Having played Madden NFL 12 extensively at E3 (check out my full impressions here) the demo didn’t offer a whole lot new – in fact it feels as though a step backwards has been taken. Though no exacts have been given regarding the timing of the build used for the demo it likely comes from May or June and may predate the E3 build. Hopefully that is the case. Regardless though it’s important to evaluate what is available and in doing so the feedback could be implemented in the release day patch, gameplay tuners, or later patches.
Coming out of E3 the basic feeling was that Madden 12 had progressed immensely from the utterly disappointing Madden 11. With so much being implemented however there were certainly some rough patches but the overlying feeling was of encouragement and excitement. Unfortunately having had that experience the Madden 12 demo is largely a letdown as the general experience is much less refined than recalled from the event.
The first things I noted related to the much improved broadcast camera angles and presentation. There is framerate slowdown in those scenes and replays which really needs to be ironed out. There also seems to be issues with what the scenes are capturing. In one instance it cut to Lance Briggs warming up to kick a field goal on the sidelines.
The two minute warning seems to be especially problematic. Plays that end in the two minute warning are jarringly cut away from – seemingly before the play is even completely over. One time the camera immediately cut to concentrate on showing the ground and some random feet.
While those things will likely be fixed what concerns me more is the general focus on players making their way back to the huddle and their inability to do so without awkwardly bumping into each other. This is something that really hurt NCAA Football 12 and Madden needs to find a way to avoid showing.
Gameplay wise the feel is similar to that of NCAA Football 12 though somewhat faster and less refined. Many of the significant enhancements this year were implemented in both titles so there is no need to break down all the improvements such as the tackling system. Interestingly though they play out somewhat differently. NCAA seems more predicated on tackling while Madden is more about hitting. I’m not sure why that is but in Madden it seems like guys get knocked around more than wrapped up and taken down.
There seems to be a problem with GameFlow particularly on defense. What they’ve done with the feature this year is worthwhile. Not only can you see what play is queued up but scrolling through ‘aggressive’ and ‘conservative’ or ‘pass’ and ‘run’ will provide other plays to choose from. That makes the feature much more appealing and useful. On defense though only zones are offered up (no man coverages) and often the types of plays are being framed incorrectly – for example I got offered Cover 6 as an ‘aggressive’ play.
•At E3 I thought the game speed had been made faster and that it was a good move. The slower speed did a better job of masking inherent issues and that was no longer necessary due to the improvements made. Based on the demo though it seems to be a bit too fast.
•One thing about NCAA I really like is the ability to step up in the pocket to buy time. In the Madden demo it seems like stepping up in the pocket means moving into a sack.
•There are an awful lot of sacks. Users especially have little time in the pocket before getting creamed and often fumbling.
•QBs scramble often which isn’t a bad thing necessarily but they are startlingly quick and elusive. Considering it’s Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers how will Michael Vick ever be contained? Scary. Don’t remember QBs being this dangerous on the run at E3 though.
•Sadly play action is yet again completely inconsistent. This is simply an aspect of the game that remains poorly represented.
•Punt return blocking is terrible. Running punt block will give a better opportunity for a return.
•The Bears have tried to block punts rather than setting up for Devin Hester returns.
•Replays are cut too short.
•CPU quick snap + pre-play break huddle scene makes it hard to do any defensive adjustments.
•CPU has thrown a high rate of INTs. Then again one of the QBs is Jay Cutler but it still seems to be an issue.
•Kick power seems to have been ramped up too high. All touchbacks and missed a 60 yarder (wide not short) in Soldier Field where the field surface makes kicking difficult.
•Reports of extra points being blocked are somewhat worrisome. It’s good that it is possible but given the number of people having seen it happen in limited play-time that might be something that needs to be looked into.
•Celebrations and emotion displayed are inconsistent. Check out the video below and the hail mary catch at the end of the half and how there was basically no reaction to it.
Overall Madden NFL 12 looks to have clearly surpassed what NCAA Football 12 offered in terms of gameplay and presentation. As anticipated it seems as though most of the impressions regarding the demo out there have been positive. There may be some problems but it’s easier to overlook them when recognizing how much effort is being put in to advance the series. While it doesn’t have as strong a feature set as NCAA 12 (which has been largely negated by all the issues anyway) Madden 12 is shaping up to be the premiere football product this season.