience. My Player mode in NBA 2K11 was immersive and kept me coming back, while Be a NFL Supertsar doesn't have the same feel it is still entertaining to create a player of your choice and take him to stardom. EA's premier mode, Ultimate Team, has been gracing their various sporting iterations for a couple of years now and is again the stand out mode for Madden NFL 12. Earning coins and buying card packs to create a team is a fun experience that many will remember from their childhood. With the ability to trade and sell cards to help create your favourite team before taking on others online is a heap of fun. Online works quite well but the EA Servers are sometimes unpredictable in whether they will kick you or not. One thing I didn't like in Madden Ultimate Team was the way matches were worked out. They were based on your teams skill points and not the players winning percentage, which means amateurs like myself were often smashed by pros with a similar team but a larger knowledge base. I would like to see a more even matchmaking system.

Conclusion

Ever since last year Madden has been a super game for players new and old to the franchise. This years additions have made it one of the most appealing versions to date. This is the true NFL experience and I feel like EA achieved their goal in delivering that to fans. Large improvements were made in areas that have been untouched for a few years and it was great to see these changes made. Apart from the sometimes unpredictable online play, the only real downside to this title is the poor commentary which will need more work for Madden NFL 13. If you want a true football game and not that European version (FIFA) then this is definitely a must have title!

Graphics - 9.5/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Overall - 9/10

1 comments:

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