Madden NFL 12 is an epic package. With more game modes and options than you could ever hope to throw a stick at, Madden 12 and its plethora of options and tweaks will be a daunting prospect for even the most ardent of NFL aficionados. For your average UK-based gamer with a decent, rather than all encompassing, knowledge of the sport though, well, Madden 12 and its litany of menus and sub-menus will most likely leave you somewhat bemused. The problem isn’t the content (which has arguably been refined since last year’s release) but the indecipherable and poorly implemented nature of the menu system itself. Like Fifa 11, Madden 12 is a game that basks in its huge array of stats, options and modes, but like that game, struggles to make the content easily understandable or accessible.
It’s hardly a game breaking issue, but for those new to the series or, God forbid, new to the sport, Madden 12 will likely prove largely undecipherable at first glance. Once you do get to grips with the options and game modes available to you though, Madden 12 proves itself to be yet another content rich, extremely competent recreation of America’s number one sport from the boys at Tiburon. It still feels more like a mathematically driven copy of Monday Night Football rather than of the sport itself, but it’s a solid game of gridiron that does just enough to warrant its place as a full priced update thanks to some impressive improvements to the already stellar presentation and some minor, but nonetheless successful additions to the core gameplay.
Although there are no new major game modes to speak of, Franchise Mode (or Career Mode to all of us east of the Atlantic) returns with enough new bells and whistles to make it worth yet another run through. The usual array of minutia management options ranging from player development to ticket prices are still readily available, while the inclusion of a new scouting system and a subsequently improved draft process will keep returning players more than happy. It’s hardly an overhaul, but, to be honest, an overhaul wasn’t needed. Franchise Mode was brilliant in Madden 11 and it’s even better this time around.
The other major game modes returning include Superstar Mode, which once again allows you to take control of a single player as you attempt to guide them to the top of the sport and eventual Super Bowl glory, and Madden Ultimate Team, which will prove as compelling and addictive as ever to those keen to create the perfect team of NFL legends.
Superstar Mode sees some additional RPG-lite elements added to the package including the introduction of skill points that are earned by taking part in practices and games. These can be used to upgrade specific player attributes at your discretion, thus giving you greater input into the kind of player you want to create. It’s a simple addition but one that makes the game to game aspect of Superstar Mode infinitely more addictive. The only problem with its implementation, is that it seems a little too easy to power up your superstar. An overall rating of 99 is a very realistic proposition by the end of just your second season, thus removing Superstar Mode’s primary incentive just as you are getting into the swing of things.
Ultimate Team Mode returns with a hugely addictive card system that allows you to create your perfect team by trading player cards and earning points through competition. You can also purchase points with cold hard cash if you desire but that kind of misses the point, and we really don’t want to encourage that kind of behaviour from EA anyway. Besides the mildly sickening option to use real money to buy points, this system has that classic playground card collection feel to it and will surely prove especially popular with the NFL hardcore.
Online mode returns as robust and potentially life consuming as ever, with the addition of online communities that let players search out specific game types or competition levels with a little more consistency, while Madden Moments once again provides yet another pleasant distraction for those willing to lose themselves in this most epic of sports packages.
At the end of the day though, gameplay is king and it’s something EA and Tiburon have been pushing hard this year. Madden 12 is not the revolution fans will have been hoping for, but the enhancements to the core gameplay are all relatively successful, even if some of them are barely noticeable. The biggest and most successful change to the on field play has to be the new animations. It seems that just about every aspect of a collision, catch or throw is now fully animated with no jolts between movements and transitions proving especially fluid. Beyond looking great, the new animations give the whole game a more realistic feel and make each play more unique than they have been in previous incarnations.
While there are other updates including improved play calling, additional AI routines and a host of custom plays, these do feel minor in comparison to the new animations and certainly don’t do enough to push Madden onto the next level. Don’t get me wrong, Madden 12 plays a great game of football, it’s just that it doesn’t play a hugely different game of football to last year….or the year before that for that matter. Madden 12 is a better game than its immediate predecessors but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s still cut from the same cloth.
The core gameplay may have not moved on in any great way for Madden 12, but the presentation certainly has. The Madden series has always been graphically impressive but with EA and Tiburon’s commitment to a broadcast-like experience, Madden 12 creates the closest thing yet to actively controlling Monday Night Football. From the new camera angle and consistent stat feeding to the way that each play leaves a specific mark on both player and jersey, Madden has never looked better. You could argue the case for Madden once again placing spectacle over innovation, but when it looks this good, it’s really hard to be overly upset.
Madden NFL 12 isn’t a quantum leap forward for the series by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s still a great game in its own right and will certainly keep the Madden hardcore happy for the next 12 months or so. The presentation is fantastic, the new animations are hugely impressive and it once again provides more content than your average gamer could ever hope to get through. Saying that, the menu system still leaves a lot to be desired and, at the end of the day, this is still the same Madden you’ve been playing for the last few years. If you can live with that though, Madden NFL 12 will most likely deliver in spades.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.