2011-08-12

Madden 12 – Good Football Is Like Comfort Food

by Yo Snyder

Well, looks like we’re going to have an NFL season after all. Those
millionaire players and owners figured out how to give each other even
more money in a fair and equitable manner. Personally, I don’t care, I
just want to see some football. In fact, what with the labor dispute and
shortened off-season, this should be a particularly interesting season
as it may take teams a little longer than usual to find their groove.
However, if the new demo is anything to go by, that won’t be the case
for Madden 12.

The new demo on Xbox Live and PSN lets you play a
full game, five minute quarters, between the Packers and the Bears; a
classic rivalry that gave us the excellent NFC Championship game last
season. You can tweak the difficulty and choose if you want to play with
GameFlow or Classic play selections, but that’s about all you can mess
with when it comes to settings. Then, it’s right into the game to see
what’s new about this season of Madden.

It’s obvious right from
the start that Madden has taken a few cues from NCAA. The overall
presentation has more of broadcast quality to it, with more realistic
camera angles on-field that are much more dynamic, as well as player
introductions (which are cool once or twice, but like in NCAA, I imagine
it won’t be long before you’re skipping right past them), and other
elements that make the whole set-up feel like you’re watching a game on
TV; a game that you control. The lighting has also taken a cue from
NCAA, with more saturation in the sunlight, again to give it more of
real-world appearance. Graphically speaking, and I know we say this just
about every year, but this may be the best looking Madden so far.
Lighting, new field textures, better player animations and other little
things all add up to a much better looking game.

On the game
play, the tweaks are a bit less noticeable. The new tackling A.I. from
NCAA is in effect here giving the game more fluidity, and the defensive
A.I. is much more challenging when in zone coverage, doing a better job
of tracking receivers and handing them off to the next zone. There have
also been some changes made to the GameFlow system, and I think these
help bring out the potential of the system that was shown when it was
first introduced last season. For one, you can see what play GameFlow is
calling ahead of time (which really is one of those “no-duh” additions
that should have been included from the get-go). Beyond that, you also
now have the option to tweak the GameFlow play. For instance, if you
don’t like the play-action call GameFlow is making, you can select
either a run play or a pass play instead of the one being called by
GameFlow. On defense, you can call either a conservative or aggressive
play. This simple improvement should go a long way to handle a lot of
the gripes players had with GameFlow, especially when it’s used in
conjunction with customized game plans. Beyond these few tweaks,
however, Madden 12 feels much as it has the past few seasons, which is
no bad thing at all.

Not everything in the demo works well,
however. There seem to be some audio problems. For instance, you can’t
hear the refs make any calls on the field until they call what down it
is (i.e.”*silence* it’s a first down!”). Also, there isn’t any
commentary in the demo, which is a bit distracting for me as I like the
background chatter. Also, it seemed like many of the sound effects were a
bit muted. On-field sounds didn’t have the punch I thought they would,
and the crowd often seemed subdued. However, I have complete confidence
that the folks over at EA will have all of this worked out well before
the final release hits shelves later this month.

The download for
the demo also includes a few short videos that highlight a few of the
new features in this year’s Madden, including info on the new tackling
system and what online communities will be all about. You’ll also learn
what new additions are going to be included in the revamped online
franchise mode.

Despite a few glitches, it’s the demo for Madden
12 gives you a nice little taste of what’s in store for this year’s
game. The on-field tweaks aren’t drastic, but they do help the flow of
the game. I like the new additions to GameFlow and I’m looking forward
to seeing how those work out over a longer period of time. Then again, I
was fairly confident that on the field Madden would play just fine, I’m
more curious about the other new features coming in this year’s game,
most of which you don’t get to explore in the demo. Ah well, it’s only a
couple weeks away. In the meantime, enjoy the demo.