Are you ready for some football? After having to wait a few extra weeks for Madden this year, on Tuesday everyone will be able to get their hands on the latest installment -Madden NFL 12. Almost every year there are mixed reviews on Madden and unfortunately this year won’t be any different. I have been playing Madden for over 15 years and I am as hard on the franchise as anyone, but there are some folks out there that will never be satisfied. I had a chance to interview Josh Looman about franchise mode and Michael Young about the improved presentation this year, and I can tell you both of these guys love the game and love football. Moreover, they’ve worked really hard to deliver a game that we all can love. Madden 12 does have its flaws, but this year’s game makes the biggest leap forward yet and should have players really excited about the future of the franchise.
I’m going to start this review off a little different and address some of the bad things you might have heard about this year’s game. I have heard a lot of people say that the changes this year just aren’t BIG enough. Honestly, when people say this, I always have a hard time understanding what they are expecting. The game of football doesn’t really change, so what EA Sports is starting to focus on is refining the overall gameplay experience and making everything as authentic as possible, and they have done that. The next criticism has to do with them not doing enough to improve offline franchise mode. While I agree that they haven’t done a major overhaul of the mode, which is probably needed, they have made significant improvements. The concept of Dynamic Player Performance (DPP) has really changed the predictability of franchise games. Here is an example with my franchise team – the Philadelphia Eagles. One week Michael Vick was brilliant and rated a 93, and the next week he threw 3 interceptions and I barely won the game. All in all, those are just a couple of the small things I wanted to address. Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
It’s your favorite mode and my favorite mode as well and there is a lot to like. I already talked about the DPP, and it really does take the monotony out of playing franchise games. The idea of a player having a high consistency rating matters, and for someone like me who likes to bring in a lot of young guys, it caused me to rethink that strategy because their play can be erratic. Combine that with players getting on hot and cold streaks and I think it really makes for much more enjoyable and less predictable games. Keeping with the concept of making the game as authentic as possible, they have finally added “Cut Days”, which is where you can carry up to 75 players at the start of the preseason, and then you have to slowly cut your team down to the final 53 man roster. This allows you to get a good look at your rookies and training camp invites to determine who is going to make that final roster. When I had to make the first cuts I was like this is going to be easy. When it got to the third set of cuts, it took me around 45 minutes to decide which 8 guys I wanted to let go. This really made me feel like a coach because just like in real life you have to let guys go that could be solid NFL players, perhaps even superstars one day, but you have to go off what they do in games. They also finally fixed Injured Reserved. Now players with season ending injuries are automatically put on the IR, which more importantly frees up a roster spot for you to sign a replacement. You can also put players on IR manually. For instance, if a guy gets an 11 week injury in week 8 or 9, he is effectively done and you can put him on IR, and at the very least get another body signed to get you through the season.
Speaking of rookies, they also put in a completely new Rookie Scouting system that gives you the chance to evaluate rookies during the Regular Season, Pro Days, NFL Combine and Individual Workouts. Before you get excited, these are just screens this year, but it’s a nice start and I look forward to watching this new system evolve into something more interactive. As is, you select the people you want to scout during each phase, and as you progress through different phases, more and more of their stats are revealed to you. If you scout a guy through all phases, by the time you get ready to draft him you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of player you are getting. My only complaint with this mode is that you have absolutely no information in which to decide who to scout besides their projected round, which doesn’t give you much to go off. I understand that in the last few years it has been way too easy to judge rookies by just looking at their potential, but you can’t go the complete opposite and not give the player any real information to decide on who to target. This is definitely an area that needs more work to find the right balance, because this year you will definitely just have to guess. Another nice touch people will appreciate with rookies is that they now have real pictures thanks to a new portrait system. So no more of those cartoon type pictures that takes you out of the overall immersion of the game.
There has been a lot said about the new Free Agency bidding system, and while it does take a while to get used to, I think it’s a move in the right direction. The entire mode has been streamlined and accelerated, so make sure you pay attention to the guys you want to target and go after them. When it comes to free agents signing during the season, they have finally brought some sanity to it. In Madden NFL 12, free agents can be had for a reasonable salary and it much more accurately reflects real life. Most free agents will sign a one year deal for under a million dollars. This works out well since you can bring a guy in and determine if he can be enough value to your team for you to sign him to a long-term deal, if not you just don’t resign him the next season and really no harm done. The only thing I felt was missing here was the ability to quickly see who you currently had at a position without having to leave the free agent screen. Player Roles are a nice touch and most do have an in-game impact, but I can’t say that they will be noticeable to most players. When it comes to making your team better, one of the best ways to do that is through trades. For the most part the engine has not changed a lot, but they have refined the CPU trade logic so they won’t make as many dumb deals (I said as many, they still make dumb deals) and they have added the ability to trade not only the current year’s picks but the next year’s picks as well, thus adding a little bit more depth to the mode. Overall, teams attribute less value to the next year’s picks and will be more willing to give up higher rounds picks, which you can use in your favor, especially if like me you enjoy building your team through the draft. There are tons of other changes and tweaks to Franchise mode, but the overall verdict is that the mode has been improved for the better and everything should happen in a lot more predictable way. Everything from how the CPU manages their teams to how Player Awards are given. (Click button below to keep reading)