Madden NFL 12 Preview (Xbox360)

The last time your correspondent played a game in anger was 1999, a first year at university and with a smattering of gambling involved. A challenge to just win the game, the reward a night of ritual imbibing without the curse of having to fork over monies for the privilege. Things didn't go well and with time running down, your reporter was 10 points behind with mere seconds to go. A touchdown and a converted extra point cut the deficit to 3, but there was only one second, literally, left to play.

Give me a hug
The opponent, safe in the knowledge he'd not have to pay for his drinks that night, booted the ball long from the kick-off and scampered after it. To his, and your reporter's, utter astonishment, the receiving player took the catch and proceeded to run the entire length of the field and score a remarkable 90 yard touchdown to seal the win and put the enemy substantially out of pocket.

Things have changed a lot since those days, and Madden 12 is a hugely different beast to the innocent gridiron game of yore. But of course, you want to know what's different from last year. Well, first of all there's been a change to the way players collide with each other.

Just like its soccer equivalent, physics is key to Madden's newest iteration. As befits a sport where huge men clatter into each other while wearing armour, collisions need to be hard-hitting and realistic. This time, instead of having players get sucked into tackling animations when they entered a two-to-three yard zone around a tackler, the point of contact is much smaller, making things feel and look more realistic.

Everything's been physics-ed, including the ball, which will now bounce more accurately when you fumble it and behave more realistically in the air. Player models will move and react to situations too, so if a guy's in the end zone and is reaching to catch a pass, he'll automatically manoeuvre himself into the best shape to make the play without falling out of bounds, all of which will be dynamic and due to the physics engine.
Wouldn't want to run into him on a dark night...
Speaking of players, they'll be continuously tracked as you play in what EA are calling 'dynamic player performance'. This will manifest itself primarily in the Superstar and Franchise modes, the former being where you create a player and embark on a career, while the latter is your regular season-to-season team mode.

Dynamic player performance will track each player's stats, plays made and failed, that sort of thing. When a quarterback is sacked a number of times, for example, theoretically he'll start to adapt his game to combat this. A player's ratings are measured in a different way, a more intangible way, this time, so it's not just a simple numbers game now.

Things like how 'clutch' a player is now gets taken into account, and it's more about their tendencies and traits than just a numerical “passing = 90” value. All of these things may well change over time if the season isn't going their way, or perhaps if it is going better than expected, and things can change as quickly as weekly.

It wouldn't be an EA Sports game if things weren't changing visually as well. The main change in this area is with the DCAM, which is to the unenlightened the hand-held camera being waved around by touchline or on-pitch cameramen to capture the pre and post-game action, along with all sorts of touchline behaviour.

This time out, they've actually used motion capture technology on the cameras themselves, making them look and move about as realistically as possible, with advice on the 'look' provided by experienced directors of games on TV. Authentic seems to be the word here. And there's the usual stuff like making the general graphics better, having blades of grass or rubber pellets flying off the pitch, depending on the surface, that sort of thing.

EA are claiming this is the biggest year-on-year overhaul of features in the history of the franchise, and there are a lot more announcements yet to come apparently. There should be some more gameplay-specific changes revealed in the near future, as at the moment we've only had the talk of defensive changes so far. If you're an American Egg-Chasing fan, keep 'em peeled for more news.


By bilbo (SI Newbie) on Jul 09, 2011
This game died when EA slowly started to strip away the "Franchise" gameplay. Everything is geared towards online.
By steven101x1 (SI Member) on Jul 30, 2011
Wow bringing back the classics! I loved this game back in the day xD