Aug 31, 2011

Madden 12 - A First Look

If I was the only team in the NFL then I'd be a lock for the Super Bowl. So even before I start my review let me just say you know it's not going to be bad. Being the only true football game in an empty field makes this the undisputed champion, but I'll try not to be too biased now that we have a foundation for Android football games.

Madden 12 is, well, Madden football on Android clearly isn't contending against its console competitors. It's only $7 for starters. Once downloaded prepare for another wait while resources are downloaded making the refund option, for those less than satisfied, a moot point and making the need for a review even more essential.

Madden features a variety of options. The first thing you will be doing is selecting your favorite team which will be used as a default for games you play so I selected my beleaguered Redskins. The game includes current rosters and that's reflected in McNabb being with the Vikings and Grossman being my starting QB. I know there's a challenge this year with the threat of no season in that football games are having to provide roster updates later in the season with all of the late swapping going on. Madden 12 also lets you trade players although it doesn't appear to be a franchise mode. Do I want Drew Brees instead of Rex Grossman? No problem... click, click, click... done.

As for game modes you can play an exhibition game, a season, or just the playoffs in its three modes of play. I wanted to jump right in so I did an exhibition game and was immediately matched up with my rivals from Dallas. Next is the coin toss. I can also choose between three difficulty levels and you can also choose between day/night games as well as sunny, rainy, or snowy weather. All the while the game is playing its music although that does sputter quite a bit. The game also provides three levels of graphic detail and on my now feeble Epic 4G, that already feels old after having it for just 4 months, it defaults to medium detail. Let me sidetrack now and talk about sputter. The game isn't perfectly smooth although I'm going to applaud EA for the fact that I suspect this is a game that scales with your phone. Have a new, high end device? I'm going out on a limb to say that your experience will be better than mine. Have a low end device? I presume the graphic detail will drop accordingly. Have a really low end device? Don't bother. I'm also disappointed that the game is unavailable for use on my tablet which I usually rely on for a "high end" experience.

Now it's time for the kickoff. I won the toss and opted to receive. I can choose a return formation and then the game relies on the usual on screen joypad that I so hate for controlling my player. I'll also note that controls and buttons are quite small. They pack a lot of info on the screen to the detriment of the size of the controls. There are also the usual bevy of buttons so that on a run (or a return) I can do a spin or burst to try and break free or to grab that extra yard.

Play selection is done from a list of predesigned plays and dragging back and forth on the touch screen is the means of finding a play. One surprising thing is that I start on one side and should I want to punt I have to drag all the way to the end versus just dragging back to the left. Once a play is selected I can audible based on the defense or I can customize my routes on the fly. It should also be noted that each segment of the game has a tutorial although it's more like a built in rule book. I'd consider a tutorial to be more along the line of something I interact with or, at least, follow along with. Here some instructions pop up and I can page through them. Still, complete instructions are present and that's a plus for a game with the depth this one has.

My first play is a simple pass play. Hike by tapping or pulling back on the virtual DPad. The QB steps back and my receivers are on their way. Red, yellow, and green squares highlight each of the receivers telling me how open they are. I can scramble around with my QB, but I have to plant (or be still) to pass which is done by touching one of the aforementioned squares. My first pass is a 29 yard completion and my fears that this is going to be an easy game set in although I am still on Rookie mode (later play dispels those fears and confirm that it was just a lucky first pass). My second play is a run play for a 3 yard loss. The virtual DPad is as imprecise as it is with other games.

Madden 12 is well done for Android. It's not perfect, but it's the best only American football game available for Android. If you like football then I really don't think you'll be disappointed with this mobile experience. If I had to name the things I'd like to see improve first it would be controls, and then it would be tablet support (although I suspect they'll release an HD version at a preium eventually). I'm quite pleased to say that while the game isn't perfectly smooth it's pretty solid there and hasn't crashed once. I only hope competition improves things over time. From what I read in iPhone land Madden 12 isn't much of an improvement over Madden 11. I'm going to withhold a numeric rating until I've had more time to play and digest all this game has to offer.

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