Graphics and Presentation
In addition to the new team-specific entrances that you've already heard about, from the opening kickoff the presentation additions to Madden 11 are readily apparent. Each game now begins with a broadcast style side view of the kickoff and a redesigned kick meter similar to the old Tiger Woods button meter of the late '90s. Once the ball is in play, the camera swings back to a variation of the more familiar Madden view we've grown to love. After each play the camera will swing to different television-like viewpoints, highlighting a player as he celebrates or huddles up with his team -- complete with slick new stat banners. The result is a game that skews the boundaries between a video game and what you would expect to see on a television broadcast better than any football game before it.
A particular moment comes to mind that properly demonstrates just how cool some of the new presentation is in Madden 12. After he scored a touchdown in the corner of the end zone, the cameras cut to Tampa's Mike Williams as he celebrated with his teammates. The camera emulated a handheld sideline camera at the player's waist level angled up, as if the network had just cut to an on-field sideline camera in the corner of the end zone. I felt like I was part of the team's celebration, and the sense of immersion conveyed was amazing.
What makes things even better for NFL fans is the fact that Madden has received a significant graphical facelift this year thanks to art director Mike Young. Young, who previously had worked on the NBA Street series, told me that he knew he could bring something special to Madden, and was confident he could improve the visual style of the game to make the overall experience truer to what we see on Sundays.
Thanks to Young's effort -- among many others I'm sure -- player models look eerily realistic to their real-life counterparts, right down to some impressive new hair graphics for players with flowing locks like Matthew Stafford (I'm not joking, hair that barely protrudes from the back of a helmet looks ridiculously good for whatever reason). Individual pieces of equipment get dirty, and there are even different degrees of helmet scratch depth and length.
Things look so good that players are instantly recognizable on the field. Maurice Jones-Drew looks like a bowling ball below the waist; Mike Tolbert is a bulky beast; and DeMarcus Ware is a hulking force on the D-line. Add in some player-specific animations, like Michael Vick and Tim Tebow's throwing motions, and you have a game that oozes NFL authenticity.
On the Field
Graphical and presentation upgrades don't mean a thing if the on the field gameplay is lacking. Luckily Madden 12 is looking very good in this department. The momentum system that was implemented in NCAA 12 has been added here, and it really differentiates power backs from their speedier counterparts. Warping has also been removed from the game like in NCAA, and some of the animations I encountered were jaw dropping.
While using the Chargers' Ryan Matthews, I made a cut to the open field while in the process of bouncing off a glancing defender. Matthews briefly lost his footing, looked as if he was going to fall down to the ground, but suddenly regained control and ripped off 10 additional yards before being tackled by another defender. The entire sequence happened in an instant and occurred incredibly organically. Moments like this give me hope the days of robotic player movement and seeing the same four canned tackle animations are gone forever from this series.
I was also lucky enough to witness the game's touted Dynamic Player Performance in full effect during my hands-on time. In the same game mentioned above, Ryan Matthews was able to rip off a 55-yard TD scamper minutes into the first quarter. During his next series of carries, he ran like a man possessed, bouncing off of would-be tacklers and breaking free for extra yardage. Matthews DPP classification allowed him to absorb more contact since he started off hot, and it should be incredibly interesting to see how player performance impacts games and seasons.
Blocking, like in NCAA, feels about right, and it is also worth noting that the default camera angle has been completely reworked. The camera no longer pulls out as it did in Madden 11 to give you a wider view of the field, and it more closely resembles the current NCAA camera.
This is going to be a very big year for Madden in my opinion. The game is still being tuned, and it already plays a very enjoyable game of football. Best of all is that the game captures what it is to watch an NFL game every Sunday. Based on my limited hands-on time with the game, let the NFL cancel the season -- as long as I have Madden 12 I'll survive.