Madden 12 Release Date: In Stores Today, Peyton Hillis Graces the Cover

Football video game fans rushed to pick up the latest release in EA Sports merchandise, as Madden NFL 12 hit store shelves Wednesday morning. The Madden NFL series started in 1988 and consistently ranks among the top-selling video games.

This year, Cleveland Browns fans have a reason to celebrate as running back Peyton Hillis graces the cover. The game’s cover features the athlete with the Cleveland skyline in the background. The 25-year-old was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and after two years with the team was traded to the Cleveland Browns.

Hillis is the first Browns player to be on the cover. The athlete earned the honor after winning a fan vote on This year marked the first time fans could vote on which player graced the cover. The vote was set up in a bracket, placing NFL stars against each other.

The last head-to-head matchup was Hillis against Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. Hillis triumphed over Vick with 66 percent of the final vote in April, with more than 1 million votes cast.

The running back is now a part of an elite club, but with the Madden NFL cover comes the infamous so called Madden-curse. Apparently, players struggle in the year following their cover appearance. Certain players have succumbed to injury, such as Vince Young, Shaun Alexander and Michael Vick.

However, Hillis is not worried about the curse.

“I’m a guy who is going to go out there and do his best, and I’m a guy who has always gone out there and proved people wrong,” he said. “I’m not worried about it and I’ve never been worried about a curse. I’m just going to go out and do my best.”

In fact, Hillis is thrilled with his cover appearance.

“It’s exciting…I’ve been very blessed. I’m kind of speechless at times. I’m grateful, but it’s time to move on,” the running back said.

He gave his teammates advance copies of the game earlier this week. Cornerback Joe Haden tweeted, “@thepeytonhillis just handed out #madden12 in the locker room! I (know) what I’m doing 2night!”

So what changes in this year’s game can fans expect to see?

Developers of Madden 12 revamped the way player entrances are part of the game, something they pride themselves on.

“I think the hardest part was finding all these photo angles and videos that actually tell us what was going on in each team’s stadiums…getting all those details right took us a lot of research,” said Mike Young, Creative Director for the game.

According to a New York Times review, Madden 12 includes graphical updates, which make the game appear more realistic. For instance, when it is raining, small raindrops land on the camera lens.

EA Tiburon also performed a complete overhaul on tackling. Now, tackles do not occur until defenders make physical contact with their opponent.

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