Plugged In

Touchdown or turnover? New Madden splits critics

Plugged In

Lockout averted, normalcy is slowly being restored to the NFL. And with just a few short weeks to go until the season opens, that means it's Madden time for millions of sports gamers.

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Gridiron Greats

Debuting in stores this week is the latest in the long-running Madden NFL series, and it's bound to be a top seller. We've already brought you a detailed look at the changes Madden fans can expect to see in this year's version, but now that the game's hit the field, what do the critics think?

Describing the long-running franchise as "stagnating," Gamespot writer Tom McShea bemoans what he calls "very few worthwhile changes from Madden 11." Flaws that have plagued the series for years are still there, he says, and even goes so far as to recommend owners of Madden 11 skip this incarnation altogether, comparing the game to a player at the end of his career.

"It can still dazzle you from time to time," he says, "but it's clearly showing its age."

Check out Madden Through the Years

"Where it counts it's a jumbled mess of frustration, unmet expectations, and sloppy play," concurs Game Informer's Matthew Kato, who awards the game a 7.5/10 score. Taking aim at a number of its key features -- including the franchise mode, the playcalling, and the commentary -- he wraps up with a pronouncement that'll make Madden fans shake their heads sadly: "I can't remember a time when the series was this lost." Ouch.

Don't write the game off just yet, however. Negative write-ups from sites like Gamespot and Game Informer are counterbalanced by almost as many praise-filled assessments from outlets as prominent as The Official Xbox Magazine, which awarded the game an 8.5/10, among a number of better showings.

"This year's edition quite simply plays better than ever," says OXM's Ryan McCaffrey, calling out the game's balance, its revamped graphics, and its rejiggered GameFlow play-calling system for particular praise. "Madden 12 shines on the gridiron," he concludes, "where all is right with the football world."

Who to trust? This year's Madden has divided critics, and although its average review score is currently a respectable 82% at the time of writing, about the only thing its reviewers agree on is that the commentary's terrible.

Our take: as long as you're happy with a roster update and a convenient excuse to get back into the Madden groove, give this season a shot. Heavens knows it had a hard time getting here.

(Buy on Amazon | More Info)

Other games releasing this week:

Like to shoot stuff? Course you do. Bodycount's the game for you, then. An arcadey shooter that revels in its ability to let the player shoot holes in, blow up, and generally pulverize everything in sight, it's as madcap as it is M-rated. Fun as that may sound, decidedly mixed buzz on Bodycount has made us a little gun-shy. Check out the demo and read some reviews before buying, we suggest.

(Buy on Amazon | More Info)

Mortal Kombat Arcade Collection

After making a massive comeback earlier this year, the Mortal Kombat series has never been in better shape. This week sees the launch of a new downloadable pack for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC: the Arcade Collection, which bundles the original Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat III for just $10. Not a Fatality for your wallet.

(Buy on Amazon | More Info)

The Sims Medieval: Pirates and Nobles

Were there really pirates in medieval times? Your guess is as good as ours, but we're broadly in favor of adding pirates to just about any style of game. So install this expansion for the critically acclaimed spin-off The Sims Medieval, and what you'll lose in historical accuracy you'll gain back in swashbuckling, Jack Sparrow swagger. Pirates and Nobles adds new quests, treasure hunts, and plenty of new piratey (and, for that matter, nobly) objects. Get your pieces o'eight ready, Sims fans.

(Buy on Amazon | More Info)

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