Madden NFL 12 Hands-On Preview – Staying True to the Game
Written Wednesday, June 01, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
EA Tiburon has been churning out stellar American Football games for years, making Madden NFL the only real choice for pigskin fans each and every season. No other football franchise comes close to recreating the sport with the intricate attention to detail and authentic atmosphere, which really begs the question: where can EA Sports go from here? There's plenty of untouched ground to explore in Madden NFL as it happens, and EA Tiburon has a whole bunch of egg-shaped tricks up its heavily padded sleeves for Madden 12.
'True to the game' is Madden's mantra for this season, which pertains to the game's remarkable commitment to replicating the style of a live NFL television broadcast to a tee, from camera moves right down to the blades of grass on the field. Working with the CBS TV network and NFL Films cinematographers, the development team has added a staggering 700 cameras where usually 200 would do the job and utilised a brand new technology called 'DCAM' to accurately motion capture the actual movements that a camera would make during a match. That's handheld and steadicam shots at all of the crucial in-game moments, like the pre-match build up with mascots, cheerleaders and so forth, or the team huddle, a ranting coach on the sidelines or a player pointing at the camera to gloat.
It's the closest to the real thing that we've ever seen, and truly, if you squint, you could easily be fooled into thinking that you're watching an NFL game on television. So, Madden NFL 12 looks good. Incredibly good. That much is evident, but what about actual improvements on the field? Well, there's some of that going on too in the improved collisions and new defensive coverages. It's all in the details, we're told as some of the instances where these refinements matter are demonstrated to us. An overhauled collisions system means pure physics and no canned animations during play, so impacts occur exactly as they would in a real game, making the action more fluid and realistic.
Picking up a controller to play the game proves this to be completely true in practice, as running towards the end zone is exhilarating as strong players brush off challenges and make a break for a touchdown. New ball physics make all the difference during fumbles too, and even small details like artificial pellets or blades of grass being kicked up from the playing surface adds to the immersion. There's a day to night cycle in the game now too, so you may notice that the stadium floodlights will come on, the lighting will transform and the visuals will adapt as it gets darker. Again, we're veering off into talking about the game's graphics again, so we'll move on to talking about the players.
Madden NFL 12 has 1500 individual players, each with their own unique traits and tendencies that EA Tiburon claims captures the “essence of each player”, with core elements covering their play style. So aspects like the clutch, confidence, consistency and so on will all shape a player's dynamic performance. Trying to capture a player's 'heart' has also been one of the dev team's aims, but it's really the tendencies of players that mark them out as individuals. So for instance a player like the Vikings' Adrian Peterson will be every bit as explosive and strong a you'd expect, until he fumbles the ball, after which he'll start running with the ball covered and he'll no longer have his stiff arm move. Colts player Peyton Manning meanwhile will almost always deliver in the clutch. These are obviously just a couple of examples of player traits, but every player will apparently have their own set.
In Franchise Mode, there'll be weekly fluctuations to these tendencies too, so as the team's GM you'll need to keep an eye on the form of your players. There's over 100 improvements to Franchise Mode, although it's still a lot of user interface, statistics and menus, which is to be expected. Superstar Mode is more hands-on, offering its own take on the Be a Pro mode found in FIFA as you fill the cleats of a pro NFL star. In terms of modes, Madden NFL 12 will also cater for online communities, but this is under wraps for now.
Going hands-on with Madden NFL 12 as the Washington Redskins against the Minnesota Vikings, we found the game fantastically accessible, even as an occasional NFL dabbler from the UK. Executing a gameplan is surprisingly straightforward and despite still failing to fully understand the rules (we've tried, honest), we managed to make a glorious run past the Vikings defense to land a mighty gratifying touchdown. Still, the new golf swing-style meter for taking field goal kicks threw us slightly, meaning that we only managed to gain six points. Nevertheless, we managed to convert that small lead into a slender victory as the opposition gained only two points from a safety.
Madden NFL 12 plays remarkably well, which should mean another high watermark year for the franchise. According to EA Tiburon, NFL 12 is the biggest year-on-year overhaul in the series yet, with more depth, better gameplay and a greater emphasis on authentic presentation. Having played the game, we can vouch for much of this, as Madden NFL 12 both looks and plays like a dream. How far the overall depth of the game extends however will only be apparent when the game releases in a couple of months, but presently, all signs are looking good for this game of gridiron, which bodes well for fans of egg-shaped balls the world over. Touchdown!
Madden NFL 12 is out on August 30th, 2011.