Like clockwork, it’s another year, another Madden. When August rolls around, thousands of football loving fans take the day off of work and sit in front of their TVs and steer their favorite team towards the Super Bowl. But with that should come changes but every year it gets harder to keep it fresh. Madden 13 may not be revolutionary but it’s so fun to play that you probably won’t mind.
All the staples are still here with online matchmaking and Ultimate Team Mode (also known as “that trading card thing”). The big change here is the “Connected Careers” which is the most addicting aspect of the game. If “GM Mode” and “Franchise” had an offspring it would be Connected Careers. Choose or create a coach or choose a player and go through their entire career. If you don’t want to be a coach anymore you can switch out and become a player and visa versa. There are also Legends that can come out of retirement as you try to lead them to rekindle past glory. Everything you do gets you XP which as a coach, you can spend on scouting or making your team a much more desirable place for free agents. As a player you can upgrade your player and make him faster or a better receiver. These elements will keep you coming back to the game and even have you thinking about your career long after you turn your system off. In short, there is so much to do in Madden that you won’t ever find yourself bored of it.
Gameplay remains the same for the most part with some tweaks that will only be noticeable to the most devout of Madden enthusiast. However, one of the biggest changes is how much control players have over their potential receivers as a pass is thrown towards them. This is a much welcome and needed change to the offensive gameplay. Other changes such as new receiver routes and adjustments at the line of scrimmage add accountability to each play you make. No more blaming the computer for botched plays. But even with all the tweaks some things never change such as the difficulty gap between Rookie and Pro. I found myself trashing teams by over thirty points in Rookie mode, but barely squeaking wins bye in Pro (or just downright getting beat by the Browns). I wish there was an in-between but there are sliders you can modify to make your experience more to your liking. I would recommend sliding down that “Interceptions” meter when playing in Pro mode because the Secondary never ever, ever drop passes. They could have their back and head to your QB with their hands up (pass interference much?) and still pick you off. It’s unbelievably maddening, no pun intended. Another frustrating aspect is the coach’s challenge. You can only challenge certain plays and sometimes there are plays that I want to challenge, because on replays it looked like the receiver was out, but the option to do so never presented itself. And even when you can challenge plays, there were times when I was pulling the Left Trigger as instructed and nothing would happen. The controls remain the same and if you ever played a Madden game, which is a good thing but I still wish there was more of a “tutorial” or a more in-depth controller manual for newcomers.
In terms of the audio, the commentators are much better this time around as the CBS team has replaced the team of Gus Johnson and Chris Collinsworth which is a huge improvement for me. The commentators will repeat things frequently and they sometimes get things wrong, like not being able to keep track of how many times your QB was sacked, but it’s still an improvement over last year. There’s no licensed soundtrack this time and it’s been replaced by instrumental music, which is fine. The stadium sounds are as realistic as ever and it sucks being booed by your hometown fans while being shellacked.
Visually, the presentation is modeled after the CBS broadcast and it’s the best it’s ever been. There’s even a fake Twitter feed filled with news around the league that looks so authentic you’re going to want to look up these user names just to see if they are actually Tweeting these things. On the negative side, the game doesn’t do Phil Simms or Jim Nantz any favors in the looks department. And although some coaches slightly resemble their real life counterparts, for the most part they look fairly awful. Jets head coach and loudmouth blob Rex Ryan’s character model stands out as they rendered all 3 chins in, but the majority look bad. It’s unfortunate that Bill Belichick is mysteriously absent from the game. I would’ve liked to see EA’s take on him. The crowd remains and flat, and not as fleshed out as it could be. During replays, complete passes look awkward, as the ball doesn’t completely look like it’s in the receiver’s hands and handoffs to running backs can look bizarre. Despite these flaws, Madden 13 is still one fine looking game. During gameplay, the game looks as realistic as it may ever get for a video game. Madden 13 looks better in motion.
There’s a new physics engine, called the “Infinity Engine” was implemented in order to add realism to the tackling and although the hits are bone crunchingly awesome, the engine has more than it’s fair share of issues. Running into your offensive linemen can automatically cause your running back to fall down in a heap. Pileups of players can lead to limbs bending in ways that are humanly impossible and most of the hilarious and odd twitching happens after the play is called dead. While waiting for the next play to be called, players will trip or roll over each other. The results can sometimes be humorous and if you’re a sadist looking to recreate Joe Theisman’s injury then you’ll love what you see, but if you’re looking for realism in your football game then the new engine may diminish your experience. This year feels more like an experimental run at the Infinity Engine and hopefully next year the kinks will be ironed out.
Every year, Madden is stuffed with things to do and this installment is no different. The new commentators are a welcome change but the new physics engine can be wonky at times, which takes away from the realism. I would be remiss to not mention the implementation of Kinect support to call out plays, but I don’t have Kinect so I’m not sure how well (or not) it works. It is nice to know that EA is trying new things though. If you buy Madden every year you won’t be disappointed with this one. And if you just want to play a quality football game, you’ll be just as satisfied. Madden 13 isn’t perfect, but it’s the definitive, and only, NFL experience for gamers.