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Madden12 Madden 2012

The potential was there for a super awkward year for Madden football. In a contest determined by fan voting, Michael Vick advanced to the finals against Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis for the crown of cover athlete for “Madden NFL ’12.” Meanwhile, the real-life NFL was being consumed by a lockout that threatened the entire season. But in the end, Hillis beat out the controversial Vick, avoiding the possibility of PETA boycotts at local GameStops across the country, and the NFL owners and players recently made peace and busted up the lockout.

The news gets even better for football fans -- while the NFL was busy squabbling over a new labor deal, the EA Sports Tiburon team was hard at work laboring over a new and improved Madden Football experience for the upcoming season. Here’s a look at some of the biggest additions to “Madden NFL ’12.”

If Looks Could Kill

Squint your eyes and you might have a hard time telling the difference between the game and real-TV Sunday afternoon broadcast. There will be a team-specific run out featuring mascots and cheerleaders for all 32 teams, “real” on-field cameras shot by NFL Films cameramen and a network-inspired new broadcast graphics package.

You’ll notice upgrades in the little things too, like new player specific animations (Yep, Ray Lewis still acts totally crazy) uniforms and helmets which get affected over time by the weather and field conditions, and you might even notice 3D grass on the field.

Tackling Dummies No More

Getting the art of tackling right has always been a difficult task for football video games. In the past, it could appear like defensive players were warping or sledding to their opponents. But “Madden 12” promises a new collision system which gives the player full control of players up to the point of impact.

It will include 100 new tackle animations, including 40 different gang tackles. Like beautiful snowflakes, almost no tackle will be alike. In addition, the old “Dive” button will be replaced by a “Tackle” button that will change the type of tackle you try to perform based on the player’s momentum and the distance between himself and the ball carrier.

Defense! Defense!

The Madden team claims that this year’s edition will have “the smartest Madden defense ever.” Defensive players are being programmed to recognize and react to plays better and will be able to break out of assignments when appropriate.

Zone defense in past Maddens were a tricky proposition in the past because some defenders would sit back and wait for the ball. But zone D has been especially beefed up with new AI so that defenders have a better idea of their assignments. Deep zone defenders will also stop hitting the snooze button and play more aggressively and the computer defensive play calling is improved, especially for handling unconventional formations like the Wildcat.

Dynamic Player Performance And More

Say you’re using the Bears and you’re controlling Jay Cutler. He’s got an 83 passing accuracy rating, but he breaks up with his reality TV star girlfriend or gets sacked nine times by the Giants in the first half (Don’t laugh, both scenarios are true). With the new so-called Dynamic Player Performance is “Madden NFL 12,” Cutler could get mildly depressed with his pass-protection and his rating could slide on the fly. But if he tosses a TD-pass, his ratings could climb again.

If you’re a simulation freak, Franchise Mode has some new tricks up its sleeves, including a rookie scouting system, a free agent bidding system, expanded rosters, cut days in preseason and hot and cold streaks for players. In Superstar mode, the progression system has been changed so you can earn skill points by participating in practices and games.

Also, if you’re tired of playing online against random people who quit mid-game and act like idiots, you will be able to create your own community of up to 2,000 members and set the house rules and have your own leaderboards.

Follow Ryan Smith on Twitter: @RyanSmithWriter

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