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Customer Review

on August 30, 2011
EDIT 9/3... see end
Final Edit 9/5

Brief first impressions from playing the game for a few hours today: (I skipped Madden 11, so any comparisons to previous versions are Madden 10 or before)

Pros:
- Visuals; stadiums, fields, weather look very nice. Crowd is still a little boring but that doesn't bother me.
- The Franchise Mode improvements are nice. I haven't made it to an offseason yet, but the expanded rosters, cut days, and IR system force you into some tough decisions which are a welcome challenge.
- New pump fake system; I haven't read about this in any of the other reviews, but in my opinion it's one of the best new features. Unlike previous games, where there is one 'pump fake' button which makes the QB perform a generic pump fake, Madden 12 lets you hold the left trigger (on 360) and press any receiver to pump fake to that receiver. This is very useful for pulling linebackers out of the middle of the field and throwing behind them, or getting safeties to commit before lobbing a bomb over their heads.
- Realistic injuries; The new 'player roles' system in general is very cool, and it has some nice results. I was playing as my team (Go Steelers!) and Aaron Smith went down with a torn bicep... the same exact injury that caused him to miss the playoffs last year! Players who are injury prone in real life are more likely to get injured throughout a season in this game.
- Rookies; I love the fact that you don't instantly know what you got out of a guy when you draft him (or for the current rookies when you start a Franchise). After each preseason game, you learn more about each rookie (unlock more of their individual attributes), and their 'overall' begins to narrow down to reflect their actual skill. It's not until after the 4th preseason game that you are able to see the actual Overall rating for each rookie, as well as their Potential grade. (The interesting thing is... by that time, you've already made 16 cuts!)

Cons:
- Be a Superstar; I didn't spend much time on this mode, so take this with a grain of salt, but I wasn't impressed. I imported a 'Road To Glory' player from NCAA 12, and it jumped right to a screen with my schedule on it. I had already been drafted, and I didn't even know it! I think if you spend time playing a guy's whole college career, they should make a bigger deal about getting drafted. Or, you know, at least tell you that it happened.
- AI play calling; I'm playing on All-Pro, which shouldn't be too difficult, and somehow the computer knows EXACTLY which play I'm going to call every single time. I'm not one of those guys who uses the same play over and over; I mix it up quite a bit. Yet no matter what I call, the computer has it sniffed out. Run a counter play, and they happen to bring a weak side / FS blitz. Pick a run between the tackles, and what do you know, there are 8 guys in the box even though it's 2nd and 17. I've found myself calling a TON of audibles at the line of scrimmage, because it's the only way to actually get your plays off.
- Commentary; I'm a few hours in, and it's already getting repetitive. I like the voices better than Madden 10, but they need to mix up some of their phrases. Most of the time, Gus Johnson's thoughts sound disconnected and he gets way too excited (come to think of it, that should be a 'pro' since it's quite realistic)

Sorry if I rambled, but hopefully I helped. The ultimate question is usually, 'Is it worth 60 bucks if I already own Madden __', and that answer is not going to be the same for everyone. If you like Franchise mode and you can deal with some frustrating AI features (some of which will hopefully be patched out), then there is a good chance you will enjoy the game.

REVISED 9/3: Still enjoying Franchise mode, but a few complaints. One, importing a draft class from NCAA will overwrite the new 'draft logic' which ensures that there are NFL-ready talents at most positions scattered throughout the draft (i.e. not just in the first and second rounds.) I've found it to actually be more realistic to NOT import a class, since the new logic is pretty good and allows you to scout gems in the late rounds, which is quite fun. Still, this is a bug that should (and almost certainly WON'T) be fixed... until it's a "new feature" in Madden 13.

As mentioned in one of the comments below, there are perhaps too many injuries. This tends to be a problem with most annual sports games, because they introduce a new feature and then over-tweak the gameplay to show it off. Injured Reserve is new to Madden this year, and it seems like they have gone overboard with the "HEY! Look what I can do!", resulting in too many season-ending and long-term injuries. There is an 'injuries' slider you can adjust, but I have yet to notice if that affects simulations (may only affect games that you actually play)

I've played a little more Be a Superstar, and I am still lukewarm on it. I like the new development system where you can assign skill points to improve your player, and I like that you are awarded skill points based on what the TEAM does (much better for playing as a defensive player,) but something about it still feels unpolished.

Final edit / opinions (9/5)
I've been back and forth on this version of Madden, but I'm finally off the fence, and I can't say I'd recommend the game. Sure, the visuals are improved and there are some nice tweaks to the franchise mode, but Madden 12 is plagued by the same thing that has plagued the series for a long time, especially since 2004 or so (which, by pure coincidence, is the last time that EA Sports has had to compete with another NFL licensed game). The problem is the lack of attention to detail; I know EA has gone to great lengths to have realistic and detailed player introductions this year, but the problem is that this game has far too many more pressing issues that seem to be ignored. The blocking on punt returns is miserable, the Franchise AI is frustratingly stupid, the audio commentary is VERY repetative, and the list goes on.

The problem is that EA doesn't NEED to fix any of these things to keep selling copies... as long as they're the only show in town, and they can half-heartedly implement a few new features every year so that there is something to put on the back of the box and something to show off in the demo, people will keep buying the game. They suckered me in again this year, although this is the first time I have bought a NEW version of the game since 08, but this is probably it for me.

Supposedly, EA's exclusive rights to the NFL expire in 2012, and NFL 2K could be making a return. I'm not sure if it will be any better, but it will at least encourage some competition in the marketplace, and force Madden to stop giving us half-efforts.
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