Madden NFL has gone through more than two decades of annual updates, but the mobile versions are still trying to get their footing.
It’s hard to portray the complexity and delicacy of American football in such a limited medium.
Madden NFL 12 shows some improvements over last year’s iPad version, but the rough visuals and slow responsiveness unfortunately take the series a step back.It’s in the game
Madden NFL 12 does not lack detail. The game features several pigskin modes including the stand-alone exhibition games, the commitment-focussed season, and the highlight-happy playoffs. In short, any level of pigskin game you want is in here.
The biggest improvement over Madden NFL 11 is without doubt the deeper playbook. Last year’s edition had a wide but generic set of plays that was usable by any team. This year, each team has dozens of plays geared towards its strengths and weaknesses both defensively and offensively.
The stats are heavier, too, with individual info on each and every player. Complete a touchdown pass and the game will outline all the effort it took to make that score, including the total yardage and number of plays.Doesn’t play well with others
It is in the gameplay itself, though, where Madden NFL 12 fumbles. Issue #1 is that there is no multiplayer. We expect Bluetooth support to come via an update, but even that won't allow you to play with or against buddies online. Until that time, you're stuck sacking the computer.
The second issue is that the graphics hinder the response time. Madden NFL 11 had less-detailed visuals, but smoother play. In Madden NFL 12 on iPad, EA has simplified the controls, but even that hasn’t prevented the average run, pass, or defense play from feeling sluggish. While less intensive moments run reasonably well, crowded plays create a significant disconnect between the touchscreen presses and the responses on-screen.
Rather annoyingly, the very things likely to blame for the controls – the graphics – aren’t as polished as they should be. Sure, the visuals are big and crisp, but the animated players are jumpy and edgy up close.
The still screenshots look great, especially compared to last year's small characters, but we would rather have retained Madden NFL 11's tiny guys than have this more graphically intense yet less responsive experience.Hail Mary pass
There are definitely some redeeming qualities to Madden NFL 12. The Arcade mode has a good old skool feel with its rudimentary controls, and the Gameflow toggle selects the best plays automatically.
And it’s worth mentioning again that number-crunching gridiron fans will go crazy over the amount of team and player stats at their fingertips.
Folks focussed on the actual gameplay of football, however, will probably find Madden NFL 12 lacking in both visuals and controls.
While Madden NFL 11 was solid enough to get our Silver Award, Madden NFL 12 feels like the designers were just too ambitious, pushing the iPad 2's visual capabilities to the detriment of the gameplay.