When John Madden first got together with Trip Hawkins in the 1980s to get some ideas together he insisted that it represent 11 players on the field and not be a pared down version of the game. It resulted in a terrible start to the franchise given the limited processing power of the day. Madden always wanted the game to represent how the game was played and if not for that we could be looking at a very different game, or maybe no Madden at all. But for today read on to find out when a number isn't a number, why the Steelers’ James Harrison is likely excited about Madden 12 and what's missing from this Madden that hasn't happened in any licensed Madden, ever.
To begin, we can all be thankful that the offseason lockout didn't play havoc with this Madden release, meaning incoming rookies have signed their contracts and team rosters have been updated. Panthers fans no longer have to suffer with Jimmy Clausen and 49ers fans can see light at the end of the Alex Smith tunnel. Yet beyond mere roster updates, Madden 12 features better tackling animations and visual effects, and gone are any new gimmicky additions; developer EA Tiburon instead focused on improved AI and crafting a more involved franchise mode.
Maybe it was Bethesda's early involvement but players have always run like they're floating above the ground, an aspect that is much improved in this game as players run in the open, shift direction and jog to the huddle with weight and deliberation. Yet the most impressive aspect comes with collisions, as players fly in different directions based on impact; limbs often flailing in different directions. It's not the choppy animations of old where tacklers magically skated into their animation but consistently smooth and impressive.
Rather than focusing on a flash new headline grabbing feature Tiburon have worked hard on the AI and the results show. Individual players will tackle harder, release the ball quicker or be more accurate in the clutch based on their real-world abilities. The defense is also smarter, making it harder to sling the ball around unrealistically but they also adjust to your style of play better, like playing the linebackers shifted to one side if you have a tendency to run that direction.
Starting a franchise gives you a heap of options to take control of total roster management; scouting, contacts and stadium management, or you can go more streamlined and just control what goes on on the field. Madden 12 boasts new player features to create a more involved experience as you can assign different roles to players that have an impact on their play, such as team mentor and injury prone. Not only will players experience hot and cold streaks they also have a confidence rating and values outside assigned stats. Players will have attributes that list them as clutch and high motor as well as several others.
The new additions are great concepts to introduce to the franchise and while they need some tweaks they work well to separate franchise mode from playing 16 games sequentially. Combined with the solid and enjoyable Superstar mode there is more depth in Madden 12 then there has been in years. Yet, with gameplan function and an ability to let the AI take control of the defense Madden 12 is both more accessible and enjoyable for a relaxing exhibition game. All things considered it’s hard to find a major misstep in the new addition. And with that said, it’s time for something a little different.
Quotes of Madden 12
"This offense is one that can score on you in a hurry." Gus Johnson on the Carolina Panthers, who ranked dead last in the NFL in points and yards per game last year.
"One of the toughest environments in the National Football League." Cris Collinsworth on the Buccaneers home stadium, the only stadium to be blacked out for every home game.
"Wow it just seems at this point like they are trying to embarrass the opponents out there." Cris Collinsworth on me continuously trying two point conversions when up by 50 points.
"He goes doooown. Sacked!" Gus Johnson, on a successfully executed punt.
"Haloti Ngata gets his first carry of the day." Gus Johnson getting the FB confused with the Ravens star DT.
Stat of the game
Michael Vick's speed is listed at 91 but he consistently fails to outrun defenders or even make the edge when being chased by defensive lineman. Either they have deliberately curtailed his scrambling abilities or the game stats mean nothing.
Factoid of the game
Brett Favre played for 20 seasons on his way to becoming a shoe-in first ballot hall of famer. And since Madden started using actual teams and players in the mid 90s he's been a fixture at QB. As Madden 12 hits shelves it will be the first Madden game not to have Favre starting at QB.
Travel note for the week
When you can ride a pushbike from home to work in less time than it takes to ride a motorbike or drive a car it makes you wonder why people still bother.
Ten things I think I think
1. I think I have a few random madden thoughts:
- Is there a point to instant replay in a computer game? How does the program reprocess the same information yet arrive at a different result?
- The music gets worse every year, compared to the track selection the Black Eyed Peas had a good Super Bowl halftime show.
- It's funny playing five-minute quarters when you start with the ball and score just before the half.
- James Harrison is happy Roger Goodell isn't in Madden, it is likely the only way he'll avoid getting fined this season.
- It’s great that you never get bogus flags for unnecessary roughness.
- When you try to hurry up on offense players run to the line but there is a huge delay before you can snap the ball.
2. I think the change of the kickoff from the 30 yard line to the 35 doesn't make much of a difference in Madden.
3. I think Cris Collinsworth does great commentary in real-life and in Madden.
4. I think Gus Johnson is a far cry from John Madden or Al Michaels but I'm thankful that he's not Joe Buck or Joe Theismann.
5. I think the programmers really need to examine the route running AI in relation to where the ball is snapped. Receivers often go out of bounds and running backs always go too wide on a swing pass.
6. I think when the Chargers jettisoned their special teams coach from last year he got a job at EA Turion, because the special teams' blocking is crap.
7. I think that if you follow the gameplan on offense you will use a lot of play action.
8. I think that if Ray Lewis, a player that will be in the hall of fame and has been listed as the 18th best player of all time, has the same confidence rating as the Bucs’ backup QB then the rating is arbitrary.
9. I think the ball looks like it is on a string during kickoffs.
10. I think these are my non Madden thoughts of the week.
- It's okay to spell offence as offense just this time.
- Gears of War 3 is awesome, It’s 7.50am and i’ve just put it down after 10 hours straight.
- If you like Game of Thrones you should be a fan of The Walking Dead. Bring on season two!
- It's a stupid idea to update scores during actual NFL games. Has it never occurred to network types that people might want to watch them and not already know the score?
- If an Italian asks you where you had the best coffee on your trip to Europe, don't say France.
If you're into coffee you should downsize to a piccolo latte, after a week other coffee just tastes watered down.
With so many boutique beers available it's hard to keep tabs on what's good.
- I hope you check out Peter King's MMQB on si.com, whose work I’ve followed for years and admire enough to model my review on his column, one of the best in professional sports.