Do you want to hear something interesting? The Madden franchise is one of the best-selling video game franchises ever. Seriously, it's right up there with Final Fantasy, Call of Duty and Zelda. Isn't that strange considering that the series has never been very big in the UK (the third biggest consumer of videogames in the world)? It's a shame really because the Madden games have seen a level of quality on par with video game franchises like FIFA and NHL.
Obviously this game is very similar to Madden 11 which was considerably akin to Madden 10 which in turn was much like Madden 09; a criticism that has been consistently aimed at most of EA Sports releases. However the changes present, however small, do really make a difference over a number of years: this is fine tuning to the point that the game is virtually unrecognisable when compared to the likes of Madden 05 or 06.
Realism seems to be the most significant increase in this year's instalment with the AI of your players being shockingly lifelike. Additionally the physics of the game has been improved and the players no longer look like they have ball-magnets in their hands, the ball looks like it is being kicked instead of just flying off and the tackles look like they really hurt (one of the most noticeable factors of the actual game). In fact the tackles are one of the most impressive features of the game with an all-new collision system in place which takes the size, weight and momentum of players into consideration when a tackle occurs. The result is a vast improvement over the rag dollish appearance of previous games.
Graphically the game reflects this realism also. I am sure that you will not be shocked to learn that this is the best looking Madden game so far. Everything looks fantastic (save for the cardboard cut-out crowd) with particular attention to be paid to the grass and the glare on the players helmets which looks stunning in glorious full 1080p HD.
Gameplay has once again been expanded to include more than just football with ever present training mini-games designed to train you to develop particular skills and tactics to put into play on the playing field. In addition to this training mode are pages and pages of player stats and trading modes, which resemble something more akin to some particularly in depth RPG than a sports game. One of the new features however is the development of the MUT (Madden Ultimate Team) which takes the form of a kind of trading card game. You play matches to earn coins that can be spent on packs of player cards. However the amount of games you have to play to afford a midlevel pack is absurdly high which will prompt many players to buy packs of coins from PSN or XBLA for real money.
The game is great for existing fans of the series and of American football in general however it is brutally unforgiving to newcomers. Some of the best sports games ever made (the early Tony Hawks games, WWE, FIFA) were designed so that they can be easily picked up by someone who has never played the sport before and the player can quickly suss out what to do and how to play. This is something that is strangely absent from this franchise and considering the sales outside of North America, it may be something for them to consider in future. In the defence of those that made the game, American football is a surprisingly in depth game with a big part of the game involving trying to outthink what the opposing team is going to do and how to counter it. This is something that is only going to translate well to people who already know what they are doing so it would have been refreshing to see an optional "baptism-by-fire" beginners mode designed to introduce people to the sport.
If you are new to American football then I would suggest that you look at something else until you are familiar with the intricacies of the game. When you're ready, do get stuck into Madden 12 as there is a lot of fun to be had. I don't think that there are quite enough new features for owners of Madden 11 to run out and buy this year's version; however nothing I say is going to stop them! Go nuts, Madden 12 will not disappoint!
8 out of 10