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‘Madden 12’ Review – Well, It’s One More

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I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do with EA’s Madden 12 [$6.99 / HD]. I mean, a game like Madden we sort of need to review, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the game and honestly couldn’t even say what’s different between Madden 11 and Madden 12 aside from adding one more to the numerical suffix, redesigning some menus, and updating the roster. So, I’ve just updated our Madden 11 review:

The Madden series hardly needs an introduction, as football player turned coach turned commentator John Madden has had his name on football games for the better part of 20 years now. On home consoles, it has become tradition for EA to release a new Madden game each year with updated rosters, a few new features, and other various tweaks. As of tonight, the second third yearly installment of the Madden series has arrived for the iPhone.

Last year Two years ago we took a close look at Madden NFL 10 and thought it was a really great football game for the iPhone. Madden ’10 came loaded with all the licensed players, stadiums, logos, and everything else you’d expect of a Madden game along with game modes ranging from single exhibition games to full seasons. The two hip new features of Madden NFL 10 for the iPhone were hot routes allowing players to draw on the screen to control players, and “action control time" which switched the game to slow motion mode allowing for precise maneuvers with the virtual controls.

There wasn’t much to complain about with last year’s two years ago’s Madden, which really left me wondering what EA was going to include in this year’s release to up the ante. The preview we got revealed substantial graphical upgrades including Retina Display support, but it wasn’t until I got to spend more time with the game today that I realized just how much more fun the other new features made playing Madden NFL 11 12.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a sports person by any means. I don’t remember the last time I watched anything more than the Super Bowl on TV, and the only sporting events I’ve attended have been the result of friends with extra tickets. I play sports games, but generally gravitate towards arcade style sports games like Homerun Battle 3D [$4.99 / Free], or sports games that have RPG elements such as Baseball Superstars 2010 [99¢ / Free] Baseball Superstars 2011 [99¢ / Free].

I mention this because I generally never really got into a Madden game, or really any full football game. The weak link for me always came in choosing from an endless array of both offensive and defensive plays, with each yearly iteration of football game boasting even more plays to choose from. I don’t know enough about the strategy of football plays to have ever felt like I was making a wise decision, and when it got down to it, play selection just always seemed like a needless interruption every few seconds while playing the game.

GameFlow changes all of this, and I really can’t overstate how awesome a feature it actually is. Using some new AI algorithm likely designed by a team of people who know way more about football than I ever care to, Madden 11 12‘s GameFlow will intelligently chooses plays for you. It is absolutely insane how much this changes both the feel and the pace of the game. Using GameFlow, endless submenus of plays are a thing of the past. Instead, you just play football. The plays it selects work fairly well too, or at least, much better than my typical choice of plays which usually alternate between the hail mary and the fake field goal kick– both favorites of mine.

What’s also shocking is how much this actually speeds up playing the game. You can tap the screen to skip through the extra animations, victory dances, and other junk and play through a whole football game in what barely seems like any time at all. Of course, if you are the kind of person who knows exactly what every play does, all you have to do is flip GameFlow to off and you have complete control of each and every play.

The hot routes functionality from last year has been expanded seems the same, and at any point during the game you can pause the action and draw paths for your players. If you’re playing offense and do this, you can save those routes as an audible, or if you’re playing defense you can just send your players wherever you want. The whole system works very well, and by drawing lines you can send dispatch players to man to man duty, follow the ball, or really anything else. This really makes defense a lot more fun because you can now actually sensibly direct your team around instead of just tabbing in between players and chasing after whoever has the ball.

As mentioned already, the graphics of Madden NFL 11 12 look fantastic. The stadium crowd has actual depth now still, and they even still wave around signs for the home team. The included weather effects look good, and overall it seems like all the player models and animations are more just as detailed, if not a little more. Every texture in game also seems to have been substantially marginally improved, making going back and forth between 10 and 11 12 seem fairly drastic.

Madden 11 12 also is host to some other noticeable tweaks over Madden 10 as well such as controls that feel a little better and a spruced up interface. There’s an in-game store which currently is home to a free roster update, but seems like it might be used for future DLC. Finally, Madden NFL 11 12 behaves beautifully as an iPhone game, gracefully saving your game and resuming quickly when you load it again.

At the end of the day, people who like Madden games likely don’t need this review, or anything more than the iTunes link to download the game for that matter. Who I really expect to sway into checking out Madden NFL 11 12 are the casual sports fans, or people like me, who are vaguely interested in sports games but found the various technicalities of football games to generally be annoying. GameFlow fixes all this, and I can hardly believe that I spent the majority of my day today playing Madden 11 12 on my iPhone– not because I was trying to power through it to write a review, but because I was actually really enjoying a football game for the first time since Mutant League Football on the Sega Genesis.

The iPad and iPhone versions are essentially the same aside from the price difference and UI tweaks to make the controls more comfortable for playing on the iPad. The iPhone version is workable with pixel doubling if you don’t mind big pixels.

With the release of Madden 12, EA also seems to have removed Madden 11 from the App Store. Unless you’re really into having the most up to date roster, there really isn’t much reason that we can see to upgrade. They’ve also shoved EA’s Origin into the game as well, so if that service ever takes off in a big way, there’s that too. On the other hand, if you’re into the Madden series, and hadn’t picked up Madden 11 previously, 12 seems to be just as good as a game.


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