PS3 Review – Madden NFL 12

It’s that time of year once again – the “Madden Holiday.” This is the time of year when everyone takes time off work for the release day of the newest entry into the Madden series. Are you ready for some Football!?! Many of the same modes that we have grown to love have made a return to Madden gridiron but, as always, there have been tweaks and additions made to them. Exhibition is the easiest way to begin playing; simply choose your team and get started. It’s pretty straightforward and not much to improve upon, but this is where most people put in the most yardage.

Franchise mode is better than ever, offering a much more realistic, detailed experience. Starting out, it now includes 75 players on your roster in the pre-season and, as each week progresses, you must have a cut, freeing up room on your roster week by week. During the off-season, Madden veterans will notice that many things have been tweaked. First and foremost, the free agency period has been changed completely – it now represents a style of approach where you’re placing bids when trying to sign potential players. You constantly have to be on your guard to sign that player you need to take your team to the top tier of your division and eventually get a chance to battle for that Superbowl ring.

Scouting is another thing that has been overhauled. Not only can you scout your players, but things like attending their workouts and the NFL Combine are now possible. The more you focus on a player, the more you learn about that individual. So, to get that top-rated QB, or to discover that sleeper pick in the later rounds that no team expects to do anything, you must spend time learning, watching and waiting. The more time you spend scouting, the better the rewards are come draft time.

Finally, players are allowed to trade future draft picks, this isn’t a major addition, but nice to have there when trying to trade for that player or pick that you really want. If it’s in the game, then it’s in the game, says EA Sports, and they mean it.

Dynamic player performance has also made a return this year; it has been missing for the past couple releases. Depending on how your player performs can either result in a boost in ratings, or a decline in ratings. That wide receiver that has dropped a couple of passes may lose some of his catch rating, resulting in more dropped passes. Make sure you make those big plays.

Everything within the franchise mode, like the rest of the game, has been streamlined, and it’s definitely noticeable. Menus are more fluid, sleek, and responsive. While this isn’t in the Football gameplay, it’s still a great thing to have an interface that’s flashy and still intuitive.

The other changes found within this year’s game primarily occur in the Online mode. Everything that the Franchise mode has to offer is available online with friends. Of course there is also the standard fare: ranked and unranked matches that can be played by the user. But there is also a new feature known as “online communities.”

By creating a community it allows you to play the game the way you want to when online. If you’re the type to play realistically, you no longer do you have to deal with the players that attempt to play the game like it’s an arcade game. Or if you actually want 15-minute quarters, then you can have that – it’s all up to you. You can join up to five different communities, and if it is your own created community it can either be public or private. After setting up the community, you will be able to control everything from difficulty to guidelines that must be followed to remain in that community, if they aren’t followed, you can simply boot the people out of it. Also everyone that is in your Madden community will be featured on a specific leader board showing only members. This is hands-down a great addition and should allow for quick pick up and play without having to worry about facing someone that will exploit the game.

For Madden veterans looking for a more customizable experience when calling plays, the custom playbook is the answer. You can now have up to 30 formations in your playbook, and 50 sets as well. That’s a lot of plays, and it’s up to you to decide which style of offense you would like to use when you are attempting to earn that W.

Everyone knows that Madden NFL 11 was a solid game, definitely one of the best in years. In terms of gameplay, though, Madden NFL 12 completely demolishes the predecessor. Things just work, especially on defense. You can call man coverage, or zone coverage, or blitz packages, and they work the way they should. No idiotic AI spoiling your master plan. Of course you must take into account the opponent, who you are blitzing against, and what likelihood you have at getting pressure on the QB or tackling the RB in the backfield. Naturally, you’re not always gonna be successful, but it is definitely more realistic this year, especially considering some of the issues there were on defense last year. The same could be said for the offensive side of the ball, primarily the blocking; it’s some of the best I’ve seen in years. I was running the ball with Arian Foster for the Houston Texans and the line became very congested in a hole I was supposed to be running through, so I said what the hell and decided to keep going. Not only did the line maintain their blocking beforehand, but they reacted to where I maneuvered with Foster, and they maintained their blocks as I ran past them. Fortunes reversed on the next play, as I ran to the weak side and the defensive end was able to shed his block and tackle me. It’s so much more realistic than previous years – fans of the series will find themselves loving every minute of it.

One small thing that is automatically done now is the auto substitutions during pre-season games. It now resembles what is done in actual NFL pre-season games. Your starters may play only one quarter or so, then when that second quarter has begun, you will have your backups in. Then by the third quarter you have your third string personnel in. This is now all automatically done, when in previous years you had to go in and manually adjust the depth chart, and it was a huge annoyance.

Graphically, the game is fantastic – no denying it. EA Sports spent a ton of time on the presentation aspect of the game, and it definitely shows. Home teams now have city specific entrances, accurately representing what occurs at their stadiums when playing at home in real life. Nothing better than seeing Toro (Houston Texans mascot) lead the team onto the field just like he does at Reliant Stadium. Speaking of stadiums, they look great, accurately representing how they look in real life, both inside the arena and out. The same can be said for the actual players. The one main annoyance would be the crowd: They are still the bland cutouts that we have seen in the past. Granted, you should be paying attention to the action on the field and not the crowd or sidelines, but it still in the game, and it’s dramatically less realistic than everything else.

Stadium sounds, crowd cheers, and everything else all sound fantastic, but the commentary is noticeably poor. Things get repeated often and there are errors in the commentary itself. It’s certainly not game-breaking, but it hurts the overall polish of an otherwise flawless game.

Overall Madden NFL 12 beats its predecessor in every way, delivering top-notch performance and presentation tweaks to bring you what you see on game day every Sunday. Crisp graphics, huge amounts of gameplay options, and a thriving online community are the perfect game-winning play that Madden needs to stay relevant. There are a few hiccups with the commentary and things like the crowds that can be improved upon, but any NFL or Football fan in general should definitely give this game a look.

That’ll move the chains.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Top notch presentation shows you the same things you see when watching a game.

+ Much improved franchise mode brings additions people have been requesting for years.

– Commentary and crowds could definitely use some improvements.

8 out of 10