Bear with me, as this is probably one of the longest posts that I’ve ever done… but here we go.
I initially wondered why the embargo for Madden was 8 a.m. CST on the Friday before the game launches… as that’s pretty unusual timing. Then I remembered the Season Pass. TONS of impressions will be out about the game by around Noon, as anyone with $25 bucks will have had a few hours with the title. I guess that gives me a few hours before everyone can jump in with their thoughts, so here goes.
The first thing that I did when I was working on writing up my thoughts for Madden NFL 12 was to go back and look at what I wrote about last years title.
One of the biggest issues that I had with the game was the kickoff coverage. Well, that seems to have been resolved by the fact that more often than not most kicks will not be returned. If they are? The team will get the ball right around the 20. The blocking is just as bad as it was last year. Maybe there’s a chance that I’m really terrible at kick returning, which is highly possible, but again no blockers seem to want to try and engage any player that is coming down the field. Oh, well. I beat this topic to death last year, so let’s move on.
Next up, last year I spent a good bit of time talking about the Madden Moments. They are back this year, but there are only 5 available right out of the box and, as a Packer fan, none of them were really all that compelling to me. (Eagles vs. Packers – beat the Packers, Bucs vs. Cardinals – beat the Cardinals, Eagles vs. Giants – come back from 31-10 down with Eagles, Jets vs. Colts – beat the Colts, Ravens vs. Steelers – Beat the Ravens.) Since they really haven’t changed that much there, I left that feature alone.
– Looking at the changes for this years game, the one thing that I would say that they spent a considerable amount of time on was the presentation of the game. Every team has an introduction moment at each of their home games and if that sort of thing matters to you, they’ve really done a great job there.
A lot has been done to make the game look more like it is an actual TV broadcast rather than a game that you are playing. For example, the default camera on the kickoff is that of a side shot of the kickoff taking place. You can press a button to get the “default camera angle” but as soon as the play begins it reverts back to the broadcast style camera. Other elements in relation to the presentation that have been enhanced are the 3D grass, lighting that changes as the game goes on, and uniform degradation as the game goes on.
– In the actual gameplay side of things, the biggest addition is that of the new collision system that has been integrated. If you’ve played NCAA 12 and have seen some of the more violent tackles that are taking place in the game, you’ll feel comfortable with what has been changed in Madden as it has a very similar feel. It’s not a good or bad change, there are just more hits that will make you wonder how the guy either (a. hung onto the ball or b. is still conscious.) Sure there are regular type tackles, but the violent ones really stick out in my mind.
Going further into the gameplay, I still have run into far too many situations where I’ve been running the ball behind my fullback and have watched him run right past a linebacker to try and block a safety 6 yards further down the field. What’s funny is that running, in my experience, still isn’t all that hard… even with issues like that. I’m only playing on All-Pro to this point, but even with flawed blocking logic… you can still do a much better job on the ground than the CPU. Speaking of the CPU running ability, I have yet to see the computer even approach 100 yards rushing in a game. The closest that I’ve seen, for the CPU, is 58 yards in 7 minute quarters. As for me, I busted off 225 (in a single game) with Ryan Grant for the Packers, and have had a good deal of 100 yard games to go along with that.
One beef that I have with the game (that has not been addressed for years) has to do with clock management. Again, with or without gameflow, the CPU seems to have no idea as to what to do when there is a 2:00-minute drive or a clock killing situation. Here’s a great example. I was beating the Saints 45-7 in the first game of the year with the Packers. There was about 1:30 seconds left in the game, with the ball on their own 20, and on the first play the Saints ran the ball (which is exactly what they should be doing.) They gained 2 yards and then proceeded to go no-huddle and start throwing the ball. The second pass was intercepted and returned for a TD to put the Packers up 52-7. What did they do when they got the ball back with about 0:40 seconds left? The same thing… a single run, then no-huddle on the next play. That kind of stuff is just so frustrating to me. Sure, I love to beat a team down as much as the next guy, but c’mon….
– Probably the coolest two feature additions in gameplay are the implementation of a receiver specific pump fake (this is an awesome feature that will really add a bit to player vs. player games) and a diving catch button. I feel that those two features add a lot to the gameplay. Along with the pump fakes, they’ve added some new routes such as the sluggo, in/out n up, and hitch/curl n go and you can see how that feature becomes a big one. The CPU doesn’t bite on the fakes every time, but enough so that it makes it worth your while to use them.
– When I heard that one of the new features was called Dynamic Player Performance…the first thing I thought of was Bases Loaded II and how players would go hot or cold during the year. (I guess I’m just an old gamer that looks way back when I think of a similar feature.) If you listened to our interview in regards to this feature, it’s a concept that seems interesting… but limited in it’s implementation. Hot and Cold streaks can ONLY last 3 games before a player reverts back to his normal rating levels. I guess that’s a way to keep people from being frustrated at a player that sucks for a long time, but it doesn’t seem as realistic to me.
Along with the streaky-ness of a player, there are various traits that certain players have or can gain over time. From the interview, this system seems like it’s a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing where a player could have a trait buried in their ratings waiting to be unlocked or they will never be anymore than they are, regardless of how great you play with them. Maybe I misheard what he said, but that’s the gist of what he was getting across to me. I’m torn as to whether I believe that players could become totally dominant if you are in charge of them, or could be nothing more than an average player regardless of what you do with them. I’ll have to think more on that.
– In the franchise mode, the big changes have to do with the 75 player roster coming into the preseason, so you have to manage (or have the CPU handle) cuts of players, the scouting system, and the Free Agency system.
As far as the cuts go, you don’t see the full rankings for a rookie player that you’re evaluating, so you have to guess as to how good you think they might be before you cut them. It’s an interesting concept, but unless you’re ultra focused on the performance of your 3rd lineman in a preseason game, you’re going to have a hard time knowing if you’re cutting a sleeper player or someone who you just haven’t seen enough of yet.
As far as scouting is concerned, you have the ability to pick 20 players that you want to evaluate that will be coming into the next draft class (as far as I could tell it would only be college seniors that you’re evaluating during the regular season.) Once the season is done, then you move onto the combine and you can scout either the same 20 players (and get more information on them) or another 20 players to get a bit more information on them. After that, you have Pro Days where you can get a bit more info on players, then finally you have individual workouts where you can get all of the ratings for 5 players that you’re really interested in.
What I didn’t like about the system was that it was really hard to find a sleeper player for your team. You’re totally guessing based 0n the initial 20 players as to what needs your team might have and what player you might evaluate. After that, you have to throw all of your recruiting time into those guys and if it doesn’t pan out… you’ve pretty much wasted all of your scouting efforts. Again, as I said in the interview, perhaps someone will come up with a great tutorial of a way to really work the system… but for me… I found the process limiting and frustrating.
Lastly, you have the Free Agency changes. The free agent system takes place in an eBay bidding style of auction. As soon as free agency starts, teams start bumping up the initial amount that a player is asking for. Each player has a set amount of time that they will wait for bids, so you need to really know ahead of time what positions you’re looking to fill and how much money you can commit to them.
Two things that I found interesting about this mode. You can back out of the free agency mode at any time (and stop the clocks) to go back and look at your team to evaluate what you need…because you can’t do it from the free agency screen. Second, it seemed to be pretty easy to sneak in at the absolute last second and outbid the CPU teams that were bidding on certain players. Maybe I just got lucky with that, but it seemed like the thing to do was to identify your team need and then steal the guy at the last second if you really want him. Perhaps other people will have different experiences with this, but that’s what I saw.
– Beyond that, there were no changes made to the Online Franchise mode. What they have done is to create a partnership with myLeagueManager.net to flesh out more of the system, but I haven’t had a chance to see how well any of that will work.
Also, they have added the online community feature where you can be a part of, up to 5, communities where all of the rules and sliders for the game are set and you will play against a group of people that have only been allowed into that community. That’s an interesting concept and one that I think we might make use of here. Set the rules for Sportsgamerblog.com and see how everyone does with those rules.
Lastly, the Madden Ultimate Team feature is back. For the life of me, I just don’t get this mode, but if you do… there is now the ability to trade your cards that you’ve acquired. There you go.
– My thoughts? It’s a lot like last years game with some pleasant additions, but neglecting things that really have bothered me in the past (A.I. for blocking, and horrible clock management.)
I cannot deny that the game is fun to play, but it’s just frustrating to me to see a game that is still struggling with fixing some of the basic problems that they have had in the game for the past few years.
I can see that it is a game that I will play for a few days or weeks, but I just don’t know how much fun I’ll have with it over the long haul, as those nagging issues just irritate me more and more as time goes on.
There you have it, 2,100+ words on Madden NFL 12. Feel free to drop an email or a comment to let me know if you have more questions or thoughts.