(Note: I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to talk about in this review/rant before I started the article, reminders, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger.)
FranchiseFirst I want to take a look at my favorite aspect of Madden, Franchise mode. By this I mean the offline franchise mode where you can build your dynasty or burn your team into a smoking heap (Raiders). I personally thoroughly enjoy this game mode as I love taking my Broncos, who are usually below average in the game, to greatness. This year the guys at EA Sports had promised that they had added numerous features and spent a vast majority of time making this and Superstar mode much better.
To be honest I was super pumped for this game because of this reason. Two of the main game modes of Madden would finally be given some much needed addition.
So envision if you will my first time with Madden. I load it up, update the rosters (I didn't want Orton on our team) and started off my franchise. The first thing you see when your franchise loads up is a picture of your team versus it's next opponent and a background image of that city. That was it, nothing else. Since the first game is the first preseason game I thought maybe it would change over the season. It didn't. I can't tell you how much I was disappointed when yet again Franchise mode had missed on a key aspect of the game that makes it so fun. Note there is a menu system, but it isn't displayed and is opened through a few button clicks.
The reason I play franchise mode is not to play the games but to do all the other fun stuff. Sign players, draft players, hire coaches, watch those players I believed in grow and get better. There is nothing better in Madden then finding that guy who doesn't rate very good but you say 'hey i believe he may be great' and then watching him succeed. Following that underdog. The main stuff that is involved in running the franchise. The games themselves are a mean to an end. Want a perfect season? Sure I will play every game. But I am interested in the stats, what other teams are doing, the scouting, injuries, all that stuff. The problem is this Madden doesn't display that information in a timely and easy manner to use. You waste more time navigating then doing the things you want to do. Madden can do this effectively and efficient and has done it in the past. Maybe bring in someone that is an expert in user interfaces and understands how this sort of stuff should be done, as at the moment it is clear you do not know how.
The Stats hub is one example of this and I ain't a fan of it. Well I think it can be done better. There is a lot of time spent on not important screens with very little information. For example navigating to the season stats page for your team is done by numerous button clicks. Then there is other screens which are the opposite, they don't have enough info on them, like doing the owner tasks. You would think doing the owner activities would be an important part of franchise mode but it seems more like an after thought. For one doing stadium upgrades, you can select to do heaps of them but it never shows the teams total income or budget so you don't know if you are spending money you have or not. That is a problem if you are getting 20 million dollar jumbotron. Then you have ones like the coaches hiring screen. Which is small and compacted together. It is hard to find information on the coaches, like their ratings or their previous records with clubs and I thought this would have been important information in making coaching hires. These are all things that could be done better.
Moving on, after playing for several hours over a few days I had completed my first season and was deep into offseason scouting of players I wanted to draft. This is where I came across one of the first bugs I would have to endure while playing this game. I had just completed scouting players but before I wanted to start the draft I just wanted to go over the list of players and sort of design a plan of attack, who in what round etc. The screen that lists all the scouted players (and pretty much every other screen) has a progress button (it is start on the PS3) that should take you to the next activity in this case the draft. I stupidly pressed the progress button but instead of taking me to the draft it took me to the rookie signing screen which is the next thing you do after drafting your rookies. But to my horror it had skipped the draft completely and I had not drafted any players, so this rookie signing screen was empty. Can you imagine the rage Elway would be in if he had a week long bender and missed the entire draft and didn't get anybody? That was the state I was in. I couldn't believe the stupid logic of the game and the fact it hadn't even sim'ed me some players. I got nothing, that is not a fun game. So I was faced with continuing as is or reloading a save file. I went save file which was an hour back in game play. This is when I asked myself the question why doesn't this game have an autosave feature? Pretty much every other game in the last 5 years has had one and there are more than enough loading screens in Madden to add one, so why then isn't there? Therefore I spent the next hour getting back to the same point and continuing on with the game.
Cut days are a really cool new feature of the game but it would be great if they actual worked. On more than one occasion it would skip a specific cut day. A bit of background, during the preseason there is 4 weeks of games. Each week you need to cut down a number of players, the order is 4, 4, 8 and 4 players. Note: I had settings set so cut days was a USER task and not a CPU (computer) task. I don't like playing the preseason games, there is no real point to them in this game. So I sim that week. At the end of each week it should ask you to finalize cuts and it does for weeks 1,2 and 4. But week 3 the biggest cut day, it for what ever reason would sim through the week and since this is the biggest cut week of 8 players it is quite frustrating when your trying to evaluate players and want to keep some. What is even more frustrating was some times it does sim it and others it doesn't, it was an random happening. So another cool idea broken by a bug.
I thought signing naming rights of stadiums was quite funny. Why? Because no matter what company you sign with for the naming rights the names on the stadiums never change. Also there is no SAF@MH on the Denver stadium, it still has the Invesco field logos all over it.
Scouting I think could be done better or differently. As we know in the real world NFL teams have scouting reports on almost every people coming into the league through the draft, 300+ guys. But in Madden you can only scout 20 at most and is harder when you try to spread that 20 over more players at the different events. So the draft becomes more of a cr*pshot, you may get one top guy that you are targeting but the others are random. A system that provides more (easily accessed) information but doesn't give away the stat ratings could be quite useful.
Finally head shots, in previous games head shots have been animated models of the players or maybe just blank. In this game their is a recycle system of head shots, with lesser players being used more than once. This I like there are a lot of players out there that no one knows about so it can be done. But when you get 3 players on the same team with the same head shot it loses its appeal. Also I thought it was funny seeing a head shot of Dre Bly on a defensive lineman.
SuperstarEnough of franchise, moving on the main other game mode that you can play is Superstar. In a word it is 'Boring'. There is nothing interesting here, you create a player, play games or do 10 reps of training, update your player stats and then rinse and repeat. I was bored with this after half a season let alone playing an entire career that spans a decade. Superstar over the years has taken steps backwards. EA has removed more and more things from this game mode over the years so it is less about the 'Superstar' and more like 'A Player', it is dull and boring. For me I can see the prospect of this game mode being great, I for one think it could be its very own game (to get the level of attention it probably needs) and since we all know EA is about money why not have two games on the market instead of one. I think there are so many cool and interesting things you could do with a Superstar game. You could throw in a little sand-box elements, have a story line like what Fight Night Champions did. There are just so many different ideas to choose from and do with this that I am surprised it hasn't happened yet. But EA sports haven't been the best at being creative....
Back to Superstar mode itself. One of the main reason superstar was sooooo boring was the load screens. They are numerous through out this mode and you spend way to much time on them. I think I spent more time waiting on load screens then actual playing the games themselves. That leads into another problem, the games. They for me were too short, you never really get deep involved into them, teams don't score over 20 points often and the stas are not correctly reflected. I played an MLB for my Superstar, over the seasons I played my LB lead my team with a tackle count ranging from 50-70. All other teams' MLB had 100+, which means your LB never compares well and won't be consisted for any awards. You would then think it would be an simple option of changing the game length so you could play longer games if you want. But NO! The option to do this is not available in Superstar and I really do not know why. I can understand the thinking, don't allow longer games so plays can run their stats up and get more points to upgrade their attributes. But who cares? So someone wants to play an hour long game than 3 short ones. Why do you care what they do? Plus it doesn't really matter about the points for attributes, if you do every training and play all your games you can max out your superstar in an season anyway.
So for a mode that was meant to have heavy develop into it not much was actual done. Change the menus, remove some features, add new stat system. Pretty much what EA Sports has been doing the last few years with Madden.
As with Franchise mode I did have some issues with Superstar, the big one was it crashed while trying to save superstar, luckily it didn't corrupt my PS3 save files, but I did have to load an old superstar save which I lost only an hours worth of game play. I almost gave up on the game then, but I kept playing in the hope of finding a reason to like this game.
Another issue that really annoyed me was that my contract was automatically resigned. My superstar after being drafted was automatically given a two year contract with the Rams (the team that drafted me) which I expected. I played out that contract and was looking forward to resigning else where, hopefully with the Broncos. I even had hopes that they may have an FA screen or something useful. Nope, it automatically resigned me to a 5 year 50 mil contract that I didn't want. I got no say in the decision. The only way to change teams in superstar for whatever reason is to request a trade. As we know this is not the way the world works and again shows me an lack of real effort on this game mode.
I'll add it here because the upcoming combine remained me of it. Why doesn't superstar have a combine system so you can set up your base stats and hopefully get drafted in the first round. Again there is a whole other game here.
Things I want, Other bugs and gripesThis will be a list of all the other things I could think of.
First the character models are outdated. Compared to the graphics and models of other games that come out in recent years Madden's character models are outdated, this should be improved.
Good running animations, will this ever be improved? I know in recent years they have tried to capture better running animations with players but it still isn't very good. Go out and get like 10 different running styles and set the players up with one. An idea I had would be to use the pro bowl or a preseason game and do a live motion capture of all the players. That way you get different animations by Professional players for every position. The NFL would have to give the green light on this but I can't see why not in a meaning less game like these.
One thing that annoyed me was the D-linemen all lineup at the exact same time in the same stance, it is a weird bent at the knees walk before putting your hand on the ground.
The worst one for me was the fist pumping QB and linemen at EVERY SINGLE coin toss. I have never seen this on Sunday.
I thought the game intros were poorly done. They just looked crappy for the level of game design we are accustom to today. Plus when your starting offensive players get announced as 'Starting Receiver' or 'Your Quarterback' there is no real reason to watch these. So skip.
Why is instant replay done in standard definition? You go from the better looking players, to madden 2006 when you check the instant replay. Why the time travel?
I can see the effort that was put into showing the huge beautiful stadiums and the level of detail. But then why do you surround it with flat 2D cars in car parks and 2D trees, it ruins the picture. Da Vinci didn't let a 5 year old draw around the Mona Lisa.
I had trouble with framerate drops during the Intro screens for games.
Cheerleaders, for the love of God at least make them look like women. I have had enough of these figures that look like they are wearing nappies. Whoever the guy was that developed these must either hate his job or women.
I for one am not a fan of seeing other players on my home screen. I want to see Champ, Dawkins, Tebow not Raiders.
Sideline players, reactions on the sideline. This could be done better, show reaction when I guy goes out of bounds, that sort of thing.
A decent looking crowd. It hasn't changed since 2005, same looking people all waving at the same time, wow.
Realistic noise(s) for crowd and players. It hasn't changed in ages. Send a sound guy down to the field during a game and get all the audio you need.
Tackling Mechanics would be an nice addition to the game. I hate it when three or four players fall over while one person makes the tackle. In real life the player would be getting blasted from all angles. Plus what happened to gang tackles they had this two years ago.
I think it could be cool if they showed Tailgating fans before the game. Same with Locker room shots before, at half time and after the game.
Mascots! I want to see Miles pumping up the crowd.
In franchise I think it needs a Sports center during the week or NFL network or radio, something to cover the news of the week from around the league.
Tattoos! In previous games you could give players tattoos. This Madden no one has any, again why when most of the players are inked.
Make it easy to skip. Takes forever to skip the crap so you can get to the games.
The game definitely needs better player creation. For one you have to select from a preset of create heads to make your guy. There is no individuality here. I look at a game series like UFC Undisputed and they have really good player creation so your guy looks the one you want.
Here is a list of different things I have seen people request for the next Madden which you would be surprised to know used to be in Madden and were removed for whatever reason. First Create-A-Fan. Create your favorite team's fans by customizing your fan appearance with thousands of possible options for clothing, hats, face paint, wild team specific items and signs. Do you know this was in the game like 5 years ago. A drive summary after you score a TD, also was in the game at a point in time. Half time shows, removed and put back in. Create a new stadium, this used to be in the game! TD celebrations there use to be some really cool ones, not anymore. Create a play should be back.
For me I can overlook many of these types of issues in a game if the game is fun....but Madden 12 wasn't. And I felt bad because I had to buy this brand new to get the roster updates and online play, (Main reason is I didn't want Orton on my team, damn you Orton!).
When I look at this game It seems like over the last few years they spent too much time on the actual games themselves and forgot about the game modes which make playing all those games fun. EA sports lacks the balance of making improvements into both areas of the game. And this goes back to the timeframe they set for themselves of releasing a new game every year.
The game as it is now and what other games are currently out there, Madden I believe has come to end of life. It needs to be retooled and remade from the ground up. EA sports take at least a few years to make a decent game and deliver us the Madden we want and deserve. I will be one person that will be happy when EA Sports license on the NFL product runs out so it has some competition in the market because people still talk about ESPN NFL 2K5 and it came out in 2004.
Madden pick your game up. ~ Aussie.