If the assembled video game reviewers were a lazier bunch, they'd simply release a short blurb with each new Madden game calling it the best official NFL console game of the year.
Luckily for fans of the Frankenreview, those game reviewers are made of sterner, more critical stuff. Instead of noting that Madden NFL 12 is the only official NFL game coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this year, they've gone ahead and created a series of neatly organized narratives explaining what the latest installment gets wrong or right. How convenient!
We've taken some of these, cut them into pieces, and stitched them back together here for your critical reading enjoyment. Does Madden NFL 12 make the grade, or am I going to have to bust out another of my startlingly few negative football terms?
In researching my review of Madden NFL 12, I decided to go back and re-read portions of my previous Madden reviews over the course of the last decade. As I read those reviews, a trend emerged, revealing a pattern in the developers' goals that went in a cyclical fashion. One year, the offense was the focus. In another, defense. In one year, casual players were targeted, and in another, the more hardcore set. One year saw major graphical improvements, while another worked on the audio presentation. It's a seesaw effect that, while not directly year-to-year, amounts to a sense of perpetual unrest. Certainly this is true of any game on a yearly development cycle, but with Madden, that cyclical pattern often runs counter to the notion of "yearly progression." If anything, it creates just as many years of depressing regression. With Madden NFL 12, this year is such a year.
This year is a "hardcore" year. It's also a defensive year, and a graphics year. Put those together, and you should have a game with great new defensive controls, tons of mode tweaks and balances, and stellar visuals, with some glaring issues left unaddressed in the realms of offense, interface, and audio. I can say the latter is true. Not quite as much the former.
...as flawed as Madden NFL 12 is in some ways, there's no denying that it's a big improvement over its predecessor. The physics are tighter and the A.I. is quite a bit nastier than in Madden 11. Suction blocks are a thing of the past now, and the result is a much more robust pass rush. In general, the defense is tougher than it's been since Madden '05, which should be music to the ears of fans who have tired of beating the CPU 95-7 every single match.
If anything, it's made me realize that I've developed some bad habits in playing Madden 11. I constantly underestimate the new and improved zone defense, which was more or less useless in last year's edition (with a few notable exceptions, of course), and the result has been a ton of picks. I'm not complaining though, because it's forcing me to be smarter and play "real" football — as opposed to the arcade game that was Madden 11.
EA is touting its new presentation heavily, but it's a mixed bag. Visually, player models are crisper than ever, and the new camera angles liven up the game a bit. Gone are most of the oft-repeating in-game scenes from last season. Even so, there are still the occasional gaffes, such as split-second hiccups before and after the snap and the never-solved problem of players magically melting into referees (and each other). Even worse – and less forgivable – is the commentary. Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth recycle more material than a Poison-Ratt-Cinderella summer amusement park concert, and make flat-out mistakes on a regular basis too. By about our third game, we were already sick of it. It's a terrible oversight that takes away from an otherwise solid presentation.
Official Xbox Magazine
Madden's ancillary modes continue to grow. We enjoyed Madden Moments Live's up-to-date re-creations of the season's highlight plays and comebacks, but Franchise Mode remains the meat of the game, adding enough new features (hot and cold streaks!) to warrant the bulk of your time. It's just too bad that the menus are pitifully slow and annoying to navigate. You're constantly asked whether you want to overwrite previous save files, and it takes a full three requests to quit out of a game. Worse, load times between menu layers are eternal. We just want to play football!
The online gameplay seems to have been given a boost this year as well and offers up some of the broadest online feature sets we have seen in a sports game to date. Modes include Madden Ultimate Team, Online Franchise, Head to Head Play, Leaderboards and Online Communities. Your core online modes are all back, so I won't examine the old and instead focus on some of the new additions to the online arena. The online communities appear to be the single biggest boost the Madden online experience. You can create and join a community with up to 2000 other like-minded gamers. You can play head to head against each other with your own rules and even your own leaderboards. Each community can have anywhere between 2 and 2000 gamers. Each gamer can now be a part of five different online communities.
There really isn't much more to say after all this, except if you haven't played Madden in a while, have been a fan, or just love football, you owe it to yourself to become intoxicated with Madden NFL 12 as it is in the opinion of this reviewer the most polished, accurate, and realistic NFL game to ever grace a video game console. I can't give it any more accolades than that...which just goes to show how impressed with this game I really am. I honestly could write all day about how much this game rocks, but instead, how about we just end this review and you be your own judge. I highly doubt we will be in much disagreement. Finally the Madden franchise can be exactly what the EA Sports tag line says... "it's in the game". For Madden NFL 12 it is truly in the game, it has game, and is the only and best NFL game to date.
Touchdown? Fumble? I'm just going to throw out random football terminology until I get it right.