New Features in Madden 13
The biggest and most touted new feature for Madden 13 will be the Infinity Engine, a new real-time physics engine that takes into account factors such as mass, speed, body type and collision angles in every collision on every play. Gone are the days of preset animations playing instead of true physics-based collisions. This allows players to really play after collisions happen and also enjoy a limitless set of tackles as they play Madden. This cascades down to many facets of the game, including players bumping into each other realistically, quarterbacks being grazed and altering their throwing motions (and ball trajectories), and even a player’s balance once getting hit (there’s an attribute for that) which might make you recover, stumble or fall. EA Sports has stated that muscle tension is also a factor in the physics calculations, to prevent ragdoll animations.
After playing a good number of hours in Madden, we can say that the Infinity Engine is a definite step forward and absolutely gives a better gameplay experience than ever before for the Madden franchise. While it’s certainly not perfect and without the occasional glitch, the collisions are typically realistic and add a new layer of realism to the game. However, sometimes you will actually see some ragdoll physics, as we caught while recording a game as a wide receiver when sandwiched between two would-be tacklers, “squirted” like a rag doll 10-yards forward. Nevertheless, barring the occasional glitch, the physics were great and a feature we’d all been clamoring for was executed to a point of satisfaction for the game. It really does look good.
One of the biggest criticisms of the franchise to date has been the presentation, which in recent years has gotten better with more and more integration with real-world NFL entities, such as the team at ESPN. Perhaps the biggest sore point of the entire game for the last five years has been the play-by-play, which thankfully has been completely revamped with a new team. In terms of pure graphics, the multi-vector lighting and HDR effects continue to shine from last year’s game and the new uniforms and field elements (that degrade during games) are a nice step forward. Most of the presentation layer can be seen outside of the game, within the menus, but the biggest piece is the play-by-play now brought to us by the CBS team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. This time around the team recorded their sessions together which makes for their commentary to be a lot more fluid. There are over 9,000 new lines commentary (82 hours) and a lot of situation specific commentaries as you play.
For those of you that hated last year’s commentary (count me in that group!), this year’s edition is absolutely better than last year’s edition. While playing the demo, we thought the commentary wasn’t that big of an improvement, but playing through the main game definitely proved that the play-by-play is at least listenable at this point as opposed to the auto-reduce it used to be. Sure, it’s not perfect or even up to snuff to something like NHL 12, but it’s a step forward. The other presentation elements, specifically the new layout to the menus is really well done and kudos to the art director and UI experts that put time into making the menus easy to use and really well designed.
New Game ModesThe brand new mode in Madden 13 is called Connected Careers and it’s replaced the traditional Franchise and Superstar modes from years past. That’s right, no more Franchise mode. But don’t worry, it’s basically still in the game, only called Connected Careers: Coach. The idea is that EA Sports is trying to create “the first true sports RPG” and borrowed elements from traditional Online Franchise, Offline Franchise and Superstar modes to create something fresh. Connected Careers can be played offline or online (with other humans) with the option of the “Coach” or “Player” where you can pick one of the all time greats, or create your own. If you pick Coach, that’s the traditional Franchise mode where you pick your team and take control of all facets, from cutting players in preseason all the way to conducting practices (for experience points), to playing games. Picking “Player” allows you to again pick one of the all time great players in history, such as Barry Sanders or Joe Montana, put him on a current NFL roster and play through only as that player.
I have to admit when I first got the game, I didn’t comprehend that Connected Career has replaced franchise mode. When that sunk in, I was a little upset, a little frustrated and curious to why EA Sports would make that move with Madden 13. When I finally figured out (hello, reviewer’s guide!) where the franchise mode was, I dove in and went in with an open mind. Although the ability to conduct a fantasy draft is apparently gone, the franchise mode I knew and loved was basically there with some really cool elements layered in. It’s one of those things you may not like at first because it’s a big change from what you’re used to but once you dive in, it’s actually incredibly fun to start up a new career, create your coach (or select an all-time great like Vince Lomardi) and just run the franchise like you always would but also do some really cool things in practice to help your team out. There’s also some lesser advertised game modes such as the ability to play through some of the biggest moments from the NFL from last year (currently in there at launch, purported to be updated throughout the NFL season). In terms of the Connected Career, it was a pretty bold move and absolutely sure to get some backlash (understandably) from fans, but I enjoyed the change and thought it brought a deeper element to the Franchise mode – which is still basically there, just by a different name.
Football GameplayWhile we’re all excited about physics, new play-by-play and new game modes, it all frankly doesn’t matter if the gameplay of Madden 13 isn’t awesome. Fortunately, the game is definitely just as good as it’s ever been thanks to the new physics and improved intelligence behind some position players. For players that love to pass (me), you’ll notice that the days of three (usually one for me) ball speeds is gone. There are now 25 new pass trajectories that take into account the player, the situation, the angle and more to go on top of just “how hard you can throw” that will alter how the ball gets out of the quarterback’s hands. This has made passes like screens much more realistic, while other routes like quick slants, a little harder (thankfully) to execute. There’s a lot more throwing animations to account for rollouts and scrambles (which diminish throwing power) and we even saw a shovel pass. Throwing motions have been sped up in general, which ideally should reduce the number of sacks.
There’s also receiver awareness, which removes some of the wonky behavior from WRs that we saw in last year’s edition. If the wide-out isn’t looking for it, he isn’t going to catch it and the ball will sail past him. There will be some routes where the receiver is looking right away while others take some time to develop.
Defenders have also gotten some tweaking in Madden 13. Defenders, just like receivers, that aren’t looking for the ball will not end up with it in their hands. Last year some of the super DBs would simply raise their hands and intercept passes blindly, but that’s been removed from the game. There are new defensive alignments, disguised coverages and new coverage techniques.
Playing through Madden 13 will take some adjusting but you’ll immediately see that passing has been revamped nicely and some of the exploits like quick slant plays have been made harder to execute. Between the new gameplay elements and controls, plus the new physics engine, Madden 13 definitely feels a lot more realistic and sensitive than before.
Basically online you get the “play now” feature where it keeps all your stats and you’ll move up the Madden ladder to face stiffer competition as you win more and more. The Connected Careers modes, as discussed before, are available online so you can join a human league if you are more into the PvP aspect of Madden.
Madden 13 can definitely be considered a step forward for the franchise that brought a few huge new differences in the game to make it really feel like a leap forward. The new physics engine looks really amazing 85% of the time, with 5% looking really weird (squirting players like rag dolls) and another 10% of the time looking comedic as players will stumble on each other post-whistle. The new game modes, specifically Connected Careers, was quite a gamble and one we can easily see gamers have issues with but one we enjoyed. The new presentation layer was again, another step forward, with improved menus, better art direction and improved play-by-play. Enhancements with the AI and overall gameplay control was good and definitely better than last year.
The real theme behind this review of Madden 13 is that it’s undoubtedly a better game than Madden 12. Better graphics, physics, gameplay, audio – period. If you’re a football fan, or a Madden fan, then this year’s edition is definitely worth the $60 to enjoy all these new features – you can tell there’s been a lot of programming and art hours at play here to improve the game in a very positive way.