There’s no denying that I love me some Madden NFL football. I’ve been hooked on the franchise since the N64 days and haven’t stopped playing since. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’m not critical of each iteration, for one thing or another and I’m not above expecting more each time out. Fortunately, EA has created a pretty snazzy Madden NFL 13 and while at passing glance, it may seem like more of the same, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
While the game may look somewhat similar to last year’s version, there’s actually some nice little touches this time around, that adds punchier colors, more realistic lighting and more detailed weardown of the field. However, it’s the off-the field stuff that has gotten a bigger makeover. This year we have a 3D, broadcast style presentation with the duo of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz. The two develop some excellent back and forth commentary and they look great. The before-the-game video packages look like something straight out of a CBS broadcast and the in-game animations really put you on the field. Even before you start up a game, you get a more polished system design. The game’s menu put you into a main hub, where you can easily access the many game modes, settings, etc., without being confusing. Though I personally enjoy rap, the game now features its own score, that feels more in line with a game of football that actually pumps you up, and quite honestly is pretty catchy.
While most of the modes you’ve come to love are all there, it’s the way they’ve put together that’s changed quite a bit. Easily my favorite part of the game is the new Connected Careers, which marries Franchise, Online Franchise, Create-a-Player / Superstar all into one. You can still choose to play your own game offline, but what’s got me hooked is not only the ability to play an online season with friends, but to be able to do so as an existing or legendary coach, player or one I’ve created from scratch. As a coach, you’ll control both sides of the field while as a player, you’ll simply control yourself, with each type still allowing you to make off-the-field changes such as cuts, drafts, trades, etc. I also enjoyed the new XP system, which lets you earn points before each game by taking part in practices. Unlike past versions of Madden, I actually wanted to engage in scrimmages, which are presented in various situations, as it became fun to earn XP and then apply it to my created player or to players on the team.
Between weeks, you’ll also see a fictional Twitter feed that sees media members and such comment on your performance, or off-the-field transactions, and though it’s obviously not real, it still interested me to read them and even found myself at times, taking it to heart, wanting to prove someone wrong or perhaps even making me question a move I had made. It’s a somewhat small addition to the game but a nice touch.
As for the gameplay itself, the new Infinity Engine really shines, mixing up the action by adding physics to the game, so that each tackle seems new and unpredictable. Things like size, weight, momentum and trajectory are all taken into account when making a catch, tackle or when your running back is looking to tack on a few additional yards to that 3rd down carry. In fact, it’s those small plays that really highlight the engine, especially when you’re used to going up the middle into traffic and going down immediately. Now, you may be able to keep those legs churning and get a few more yards or inches, and making contact with another player doesn’t necessarily mean the play is ending. I did notice once in a while, that likely due to the physics, players would sometimes bend in unrealistic ways or there’d be some odd collision issues, but for the most part, they weren’t overwhelming.
As the QB, you’ll now have 25 new pass trajectories which opens up your options for where and how you can make a throw. I also really like being able to abort a play-action after the snap, as there’s few things that annoy me more in Madden than getting sacked during a play-action because I couldn’t stop the animation. That’s no longer the case in this year’s game; thank God! You’ll also find that when you’re in a passing situation, receivers will have highlighted icons to let you know that they are looking for the ball, while faded icons mean they’re simply running a route and not necessarily ready to catch. Sure you can take control of them to try and get them in place, but it’s more realistic and I appreciate the change. Likewise on defense, a cornerback or safety won’t easily swat or pick off the ball either, as they too need to be looking for the ball to make realistic play.
With the game also offering up Kinect compatibility, I did give it a whirl for a few games, and found it to be pretty cool, though I wouldn’t necessarily use it as my main form of play calling. Using voice commands, you can call audibles, make line shifts, call time out or challenge a play, but it’s a bit more demanding if you’re sitting aways from the unit, as you’ll otherwise have to yell pretty loud. Not a bad thing if you’re really into it, but not a great idea if you’re not the only one home. Still it does work, albeit with a slight delay, but the idea is cool. I really do wish however, that it would be possible to do the same thing, but with a mic, if you’re wearing a headset.
Madden NFL 13 is perhaps one of the most polished versions of the game I’ve ever played and more importantly it’s easily the most entertaining one of the series. I seriously find myself wanting to play this game daily, be it in my offline or online career. Though I’d like to see some future improvements to the Infinity Engine and the ability to make in-game decisions when you’re using a created character (if you’re a receiver on the bench, you can’t really do anything but watch), EA succeeds tweaking the formula to give fans one of the best iterations of the franchise to date.
Final Score: 4 out of 5