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Madden NFL 12

Madden Goes Back To The Future

For years Madden fans have been screaming for changes to some of the series' legacy problems from past iterations. Last year compounded the problem with the lack of progress for the infamous Franchise mode. Still, Madden developers EA Tiburon moved the ball forward with a revamped playcalling system and other improvements. It may not have been exactly what fans were asking for, but it was progress nonetheless. This year the developer is adding to the game on two fronts by simultaneously trying to address the past as well as evolve the series.

First off, EA Tiburon has assured me that there are big changes and/or improvements in store for the Franchise mode – they're just not talking about it in depth at this point in time. At the moment, EA Tiburon is promising "more than 100 new features and enhancements," according to a press release – including expanded rosters (sounds like practice squads!), player progression throughout the season, and a new rookie scouting system. It also sounds like some of the features appear to be taken from the defunct Head Coach game. This includes a free agent bidding system. The developer is also promising a new progression system for your player in Superstar mode.

Long-time fans who fear that the studio is sitting on its hands should be heartened by the fact that similar to NCAA, Madden 12 utilizes a new, tighter animation system that doesn't initiate until two players or a player and the ball make contact. This will hopefully alleviate the suction tackles and catches that have been prevalent in the series for years, since the game shouldn't be initiating tackle/catch animations early – which is what caused players to look like they were drawn together for a pre-determined, canned animation.

This new way of running the game's animations should make gang tackles and attempted tackles look better too since the game will choose more appropriate animations for each player – whether he's making a half-tackle, a text-book wrap tackle, or is bouncing off a bruising running back like Adrian Peterson.

Other longstanding gripes, like the lack of custom playbooks and better zone coverage are also being addressed. Being able to construct multiple playbooks filled with any play in the game is exciting, and we'll have to see how the zone coverage turns out in the game. Defenders should shadow players and pass them off as they leave a zone, but we're also curious what if anything has been done to address linebackers superhuman-like ability at times to jump up and deflect balls sailing over their heads. Similarly, we're curious how aggressive defenders will be in jumping balls and players sitting down in their zones.

Madden NFL 12 isn't just about cleaning up old problems, however, as the presentation package is being significantly beefed up. The team at EA Tiburon is using extensive broadcast TV reference info to make what you see in the game more like what you see on TV. This includes everything from NFL Films-like Steadicam footage for pre-game tunnel entrances (every team will have their own custom entrance) to faux-commercial cuts that feature blimp cams and score info wipes. Cheerleaders return to give the sideline more atmosphere, quarters end with montage sequences, and the players themselves feature more accurate details like flak jackets, the green helmet-mic stickers, and more equipment options.

The in-game presentation is also being improved via a new GameFlow HUD that lets you tailor  the plays you get from this playcalling system before they come in from the sideline. Before you choose to pick GameFlow or the traditional play calling system, you'll see a HUD in the lower-right corner of the screen. From here you can choose if you want the subsequent GameFlow play to be a pass or run.

Long-time Madden fans should be excited by at least some of the changes that the development team is talking about at this time, and we hope the upcoming months reveal even more improvements for the franchise. As the consoles are arguably at the high point in their life cycles, we've seen Madden improve from year to year but still not yet produce that generation-defining iteration. With the developers not only trying to fix old problems but still offer new elements, we can only hope that this is the year.

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