When I first heard that the franchise and superstar modes were taken out of Madden NFL 13, I was livid. Why on Earth would you destroy the offline gamer’s dream? Not cool EA, not cool.
But after getting my hands on the game, I know exactly why they “ditched” the modes. Connected Careers is basically the three modes combined into one, creating what seems to be the most immersive football gaming experience to date. You may not understand it – I didn’t at first – but in time you will.
Connected Careers can be done as a player or as a coach. If you choose player, welcome to Superstar mode; choose coach, welcome to offline franchise. You can choose to create your own guy, choose an exisiting coach or select to be a Hall of Fame player/coach – e.g., John Madden and Jerry Rice – in their rookie season. Once you’ve chosen that option, the main screen will pop up in front of you with news from the league and fake Twitter feeds of your favorite analysts like Skip Bayless and Trey Wingo. The news, for example, does a great job of getting the player immersed in the league. It even takes into account what’s actually happening since I saw one slide talking about Drew Brees’ contract talks being stalled.
Also, there is now actual incentive to practice. By practicing, you earn experience points, which in turn grant your player or coach the option to get better. For a player you can increase attributes and for a coach you can increase your persuasive skills to have key free agents sign with your team. You can also practice in specific situations such as the 2-minute drill or even a three-touchdown deficit in the third quarter. And practice isn’t the only way to gain points: each player/coach has a set of goals per game and season that they need to accomplish. You accomplish them, you get points. If you underperform, you get fired/released. Which leads me to the next point.
If you get fired/released, you are not guaranteed a roster spot or a coaching job from another team. You can actually be unwanted by all 32 NFL teams. But if this does happen to you, you don’t have to give up. You can create a new coach and go to a new team in the same “franchise.” If you coached the Seahawks for seven years and your new guy gets hired by St. Louis, then you’ll enjoy pounding on the same Seattle team you controlled for so long. It really helps you stay connected in your very own world of the NFL.
Scouting has also improved a lot. Now you can see actual player ratings before the draft, and there are plenty of busts and gems. For example, I scouted a cornerback that was all over the news and Twitter and ranked No. 4 overall on the big board and he turned out to be garbage. His rating was 71; his speed was 75; his man and zone coverage were both in the 60s. He had bust written all over him. But without scouting him, anyone would have taken him in a heartbeat. Love it.
One of my personal favorite features added into the game is the fact that retired players and coaches can come out of retirement, including ones who are currently retired and not even in Madden NFL 12. I never saw any of this happen – it’s rare – but someone did see Kurt Warner come back. And let’s be honest, if this feature is in the game, so is Brett Favre.
When it comes down to it, Connected Careers is the heart and soul of this football game. The integration and immersion are very advanced to what we have ever seen in a sports game. If the replayability holds up the way the Madden team says, and the way I honestly feel, then we're all in for a long overdue football gaming experience.