Madden 12: How Did I Get So Bad?

I HAVE A LONG HISTORY with football videogames and the Madden NFL series. I was hooked on Realsports Football on the Atari 2600 and Tecmo Bowl on the GameBoy. I have lots of great memories of 66-63 games on the Genesis with friends where no one could catch Barry Sanders and you’d never punt on 4th down. On Monday September 10, 2001, I was up until 3AM playtesting for a Madden review, which is why I slept through my alarm the next morning and was woken by a phone call from my father telling me the World Trade Center — where I’d worked for several years — was no longer standing.

In fact, for most of the past 10 years, it’s been a ritual for me to play through an entire franchise season with my beloved Dolphins, sometimes two or three times in a season. No matter how bad they’ve been on the field, they’re always Super Bowl champions on my TV. So I find myself befuddled by how awful I am at Madden 12 online, as I may in fact be the worst player in the world.

My ineptitude extends to every facet of the game. I never have time to throw, I’m lucky if I have a 30% completion rate and can’t go 3 or 4 passes without an interception. My opponents have all the time in the world to throw and have receivers running wide open on every play. Opposing defenders have their backs to the ball and turn into Stretch Armstrong to make magical one-handed interceptions; passes hit my defenders in the hands and they can’t hold on. On the rare occasion I get a fumble return for a TD, my opponents immediately respond with massive kickoff returns or 80 yard runs on the next play. Even with a rare late 6-3 lead, I can’t get off a few simple running plays without fumbling the ball away. Every three or four plays invokes some kind of disaster.

So I can only scratch my head and wonder what I’m doing wrong. Is there a special playbook I need to use? Do I need to put guys in motion to get them open or use audibles on every play? Is there a secret turbo button I’m not using? I don’t know, but it’s making me feel damned old.

Otherwise, Madden 12 is kind of underwhelming. The play-by-play is particularly awful, as Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth often seem to broadcasting a different game than the one I’m playing. I’ve got a running back sprinting ahead for 12 yards, and they’re droning on about one of my wide receivers. I overthrow a pass by 10 yards, and they call it a strike. It’s been 20 years. Why does it feel like a first-time effort?

I can’t help but feel that EA’s exclusive NFL license and the lack of competition is a general negative for the franchise. EA likes to trumpet a long list of new features and tweaks they add every year, but the game really needs a complete overhaul. The gameplay should be faster. You should have more control over receivers and running backs and they should have more room to operate. I’d honestly play a non-NFL branded of football if the gameplay was that much better, and I’ve just about reached the point where, unless EA really steps it up, just as I’ve abandoned the NCAA Football franchise for the past several years, I’ll be skipping Madden next year, too.