Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive return just misses an extra point, 7 Sept. 2011
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= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Madden NFL 12 (PS3) (Video Game)
This year is a crucial one for EA's massive gridiron franchise. Sales wise it's still the biggest sports game out there not called FIFA, but last year's Madden caused a backlash from fans who accused the development team of playing things too safe. With a gulf in quality forming between this and fellow US sports series The Show and NBA 2K, almost all the new features in Madden 12 are here to pull those alienated die-hards back in.

It's a sensible move. To the casual player Madden 11 was more than acceptable thanks to the introduction of GameFlow. This mechanic enabled you to whizz through games without worrying about tactics, letting the AI to select plays for you. Part-timers liked it, but the hardcore damned it for it's limitations - like failing to take into account the number of opposition wide receivers when you were on defense. (In real life, you'd combat extra WRs by deploying extra cornerbacks).

It's better this year, giving you the chance to select from three plays on both sides of the ball. The AI still makes odd choices - it still hasn't fully fixed that WR vs CB issue - but I was far less inclined to resort to the full playbook 30 times a game as happened last year. A better tackling engine (no more nonsensical eight-man scrums) and proper physics (bringing a running back down depends on timing rather than luck) also enhance gameplay significantly.

Other fan-requested changes make a huge difference to the overall experience, too. I'm talking minute details like having the actual camera angles at which games are shot in each NFL stadium (making a massive difference when going for a field goal), overlays showing off key offensive and defensive players on each team's opening drive, and lovely cutaways to show the entire stadium before the game, between quarters and once it's finished. Too much detail is never a bad thing, and this is the first Madden to look and feel like a genuine TV broadcast.

The most drastic changes have been saved for franchise mode, which has had an AI overhaul. My favourite is the new free agency system: instead of signing every top player come the end of the season, a timed auction system kicks in whereby you have to focus on the players you want the most. Each time a new offer comes in, you can top it by tapping X, but there's no cheating - leave it until the last second to bid and more time gets added to the clock for other teams to come in. It's loads of fun trying to pip a rival to a key player - until you realise another target has signed elsewhere while you were distracted. Hey, that's reality.

Also new are expanded rosters (you start pre-season with 75 players and downsize your squad week by week), hot and cold streaks (player attributes are affected by what happens on the pitch) and a proper Injury Reserve. (In real life, placing a player on IR means he can't play again that season, but he stays on your team AND you can sign a replacement.) But confusingly, AI teams often put crocked players on IR then don't replace them - and they NEVER make trades. Imagine FIFA manager mode without a single transfer. Yeah, buzzkiller. Those franchise foibles means new Madden doesn't quite match it's baseball and basketball rivals, but you'll still find lots to love in this year's instalment. And if there's one thing it can't be accussed of, it's playing it safe.
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