Madden ’12 Review: Fear the Steelers D


Last season, I wasn’t pleased with Madden ’11, and was thanking my lucky stars that I decided to rent the game for a few days before buying.  I’m glad I did, and I was starting to lose my faith in the franchise that has it’s finger on the pulse of NFL fans’ joy buttons (I believe that’s the ‘X’ button on the PS3).  But, Madden ’12 redeems itself and the solitary rights to digitizing the NFL so that we can live out our own ‘Beat Tom Brady Silly’ dreams.  The biggest improvement for me in this edition is the defensive play/AI, which bodes very very well if you love the Black & Gold.

Yes, I’m going to be bias with my opinions at times – but seriously, one huge improvement from last year is where the ratings stood last season.  The team is an improved overall 90 (AFC Favorite Patriots, are ranked an 88) and some individual players have a huge boost from last season.  Ben Roethlisberger was shafted last season dropping to an 88 from a 93 the previous year.  Now he is back at an overall 94 and has a throwing power of 94 and a well deserved toughness of 96.  Mike Wallace jumps to an overall 87 with a speed of 98.  Troy Polamalu is the highest ranked guy at 99 and James Harrison has 10 stats over 90 – including that hit power of 100 he was recently voted for.

Aside from the statistical justification this year, Madden ’12 adds a layer of difficulty (aka major improvement of defensive AI) if you are playing offense.  Cover men actually break off their routes if it looks good to take an advantage away from what you are about to do.  Throw into that coverage and there’s a great chance for an INT.  The linebackers clog up the middle of the field so much better.  Even with the Steelers mid-graded secondary, the cards are stacked for the Steelers D – and it shows.  For the fun of it, I played the as the Saints against my beloved Steelers…. and almost got beat with the score being 21-17.  Those bread and butter pass routes you are used to always lighting up the scoreboard with aren’t so bread and butter anymore.

Gameplay is fairly smooth, and gang tackling someone actually makes a difference when you are on defense.  Offense is improved with more realistic route running, ball carrying and handling.  If you love to run the ball – don’t sweat it.  This version of Madden won’t deny you a running game during some random point in the game – ever feel like no matter what you did you couldn’t get more than a yard of rushing per play?  Ridiculousness gone.  The HUD is a bit clearer as well when you go back for a pass, but that’s about the only improvement to that – and really there wasn’t much to work on in the first place.

“Dynamic Player Performance” is a huge addition to the game that makes a ton of sense but takes a bit to get used to.  Ever feel like no matter what your player did it would always perform at their rating given?  Well during a game and during the course of a season, a player has a ‘consistency’ rating.  That rating combined with a ‘confidence’ rating influences how they perform over the course of a game.  High ratings will keep a player rather consistent with their performance.  Lower ratings will allow your player to have bad plays and bad games.  Troy Polamalu has a 5 star consistency rating, so he will be fairly consistent with his performance.  Confidence ratings influence consistency – the higher the confidence gets, the more confidence a player has.  It takes some getting used to because you could always depend on certain players on a team shutting down the pass or being able to break big runs.  But sometimes, there’s a misfire that influences that rating and could lead to poor performance.  It’s something in Franchise Mode that someone will have to watch for.  Have those ratings fall too much and it looks like they need to get benched.  It’s pretty fun overall.

Another cool feature is the hot streak and cold streak.  I think this existed in other EA sports games and works similarly.  If someone is on a hot streak, the go ballistic in a game.  If someone is on a cold streak, you better rely on other players to get the job done.  That’s the long and short of it from an individual game standpoint.  I’m not sure how it would work over a franchised mode season.  I would imagine that a player could have a hot streak for a couple of games in a row or just as easily have a cold streak.  What is not clear is how that is all influenced.  If a player has a good stat game, does that increase a chance to be on a ‘hot streak’ or does something significant need to happen?  Unclear but could become clearer if one were to experiment in Franchise mode.

Speaking of Franchise mode – I’ve only played a few demo modes, so I wasn’t able to get into the Franchise Mode extensively.  But, word out there is that this is also a huge improvement.  Free Agency is supposed to be better.  Better if you want it to be realistic.  You can’t just sign who you want within your cap.  Bummer.  But instead, you fight it out with other teams who have cap room and the player makes ‘sense’ with what they need.  Cool if you are into disappointment.  Ok, it is a cool feature no matter what because it adds another challenging layer to a game that CAN get dull from time to time.

Which brings be to longevity.  That is my biggest contention with sports games and video games in general.  If you can’t play it over and over again, it’s not worth the buy.  Even for a huge football and Madden fan myself (I’m still a bit more partial to the days of ESPN’s version of Game Day), the game can wear on your mental stability.  I mean, how many times can you set the skill level on easy and crush the Pats?  Ok, probably a ton.  But at least with this challenging aspect it can keep things fresh even though probably frustrating as hell.

Finally, the graphics are as good as ever.  As EA continues to move towards the realm of realism, each year seems to eclipse the other with the graphics.  The movements are more consistent and very realistic.  The cut scenes between plays are really cool and they (EA) really try to give it that broadcast feel.  Which is a bit of a let down because when we play the game, we want to feel like we are IN the game – not observing.  But it’s hard not to be impressed with the presentation of the entire package.

Is the game worth $60?  No.  But they have a monopoly on the whole thing.  Is it an exciting game for casuals like myself who love the game of football?  Absolutely, but there is always room for improvement.  Like last year, a week long rental is in the cards and I’ll determine then if I really want to have this game for the next 358 days.

If you have any thoughts on the game, I would love to hear from you.  I haven’t had any chance for looking at the online features and would like to hear impressions on that aspect of the game.

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