Madden NFL 12 Mobile Review

Posted September 5th, 2011 at 11:45 am

By Brian Sipple
Surreal as it may seem, we’re finally here. After Ray Lewis’ crime warnings, Ochocinco’s multi-sport pursuits, James Harrison’s disregard for fire safety, and non-stop negotiation, the NFL has finally decided how to demarcate its billions bedding concerns that the game’s exploding popularity would come grinding to a halt. While not quite on par the NFL’s labor strife, EA Sports has seen its share of recent volatility amongst its leadership at a time when the company is attempting to expand into the mobile gaming marketplace.

EA Sports Madden NFL 12, available for $6.99, is the third year of the series’ presence on touch devices and looks to build on a strong outing with Madden 11. Last year introduced us to GameFlow, Total Defensive Control, and custom hot-routing and audibles. Fortunately those features are returning, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear that much work was done in the offseason to push the series forward. 

At first glance the only way I knew I didn’t touch the Madden 11 icon by accident was by seeing Aaron Rodgers in the background with a Super Bowl patch on his uniform. Exhibition and Season modes remain unchanged and offer very linear experiences. The new features for this year amount to a new leaderboard integrated with EA’s Origin service and what are supposed to be improved graphics and gameplay. The implementation of the latter two, however, is subject to question.

Madden 12’s graphics have only received a minor upgrade from last year, and many of the players still feature a slightly blocky appearance as they did before. There also aren’t many distinguishing characteristics in each player’s physique in order to tell them apart. Catching, running and tackling animations look downright comical and the occasionally choppy game speed can multiply those troubles. One brief respite is that the stadiums are beautifully detailed and even include sign-waving crowds, but it’s not enough to change how little the rest of the visuals have improved.

For anyone who hasn’t played Madden on a mobile device, the gameplay controls are very unique to the platform. To manage the torrid pace of NFL gameplay on the iPhone, in addition to the d-pad controls and action button set, Madden 12 features an ‘Action Control’ button. This brings the gameplay to slow motion, in a manner similar to Red Dead Redemption’s Dead Eye, and as a ball-carrier allowing focus on selecting between spin moves, jukes, and trucking.

Defense takes this a step further by allowing a second option that works alongside ‘Action Control’. With ‘Total Defensive Control’ players can stop the action completely in order to issue new assignments by drawing routes for players or issuing coverage and pursuit assignments. Where ‘AC’ seems inherently necessary and enhances the control experience, ‘Total Defensive Control’ feels rather intrusive and doesn’t have much of an effect on what the defensive AI is already doing.

Although the concept behind the control scheme has good potential, Madden 12’s gameplay never even made it off the practice squad. Like the rest of the game, it’s eerily similar to Madden 11, and too flawed to get much enjoyment out of. Listing all the issues one could find with it would be like listing the Bengals’ criminal records – the possibilities are endless.

Selecting a play in the first place is marred due to the playbook defaulting to a set of 10 “Basic” plays that can’t be switched out of unless you manage to touch the tiny “Advanced” button on the selection screen. Gameflow is present but in limited form. I could only count a handful of plays that came up and they were all the same for each team.

As far as what happens after the snap, running the football up the middle causes you to get tackled right away by a lineman, even when he’s fully engaged by your blocker. Passing is the best way to move the ball downfield, but only because receivers have indicators to show how open they are and the defensive AI isn’t too keen on pass recognition. The cramped screen is zoomed in way too much, and this makes controlling the defense in time to make a play an oft-losing battle. Very rarely throughout the course of the game did I find anything conducive to simulation football.

It doesn’t help that Madden 12’s sound design is borderline nauseating. Gus Johnson has a handful of situational lines that are delivered just fine, but at every instance in which ‘Action Control’ is used on defense, he interjects with a highly unnecessary “It’s Action Control Time!” Keep in mind that Action Control is normally used two or three times every play, so that’s about all you get to hear. Well that, and what’s supposed to be pads colliding into each other but sounds more like sustained machine gun fire – an enticing idea, coincidentally, the longer your game lasts.

Where games like NBA Jam and First Touch Soccer are developing large followings on mobile devices, Madden 12 fails to capitalize on this growing market and instead takes a step back. Multiplayer remains more elusive than the endzone at a Bills-Panthers game, and outside of a small facelift in the graphics department, the game is essentially a roster update of the previous year that somehow plays worse. Those who downloaded Madden 11 before EA removed the listing are better off staying put and playing with their old rosters as if the lockout were in full swing.

•Pastapadre on the Android version: Great graphics, and rosters that include players still not on even found on the console version, but not worth it currently due to severely flawed gameplay. Running is futile, passing requires tapping the receiver multiple times, and player control is difficult to get a handle on.

Madden NFL 12 is available now for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Android. The iPad version is $9.99 while all others are $6.99.