Oh how I love when football season comes around. It’s as much of a tradition to me as Thanksgiving turkey. I get my Browns jersey out of the closet, dust of the tears of the previous season, join no less than ten fantasy football teams, and count down the days until the new Madden comes out. I know every year the Madden game is just a rehashed version of the previous game with updated rosters. Sure they have tried to implement new playbook methods and quick plays, but fundamentally there really isn’t much they can do new or so we thought.
The newest member of the team, Madden NFL 13, promises us the most realistic football game in the Madden franchise and while they do entirely succeed, for the first time in years the evidence of trying is very apparent. We have a new graphics system, new pass control system, better rendering, more realistic players, and as always a great online community to fully challenge yourself.
First of all, do not hit a single button when you first put your game in. Be patient and do yourself a favor and enjoy the speech from Ray Lewis. Every football fan is aware of Lewis’s intensity on the field and his leadership off of it, but this is a rare glimpse in to seeing how he can pump the Ravens up before every game. I felt like putting some eye black on and my pads. Just make sure you enjoy this opening.
Graphically, the game brings the Infinity Engine to Madden, which may be hard to believe but also brings physics to the game for the first time. The colors are vibrant and detailed, the players move fluidly with very little lag between the switching. The best part of the game graphically is the tackles. These tackles are about as realistic as it will get. Players bend, contort, hit high and more. When you see someone called for facemasking, you can see where they grabbed the facemask. As in the past, it only during the cinematic cut scenes that we see the players and coaches and how realistic they look. Andy Reid looks every bit of the Wilfred Brimley he is in real life.
There is one thing I wanted to point out, the stadiums are 100% accurate. Being from the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, I have walked the turf of Fawcett Stadium. Many people are not aware that Fawcett Stadium is the high school football stadium that hosts the Hall of Fame game. If you choose to play as the Canton Legends, essentially this year’s Madden Greats, and you choose them as the home team, you will be playing in Fawcett Stadium. The game went through ever simple step to show the entire stadium in full detail.
Sound-wise the game is just okay. Personally for me the game really takes a hit with the loss of John Madden for commentary. I think it is just the expectation of him being there that is bad. Think of it like the first year Dick Clark did not cover the ball dropping. Phil Simms and Jim Nantz do a great job, and the fact that they ad libbed does add to the more authentic experience but it isn’t Madden. Other than that, we have traditional NFL music sounds highlighted by fan response to your actions on the field. This does play a role in your game.
This year Madden has introduced us to a few small tweaks that significantly improve the way we play the game. First of all we are given more precise controls of the quaterback’s throw. You can throw above the shoulder, behind the shoulder, in front of the shoulder of the receivers with lobs, medium, or hard throws. Trust me when I say that mastering this is important to succeeding in the game on All-Pro levels. This combines with the new receiver control system. Madden 13 introduces a new receiver notification system where the receivers icon lights up when they are looking for the ball. This drastically increases the chances of a completed pass.
The running backs are scaled back to a little more realistic power levels. There is a distinguishable difference between being Chris Johnson and being Brandon Jackson. The responses are precise in terms of cutting and leaping. And the defense adapts to you if you are just running the ball every down.
Now the bane of my Madden experience has always been on the defensive side of the ball, specifically that lag when you switch to a player and they run off a little during a chase. I hate it. It’s the one thing that causes me to shut the game off. This year it has minimized. The defensive controls are as fluid as the offense and as reactive as well. The AI knows your best players and matches up accordingly and as such causes you to have to fight harder for your points.
While I am at gameplay I do want to rant on the selections for the Canton Legends team. This team should have been guys that are in the Hall of Fame, ONLY. I understand that Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning, and the likes will be in the Hall of Fame, but they aren’t. Don’t mix the guys playing now with the guys already wearing the jacket. And definitely don’t put guys like Darrel Revis on that list. People may love Revis Island but right now he is not a first ballot Hall of Famer. Keep them separate from the Legends of the game.
Now one of my favorite changes to the Madden system is the menu system. No longer will you have to go through thirty different screens to get to the online multiplayer system. As soon as you hit the main screen you see the online activity and number of players available and can be in to a game as fast as you can say “The reviewer of this article played as the Browns and let the Colts run the opening kick back for a touchdown.”
The Connected Careers option is a new addition to the game that I think is amazing. You simply take Franchise, Online Franchise and merge them in to one. You will maintain that same role throughout the entire game. If you are the coach you will coach both sides of the ball. If you are a wide receiver you will always be a wide receiver until you retire. It opens the game up, in terms of replayability. This feature alone will keep you busy and engaged until Madden 14 comes out.
The game does have Kinect capability, which is entirely audio. I loved being able to say hike and hike the ball and call out my audibles literally. Now this may not be for everyone and I am glade it is not an additional expense because while it is a good venture in to the Kinect fold for football it really isn’t necessary.
Overall, we have a beautiful game with just the right mixture of vintage and changes to make it a better game. As much as it pains me to say this, we are not talking about the same old Madden we have the past four or five years. We are talking about the new Madden that will set the bar for the rest of the Madden’s to come out. This game is a perfect game for football and if they do end up letting us link our NCAA games with Madden, it will be utter perfection!