- Platform: Xbox 360, PS3 (reviewed), Vita, Wii
- Published by: EA Sports
- Developed by: EA Tiburon
- Genre: Sports
- ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
- Number of Players: 1-6
- Release Date: US: August 28th, 2012
Each year we hear about all the changes coming for the next installment of EA’s popular Madden franchise. Often times it’s a tweak or a minor adjustment, every now and then, EA Tiburon really comes out of the gates swinging. Madden 13 has the potential to be the most innovative and realistic Madden game of all time. Madden 13 has some of the best intentions and ideas in years, but that doesn’t always mean it translates well onto the game itself. Does the latest installment of Madden put those intentions and all that potential to proper use?
If you are the type of person who likes his dessert before the meal, you’ll enjoy this review. I’m going to go over the positive aspects of the new Madden game first. There are actually a lot of changes to this years Madden, and some of them are quite impressive, but the aspect I enjoyed the most was the new presentation and commentators. Madden 13′s presentation takes its cue from CBS Sports and their NFL coverage, it’s definitely a change for the better, and the new announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms bring added realism and true to life play calling. Since Simms and Nantz both work the booth for CBS on a weekly basis, they had a natural chemistry and it really shows on Madden 13. A brilliant little touch is that Nantz and Simms are in the proper booth locations for each of the NFL stadiums, it seems like something small, but the little touches mean a lot when it comes to sports games.
The presentation doesn’t just stop with the new announcers and realistic booth locations, EA has added a new lighting mechanic that better mimics the lighting in domes and outdoor stadiums. The 2012 NFL season kicks off a new deal between the NFL and Nike, Nike now provides all the uniforms for the league, and those new uniforms are all present in this years edition. Some of the uniforms are subtle, but they all look realistic and its a nice touch, EA could have easily phoned it in with the uniforms, but everything is authentic, right down to the gloves and shoes. One of the cooler things I noticed was grass from a field actually kicks up in this years version of Madden. I thought I was crazy at first, but you actually see the field tear up in the game, this is an excellent addition to the game.
There has been a lot of talk around the new Infinity Engine, which implements realistic physics into a Madden game for the first time ever. Simply stated, the new Infinity Engine helps create unpredictable and more realistic outcomes for each and every play on the field. It takes body mass, balance and speed and creates a different outcome on just about every play. That means no more huge hits with a small running back on a huge linebacker or defensive lineman. The Infinity Engine also means no more body parts going through other body parts, so no more arms going through teammates heads, this is also another huge step forward with the Madden Franchise. It’s very cool to see players stumble and fall in a Madden game for the first time, the Infinity Engine does deliver on the goods when it comes to realism in Madden 13.
Other improvements are the receiver awareness, for the first time in a Madden game the Wide Receiver has to actually be looking for the ball, rushing a pass to a receiver will no longer be a guaranteed completion. The Quarterback is also getting an upgrade, there are new animations and added variations to the 1, 3, 5 and 7 step drop. You also have the ability to opt out of a play action fake, in the past you wouldn’t have a choice and if the defense blitzed, you took the sack every time. The throwing animations have been sped up, so it doesn’t take as long to go through the throwing animation. One extra thing that was an extremely nice touch was the addition of actual QB cadences, twelve NFL Quarterbacks lent their voices to the game, and that isn’t the last audio improvement, the crowds also sound much more realistic, and even the tackles sound harder and more intense.
Now that we’ve got the good stuff out of the way, I’ll bring on some of the negative stuff. Some games that are on a yearly release schedule have features that are a lot like a security blanket, Season and Franchise play were exactly that for me. Sadly, Madden 13 doesn’t offer Season or Franchise play, you can do something similar to Franchise in the new Connected Careers section. Connected Careers takes the place of Franchise and Superstar Modes, if you want to play Franchise, you pick Connected Careers and you have to choose to be a coach, then you have total control of the franchise you choose. One interesting part of this is the fact that you can be a legendary coach if you so choose to be. If you choose to pick a player in Connected Careers, you’ll only be able to control that player, as I said earlier, choosing a player in Connected Careers is now taking the place of Superstar Mode. Connected Careers also has a slow and tedious XP system, I don’t mind completing challenges for my players, but the way it’s currently set up can become quite boring and stale very quickly.
One of the new features that has garnered a lot of attention is the addition of motion blur to the game, I think motion blur looks good in a still shot, but for action games, it simply looks like someone rubbed vaseline on the screen, this wouldn’t be an issue but they show replays often and that is when the motion blur really looks its worst. Taking out the player intro’s from Madden 12 is also a bit of a risk, as I thought that was one of the high points of last years version. I enjoy the CBS style presentation, but I’m not sure why they can’t offer us both. That tends to be the problem with Madden games, they go too far to the left or the right, two steps forward and three steps back. The controls remain largely the same, but they changed the kicking game back to the flick stick style of kicking. Last years kicking game was far superior in my opinion, its difficult enough to line up a kick, but to have to flick the stick back and forth makes kicking all the tougher.
I also had some technical problems with the game, frame rate issues and slow down was almost a constant issues when I was trying out Connected Careers, every single time I would try to change around my depth chart the game would freeze completely and I’d have to reset the game. I thought it was my PlayStation 3, so I switched consoles and the same thing happened. The freezing issue seems like it could be something that could be fixed in a title update in the near future. It’s just a bit annoying that some of these little problems should have been addressed before they shipped the game.
All in all Madden 13 can be an enjoyable game, there is a lot to like and it is indeed the most innovative Madden game in years. I think if they had added the Infinity Engine and the new presentation to last years game, it’d be the best NFL game of all time. Madden 13 is a solid entry and I’m sure a lot of the little technical issues will be ironed out with an update sooner or later. If you’re a football fan then this is definitely a game you’ll want to get, some people aren’t afraid of change, I know I like the good changes, just wish EA hadn’t messed with my Franchise mode. It’s a bit confusing to figure out the new setup, but it’s not terrible by any means. Madden 13 is highly recommended and its a huge step in the right direction of the franchise.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
(A free copy of Madden NFL 13 was provided for review from EA)