Madden reviews are interesting territory, especially as an Australian. The franchise is often criticised for being too similar to the last instalment and not worthy of an annual release with the rise of DLC. I’m going to level with you: I don’t follow American Football and I have no interest in starting now. It’s a stupid game, and is nothing compared to our national sport. However, I don’t mind the occasional run in Madden.

I haven’t played Madden since its 09 release, and only “support” the Eagles because of the Always Sunny episode. That might make me the worst person in the world to review Madden 12, or perhaps in some strange deluded world the best, if you’re tired of every reviewer citing its lack of new features and nothing else; I’m not too familiar with the old ones. That said, I apologise if my lack of NFL knowledge makes me sound as credible as a primary school librarian.

What Madden NFL 12 Got Right

Balanced gameplay – Having not played a new release for three years, I was surprised how quickly I got into the swing of things and the overall balance of the gameplay. There’s no point comparing back to 09, but the basic mechanics, such as running, passing and directing play, all felt fluid. Nothing feels overpowered or too difficult to master – at least using relatively basic plays – and there are no obvious flaws in how the CPU goes about things. Balance is always an issue in EA Sports games, and all sports games for that matter, regardless of what happened last year (Fifa 12 looks more intent on defence, for example, which may disrupt its attacking reputation). From a casual player’s perspective, Madden 12 feels like it has struck the perfect balance between difficulty, control and game functionality.

GameFlow is smooth- GameFlow is crucial for newbies and designed for novices after first being introduced last year. It’s particularly useful if you don’t have a strong knowledge of NFL and appreciate a helping hand guiding you through match day tactics. If you have the skills, you can certainly ignore it in favour of the more comprehensive playbook, but it certainly does its job. Not only does it look after the less advanced players, it keeps the game moving at a reasonable pace.

A wealth of options – Madden 12 is brimming with options, but I suspect most of these have been developed since its 1988 inception. Nevertheless it’s an impressive array. There are quick play modes, a deep franchise, Online Communities, Ultimate Team and Superstar mode just to scratch the surface. These might not necessarily be new editions, but it’s certainly comprehensive and caters to everyone’s preferred style of play.

Player animations – The presentation isn’t perfect, but the player animations are a highlight. Their movements are natural and fluid, and captured by some amazing camera angles. It goes beyond the regular TV broadcast style to give you a view of absolutely everything, especially before the match and during stoppages. It’s capped off by some amazing stadiums that are beautifully rendered with varying weather effects.

It’s addictive – I’m not even a massive NFL fan and I found myself “just playing one more match” on a repetitive loop. Sports games enthusiasts – that’s more than just one sport – are different to other gamers. They want to be consumed by a sporting game and enjoy the challenge of playing match after match, honing their skills. They can generally overlook minor glitches, of which there are always many, to take their team to the ultimate glory. Madden 12 achieves that.

What Madden NFL 12 Got Wrong

Commentary is awkward – Game commentary is always a problem, but Madden 12 begins with infuriating jibber jabber. I don’t watch NFL, so maybe this is how it’s supposed to be, but these blokes talk as if they’re on an awkward first date. It’s cringe-worthy listening to them, especially when it all starts repeating itself.

Glitches – As expected there are a range of classic sports game glitches. The camera angles are awesome, but this is sometimes counteracted by players doing weird things, like putting their fingers through their own bicep, which ruins the otherwise polished look.

No new gameplay modes – Madden NFL 12 is certainly worth an upgrade if you haven’t moved into the new decade, but it’s hard to recommend to anyone other than the serious Madden gamer with no new modes from last year. Having said that, I’m not sure what else it really needs in terms of features. It’s a warranted criticism in a review, but one that doesn’t really mean all that much when it comes down to playing the game. There’s still heaps to do. If nothing else, it’s really just a case for purchasing sports game bi-annually.

The Final Verdict

There doesn’t seem to be much in terms of new content in Madden NFL 12 but that’s largely because it didn’t need it. The gameplay balance is excellent, there are heaps of modes, the online implementation is fantastic and for the most part it’s easy on the eye. If you’re a huge Madden fan, you already own Madden 12 and are reading this post-purchase. Otherwise it seems like the perfect case for purchasing sports games every second year.

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