The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The year-after-year sports game structure should be additive, with
success achieved by building on previous efforts. Madden, however, seems
to be in a cycle – and this year it’s on a downturn. Not since the
beginning of this console generation has the series been so out of sync.
Like a desperate team that has stocked up on high-profile free agents
thinking it’s on the cusp of a championship, Madden NFL 12 looks good in
practice, but where it counts it’s a jumbled mess of frustration, unmet
expectations, and sloppy play.
Madden NFL 12 doesn’t fully
execute on its ideas. The series neglected the franchise mode last year,
and although developer EA Tiburon made big changes, this mode will have
to be reworked again in order for it to be fun. The goal of the new
scouting system is to build info on players through multiple regular
season and off-season scouting stages. You have to pinpoint your
priorities and accept that you’ll know more about some players than
others by draft day. I love this concept, but you can’t find out enough
info on players even if you scout them multiple times. Worse yet, you
don’t even have the combine numbers for the players you don’t scout. You
can’t tell me an NFL scouting staff wouldn’t know a player’s 40 time or
other basics about even obscure players. As a fan I can get that stuff
just by watching the NFL Network. Ultimately, on draft day you have to
resort to taking shots in the dark or reaching for players; the
best-player-available strategy is impossible to implement.
other linchpin of franchise mode, free agency, also has good intentions
but is unfulfilling. The new timer-based bidding system is cool, but it
could help you out with more menu tools, and the period still has no
restricted free agency or flexible contract options for players on your
roster you resign before they enter free agency. Your roster is larger,
but it still doesn’t contain a practice squad and the CPU automatically
signs undrafted free agents for you.
The franchise mode isn’t the
only area in need of reworking. Adding more options to last year’s
GameFlow playcalling system has made what was once a simple feature
confusing. Why do plays disappear in the GameFlow menu when I cycle
through them, and why can’t I see the formations these plays are run
from? Superstar mode’s new experience system gives you points for
activities you didn’t do (tackling points for a QB?) and doesn’t have
nearly enough depth to make you feel like a superstar. The presentation,
with its cool NFL Films-like shaky cams, can’t correctly name the
Gatorade Impact Player of the Game. I once saw it call out a QB with a
rating of 13.9! Finally, more legacy gameplay problems must be cleared
up. Linebackers still jump obnoxiously high to block passes on the
higher difficulties, players can be unaware of the ball, secondaries
drop many gimme INTs, WRs lack any aggression going after the ball, true
gang tackles are missing, and punt and kickoff blocking is still
It’s disappointing that many of the new features fail to
bring value to the table, but elements like last year’s excellent
motion system are at least in place to make the game exciting from
moment to moment. Although I wasn’t in awe of the new player hot/cold
streaks, I liked the player roles and how they changed from year to year
and gave your players a career progression arc. Other bright spots are
the online communities that help weed out the riff-raff from your online
multiplayer (thanks to stronger griefing rules), and the accompanying
leaderboards also offer a larger structure to the experience. This is
especially useful since the online franchise feature is still a bust.
Maddens either delivered new features or fixed old problems, but this
year you get neither. In too many instances Madden 12 takes you down
promising paths that only lead to dead ends. Commenting on the obvious
disappointments that crop up in the experience, Bertz once asked me
incredulously, “Didn’t they play their own game?” I can’t remember a
time when the series was this lost. I’d say that it has nowhere to go
but up, but as this year shows, progress can be elusive and nothing can
be counted as certain.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Given EA Tiburon’s renewed focus on franchise mode this year, I had high
hopes for Madden 12. Some of the new features – like expanded rosters,
customizable playbooks, and dynamic player traits – are long overdue
additions. But many of the other “improvements” take the franchise out
of contention. The new rookie scouting gives you little to no info on
the vast majority of draft eligible players. The new timed free agency
bidding works, but doesn’t give you a chance to peruse the list and make
targets before the frenzied countdown begins. On the field, the game
fumbles thanks to poor adjustments to the passing game that resurrect
old problems. Quarterbacks take sacks when they clearly have enough time
to complete their throwing motions, linebackers knock down way too many
balls intended for receivers 15 or more yards away, and the soothsaying
safeties who can predict pass destinations despite having their backs
to the play have returned. Add the woeful, delayed commentary of Gus
Johnson, the throwaway superstar mode, and the stunning choice to
neglect improving online franchise mode in favor of a new group-based
multiplayer that segments the community, and you have an all-around
disappointment. Instead of grasping for the Lombardi Trophy as it should
be this late in the console cycle, Madden is headed for the showers
before the playoffs even begin.