Madden 13 is the latest update to the football franchise with no competition. At it’s core, it is the same game every year. However, EA Sports delivered huge improvements to make this year’s version one of the best games in franchise history.
Developer EA Tiburon promised a new and improved Madden this season. They accomplished their goal with a revised physics engine, more realistic presentation and innovative game modes. It is inevitable for any Madden game to be compared to its predecessor, especially with no other NFL product on the market. Fortunately, Madden 13 is a huge leap forward for the series and the ultimate virtual football experience.
The most obvious change to the series is with the presentation. The development team has taken every step to make the game feel more like a real television broadcast. That means everything from sounds to transitions has been changed to give the real NFL feel.
The Madden franchise has always been known for their horrible play-by-play commentary. This year the team brought on CBS Sports broadcast team Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to make the calls. Adding the network’s top voices is a vast improvement over past Madden commentary.
The duo is even featured in a pre-game cutscene similar to a CBS NFL game. Each stadium provides a unique backdrop for the digitally recreated Nantz and Simms based on the real-life location of the press box. During these cutscenes, the commentators will have interesting tidbits based on teams or players.
Unfortunately, the game still falls into the same old commentary traps. Repetition plagues the commentary. Rather than stating player names, commentators frequently refer to players as “the running back” or “the quarterback.”
Aside from the commentary, the sounds of Madden 13 are perfect. Crowd sounds are great and hits sound awesome. A dozen NFL quarterbacks have their authentic cadences in the game. EA Sports worked closely with NFL Films to get the sounds of quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning into the game. Hearing real voices for players really makes the experience much more fulfilling.
Cutscenes, transitions and overlays have been added or improved to add to the realism. Statistical information organically flashes across the screen at moments when it would be expected. A pre-game presentation-style cutscene, broadcast-like transitions between periods and halftime, and post-game highlight show help blur the line between video games and reality.
The biggest innovation in Madden 13 is the new Infinity Engine. The real-time physics engine dramatically improves player interaction, making tackling animations a thing of the past. Gone are the days of predetermined outcomes and players going through each other. The Infinity Engine is truly the next generation of sports game physics.
Tackling has been completely revamped through the new system. Player attributes like mass, speed and body type factor into every collision. Gameplay is directly affected by the impact system. Ball carriers will go down based on their momentum. This helps better backs pick up extra yardage as they go down. Goal line carries are much more interesting as players can move piles and bounce off players who already on the ground.
However, the Infinity Engine is not perfect. The engine continues to run after the play, making for some awkward fall downs as players make contact with each other while heading to the huddle. Although tackling is much better than previous Madden experiences, it sometimes seems as if players are just running into each other. Arm movements can be late while tackling, which can probably be improved with some minor tweaks.
Past Madden games have only allowed for three types of passes. Quarterbacks could fire in a fastball, throw a regular pass, or lob the ball into the air. Total Control Passing for Madden 13 introduces an entirely new passing system. Quarterbacks will be able to complete a pass using over 25 pass trajectories.
Players can now utilize the left analog stick to lead receivers or throw a ball over the defense. Receivers will not always catch a ball though. Due to the new awareness system, receivers will not be looking for the ball until they have run their route. Combined with quarterback specific dropbacks, gamers are experiencing what an NFL quarterback goes through on gameday.
After a few games of online play or quick offline exhibition matches, a sports gamer would be ready to take control of a team in franchise modes. Unfortunately, Madden 13 does not have that option. It does, however, have an entirely new way to play. Connected Careers replaces the fan favorite Superstar and Franchise modes.
EA Sports is touting Connected Careers as the first true sports RPG. As in Superstar mode, gamers can start off by creating a player or choosing a current player or legend and try to get him to the Hall of Fame. Of course, playing games on Sunday is not the only thing players go through. Players will have to earn XP by accomplishing goals and participating in practice. Unfortunately, gamers will only be controlling their player.
Gamers who like to have full control of the team can begin their Connected Career as a coach. Any XP earned can be divided among players on the team. Players will have full control of roster moves and depth charts.
Although it takes some time to get used to, Connected Careers is a much better than previous Franchise and Superstar modes. It provides a deep, rewarding experience that tops any create a player mode in sports games. If playing the computer is too mundane, gamers can take a career online by joining a league with up to 32 players. This provides a unique, unmatched experience.
Madden 13 is huge leap forward for the football franchise. It continues to lack in commentary but it makes up for it with a revamped collision system and new game modes. Combined with the already solid online multiplayer options and exciting football gameplay, it is easily one of the best offerings in the franchise’s long history. There is still room for improvement but Madden 13 provides a great foundation to build on. In fact, saying it lays the groudwork for improvement does not do the game justice. It is, by far, the best football game on current generation consoles.
Madden 13 is available now.