Madden NFL 13 Review (Xbox 360)
“Chase your dream.”
That’s what my coaches used to tell me. It’s what my friends and family tell me to this day. But what if my dreams and aspirations always involved playing or coaching in the NFL? Sad to say that for myself, and probably most of you, that playing in the NFL just isn’t going to be happening anytime soon. So we do what we do best, we compromise and try and fulfill are dreams within the Madden football series.
Well thanks to the near-complete redesign of the said series, in Madden NFL 13 those dreams may be able to finally come to fruition more than ever. With new animations, the most innovative Madden feature to date – and possibly any sports game ever – Connected Career mode, and the introduction of the Infinity engine, Madden NFL 13 should finally be able to please both the hardcore and casual gamers.
Being skeptical when reviewing the most anticipated sports game of the year is a must. You find yourself looking for wrongs moreso than rights. But after playing Madden for a week, those wrongs don’t tend to come up too often.
The rights all begin with the new Infinity engine, the staple of Madden’s core gameplay. When players interact on the field it seems as close to lifelike as a video game can get. From the gang tackles to the after-the-play stumbles, each collision shows something unseen.
Within the running game lies the engine’s beauty. Now more than ever you must pay attention to your blockers, because without them the halfback would just stumble his way through defenders until he falls down. But again, seeing the way the runner bounces of off would-be tacklers has to put a smile on everyone’s face.
During the run game, line interaction is at its best. When running off the right tackle, often times you’ll see a different player interaction. Also, depending on the skill of the defensive end, you could see an impressive swim move that will instantly lead to a loss of yards.
The line interaction has been much improved all around to be sure. The improvements are more noticeable on the defensive side, as pressuring the quarterback seems easier than ever. In the NFL – and in Madden NFL 13 – the quarterback has around 3 to 5 seconds to get rid of the ball; in past Maddens gamers would have drop backs that could last up to 10 seconds. The pressure put on by the defense is an adjustment, but the end result is well worth it.
With the added defensive pressure, the passing game has become much more precise. The need to hit wideouts at the perfect time is more important than ever. It might take a while to get used to the new timing, which results in multiple interceptions, but once you relearn the passing game, and its welcome addition of hundreds of new passing animations, everything should be just fine.
Staying on the path of the passing game, the defensive AI is almost too smart. At long last, once the ball is thrown each and every defender doesn’t know exactly were it Is going – but there is still an issue. Interceptions are much more frequent than in years past. The AI will jump in front, behind or on top of wherever you’re throwing the ball. Once you get used to the new gameplay, though, the interceptions will drop sightly. It’s still difficult to judge if the increase in picks are due to the gameplay or to the adaptation of the Infinity engine.
When all of these improvements are put together, it creates the feel of a completely revamped way to play on offense. Now more than ever must you have a gameplan with a nice mix of both a ground and air game. Depending on which team you use you may run more often, but in Madden NFL 13 the run seems to actually set up the pass for a good change.
Defense on the other hand, though feels different – and better – still feels like it’s lacking something.
The aforementioned defensive line play is an absolute blast. Though frustrating when your friends and the CPU are sacking you left and right, there isn’t much that can top the pure ecstasy of sacking the quarterback. Unfortunately the amount of sacks is unrealistic to the point where I’m seeing six to seven sacks per team. This is where EA Sports decided to sacrifice a little bit of realism to add in a good amount of fun – after all, it is a video game.
Also new to defensive play is the love-it-or-hate-it ball hawk. When the opponent throws a pass, once you switch to the defender you can hold down Y or triangle to attempt to intercept the ball. In the past the timing had to be done nearly perfect. The change has increased the number of interceptions too much, but it should be one of the first, and easiest, places to patch the game.
Now we get to the section that has a reputation for turner gamers off. I’m tired of reiterating how past Maddens have come and failed, so let’s cut to the chase.
The defensive AI has most definitely picked up the slack. Play calling is improved on both sides of the ball. You won’t see the same plays and packages constantly. The offensive AI will do its best to keep you on your toes.
With a nice assortment of plays on offense, the AI has become a worthy opponent. This will be overwhelming for the more casual Madden fans, but the knowledge of when to go into Cover 2 or Cover 3 is more important than ever. This year, in order to know Madden NFL 13 you need to know football. It’s about time I say.
One thing I noticed was that the CPU will start throwing more often when losing. Finally the feeling of having a lead is with you when holding the sticks. With the opponent passing, it gives you a smaller, more successful playbook that gives you the advantage.
But that’s the greener side of things. Each lead that comes with an advantage comes a deficit with its disadvantages. When down, the defense will start to focus a little more on defending the pass. It places you in the position to try and out-gun your opponent, or if you should use up extra time and stick with your gameplan. Ditto for the CPU.
Though the Infinity engine is a very welcome addition, where Madden gains its replayability is within the new and ever deep Connected Career mode. Gone are the days of Franchise and Superstar modes, as well as the ability to do a fantasy draft. But the subtraction of those takes away absolutely nothing from the game in my mind.
Connected Careers lets you choose between playing as a created, current or legendary coach or player. From there on out the typical gameplay is just as the old modes, but the added depth and immersion takes the NFL experience to the next level. Storylines and Twitter feeds help create your very own NFL, from season-ending injuries to the draft stock of the next Tom Brady. One example was a preseason injury to Alex Smith that led to an EA version of Skip Bayless complaining how Colin Kaepernick couldn’t take the team back to the playoffs. Lo and behold the Niners ended up losing to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
Outside the storylines there will be plenty to do each week. Scouting has been taken to a new level. Earning scouting points allow you to unlock ratings for prospects, giving you a better idea of what you’ll be drafting. And if you don’t scout you might be selecting the next Ryan Leaf.
Experience points are another addition to Madden. You can use those points to upgrade your coach or your player, as well as other players on your roster. If used correctly, your players will slowly progress and earn a higher rating as the season advances.
Progression in general has changed. Potential is gone, but in its place is performance-based progression. Jake Locker only improved his overall rating by two points as he finished his sophomore year with rather unimpressive numbers. The same goes for defensive players – which is an issue. Most gamers don’t prefer to play full 15-minute quarters, so the defensive stats can stil be underwhelming until you figure out the perfect game set up. It slows down the progression for them, which can cause some lower rated players, who will ultimately be good, lose a couple years of the prime.
There are also midseason contract negotiations and a trading block worthy of being called, well, a trading block.
As far as simulated stats go, the hardest of hardcore players won’t be upset. After simulating through five seasons, not once did a running back eclipse the 2,000-yard mark. Maurice Jones-Drew was the closest in 2013, as he gained 1,843 yards on the ground. Other than that, the top running backs typically float around 1,400-1,600 yards. Also, quarterbacks rarely threw for over 5,000 yards as Aaron Rodgers (twice) and Drew Brees (once) were the only times the feat was accomplished.
The Rest of the Best
Presentation has taken another step forward with the addition of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz. The chemistry between the two is undeniable and is actually worth listening in on. I’ll be surprised if people start muting the game this year, at least right off hand. However there are still repeated lines, which was bound to happen anyways. The overlays look freshened up, but nothing to brag about.
But if EA wants to brag, they should start yapping about the game’s atmosphere. I’m a Madden gamer who always muted Mr. Get Away From The Cop Speed to listen to iTunes, but this year I won’t have anything on shuffle unless Chicago makes the Super Bowl. EA Sports went around to each NFL stadium and recorded the crowd. I found myself turning down the TV when playing at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash., before I realized that it only added to the realism.
Quarterback cadences have been added as a nice small detail, but if you don’t play with one of the 15 QBs who have it, you won’t even notice the welcome addition. The Kinect feature is a bit goofy, but in a room full of friends its hard not to have a good time.
Honestly, it’s safe to say that this is a very good game. The improvements made to this yearly release are impressive. Past iterations of Madden have done plenty to please and disappoint, but with Madden NFL 13 the disappointments are few and far between.
Though it may not top the charts as Greatest Sports Video Game of All Time, it still does more than enough to keep you playing over and over again. It’s safe to say that Madden football is officially back.
Now go and chase your dreams.
Learning Curve: It might be a bit frustrating at first for the loyal gamers, but after a few games the new gameplay should become second nature.
Control Scheme: Just like the old games.
Visuals: Graphics look solid. Improvements to player and coach faces are a nice touch, as well as the on-field interaction – thanks to the Infinity engine.
Audio: The audio team for Madden is in good hands. This is the best commentary for Madden to date.
Value: If you’ve ever purchased a Madden you better be purchasing this one as well.
Score: 8.5 (Great)