|System: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP|
|Dev: EA Tiburon|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: August 30, 2011|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Madden has always been known as a game for the hardcore crowd—the seriously addicted, stat-obsessed, 18-hour players. The Madden franchise is designed to steal away your time and reward you with deep gameplay that makes you feel like the ultimate football expert. And Madden 12 continues this trend. Though there are plenty of features to make the game accessible to newcomers or younger players, Madden 12 will dominate your life, and that's most certainly a good thing.
Let's start off with the basics. Madden 12 has the same essential gameplay elements that you've come to expect from the series. However, as you play through it, you may notice some small tweaks. The biggest of these is a new collision system that allows you to have more control over your tackles. Instead of just picking a direction and diving, things like momentum and size are factored into the way your player moves. With this comes greater tackle variety, and there are over 100 new tackle animations to ensure that no player is ever sacked the same way twice.
In addition to the new tackle system, the A.I. has been revamped, and special attention has been paid to defensive A.I. It is impossible to cover everyone at all times in Madden, and the A.I. now controls all of the players on the field when you are defending. You won't have any wasted players just waiting around for something to happen. Both the revamped A.I. and the new tackle system are subtle in their implementation, but make Madden 12 feel like a smarter, smoother game. In addition to these large tweaks, Madden 12 also includes more playbooks and all-new dive catch action, as well as the ability to pump fake to a receiver. It sounds like a lot to take in, but the second you get the controller in your hand, the game feels instantly familiar. Whether you're a dedicated player or it's been five years, Madden 12 still feels like your favorite football game.
Once you've got the basic gameplay down, the first thing you'll probably do is jump into Franchise Mode. Franchise Mode this year is just as immersive as in previous years, but there is one key difference: Madden 12 has a new A.I. system known as "Dynamic Player Performance", or DPP for short. DPP is a huge deal in Franchise Mode because it tracks behavioral stats and incorporates them into player A.I. If, for instance, one player has been doing extremely well in recent weeks, they will be labeled as "on fire," and their value will go up; their A.I. will be more aggressive as a result. Conversely, if a player has been having a rough few weeks, a nasty block of ice will appear by their name. You might need to remove them from play for a little bit, because the A.I. associated with them will start lagging and you'll have to work harder to make that player competitive again. Certain behaviors like force passes and sideline catches will also be triggered when certain stat thresholds are reached, so it pays to keep ultra-confident players in the game as much as possible.
The DPP system also factors consistency, which can help you formulate a strategic long game into your Super Bowl plans. Building teams with players that can keep their stats consistent can keep you from having players slide into the dreaded ice-cold territory in a crucial week. However, if your team is merely consistent, you might have trouble going against a team with on-fire players with confidence and augmented stats. Madden 12 really forces you to make hard choices with your players, making Franchise Mode that much more addictive. You can even mix and match team-building and development strategies to get a feel for what works best from week to week.
However, the DPP system isn't the only thing that adds depth to Franchise Mode. Madden 12 features an all new scouting system that allows you to explore rookie players' performance by practicing with them for four weeks. Only after the four weeks will the players' real stats be fully revealed. This makes scouting a big gamble; you might feel like you just selected the best player ever, but be disappointed when their stats are lower than you had anticipated. Fortunately, Madden 12 allows for you to start with 75 players, and then you can utilize cut days to streamline your team. Even if you make some mistakes selecting rookies, you can use the cut days feature to get your team to regulation size.
There is so much to Franchise Mode that it almost seems overwhelming at first. However, once you get your head in the game and get into the rhythm of looking at stats, selecting players, and getting ready for the Super Bowl, you'll be surprised how much time you can lose. Even though Madden is a game that is undeniably fun to play with others, Franchise Mode proves that a single-player mode easily be a sports game's greatest feature.