At the risk of offending our friends from the States, I must confess what are, in my opinion, two of the great mysteries about American Football:
1) Why do the hulking 300 pound monsters in the US feel the need to wear so much padding, while over in Europe, playing virtually the same game, the hulking 300 pound monsters wear none?
2) Why is it called football in the first place? Considering the players foot spends less than 3% of the game in contact with the ball, I suggest the sport should be called ‘Big Man Smash’.
Sadly, Madden 12 answers neither of these questions. So once again, I’ll have to wait in hope till next year.
What you do get with EA’s latest offering is the typical slick presentation you’ve come to associate with them: real names and rosters; official teams and stadiums; as well as a quality licensed soundtrack full of hits from urban acts I’m not familiar with because I’m too old. It even has the crispest title screen I’ve seen on an iOS game. In this regard, it’s the usual EA excellence.
So with the expected class in place, and with a great foundation set with Madden 11, this must be the best iOS Madden game yet. Right?
Well you’re wrong. Very wrong. Even more wrong than this.
The problem begins with the same title screen I was lauding just a few sentences ago (I’m fickle. Sue me). On inspection, you’ll notice the game has fewer modes than last year. Oh sure quick game, playoffs and season modes are there, but where’s Vintage Voltage? Wait a minute, WHERE’S MULTIPLAYER?!
Ahem. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
EA had this problem with FIFA 11. It looked and played great, but it was bare-bones when it came to game modes in comparison to FIFA 10. Perhaps EA have grown weary at us game journos taking pot-shots at them for only adding incremental updates every year and have started taking their titles apart feature by feature to teach us a lesson. In 2015, the entire game will consist of three photos of Madden in the commentary box featuring ‘Various Poses!’ and ‘Slideshow!’
Ok, I’m being particularly harsh here, but the point is, you’re expecting a new version of the game to gain yardage, not lose it.
On the field, the situation isn’t much better. You’ve got huge 3D characters which deliver bone-crunching tackles, but some animations seem incongruous – players will often break out into celebrations that fail to deliver the wild bravado of a post-touchdown frenzy and just look like a large man doing an impression of a gorilla. You’ll want to skip to the next play out of embarrassment.
Those great looking official stadiums – always a welcome touch of realism in season mode – are filled with fans that sound like the static hiss of an incorrectly tuned TV. There’s slight variation in their tone at times, but it sounds largely canned.
Commentary tends to be sporadic. Quiet periods will be broken by Madden popping up from nowhere as if he’s suddenly remembered he’s getting paid by the sentence. And as is the curse of videogame commentary, he can be inaccurate at times.
Playbooks seem to have moonwalked too. Madden 11 featured an iBook-esque virtual book you could actually flick through. It’s been replaced with fiddly ‘Previous’ and ‘Next’ buttons. Yeah it’s not that important, but I like flicking through virtual books. Sue me again.
And here comes Origin to further confuse us. Sign-in to EA’s new social hub and access leaderboards and achievements. So that’s usernames, passwords and friends lists for Game Centre, OpenFeint, Crystal, Plus+ and now this. I’m a gaming Schizophrenic.
But where Origin is concerned, the real kicker (yes, that pun was 100% intended), is no multiplayer. There’s still no online version (Wi-fi or 3g. Long overdue), but what’s worse is the Bluetooth hook-up from Madden 11 has been dumped. Perhaps EA have grown weary at us game journos taking pot-shots… sorry, I wrote that already. Excuse me while I repeatedly punch myself in the face.
Look, it’s not all doom and gloom. Madden 12 isn’t terrible. They were there last year, but Hot routes, Gameflow and Audibles lend to this still being a very playable game of Big Man Smash. But we all know EA isn’t satisfied with just ‘Isn’t Terrible’, and as I’ve alluded to 937 times already, the previous installment was a great game. This is merely ok.
So it’s on to number 13. Here’s hoping it’ll get that Madden magic back, because I feel as if I’ve mentioned Madden 11 more than the current version in this review. And that, my friends, tells you all you need to know.