Friday, September 14, 2012

Madden NFL 13 Review

As spring rolls around and the sun comes out once again, we are greeted with one of the first game releases every year that announces the start of the gaming period. In the coming months we will be receiving the biggest hits of the year. Now because there are some expensive weeks coming up does that mean you should just bat Madden off as 'just the same as last year'? Definitely not. Even though Australia isn't a huge fan of American Football it doesn't mean we can't enjoy a game like this. Madden NFL 13 brings some big improvements across the board that make this ultimately a more enjoyable and complete experience compared to any Madden before it.


Usually when I consider the presentation of the game I first look at the graphics presented. When I loaded up Madden I couldn't even get that far since I was so impressed with the menu overhaul. Out of last years EA Sports games that only one that I could consider acceptable in its layout was FIFA 12 and it was barely a pass mark. Madden NFL 13 absolutely annihilates any previous attempt and stamps itself up there with the king of menus the NBA 2K series. 2K12 has a bright, vibrant and easy to use layout that uses simple tiles to fit a lot onto the screen and Madden follows this style. Whether they used a competitor as an influence or not, this is a great step forward and I commend the developers for making this overhaul a key aspect of it.

Madden was already a strong competitor on the field with realistic players models and a stunning array of movements to boot, but this year improves on them albeit marginally. It is a bit hard to keep improving at the tail end of this generation but adding more of the TV experience you get at home has made this feel like a more complete package. There has been a recent emphasis on making the game as close to gameday as possible. All the slight improvements add up to making this a better game.

The one big improvement graphically involves the Infinity Engine. This affects the physics of the players and is the equivalent of what has been in FIFA for a few years now. In the past when two players came into contact they would essentially run an animation of how the contact would play out and it would be possible to replicate the exact same incidence. Now with the Infinity Engine the speed, weight and direction of each player as well as external factors determines what will happen in the collision. No longer are players confined to designated animations and there are an endless amount of ways players will react to a hit. Just like in FIFA there is a chance of an arm to go flailing or bodies getting stuck together, but these are few and far between. Unlike Soccer, American Football is a true contact sport and these changes add to the realistic nature of hits in the game.

While some sport games are getting the biggest rap stars in the country to become executive producers, Madden is getting back to its football roots. Gone is the soundtrack of hip-hop and dubstep that many are adopting. These are instead replaced with orchestral sounds that bring back the feeling of a Sunday Football game. During my stints in America I watched lots of NFL and Madden NFL 13 brings back the sounds I heard on those days. The commentators also provide a lot of chat that is more representative of a real presentation. Complimenting the standard stats and facts is a lot of talk and banter between the commentators, something I can't recommend enough. Sure if you play it enough you will hear repetition but this is the same with every game. The crowd roars when the home team scores and reacts according to what is happening on the field which is great.


The casual player can jump straight into a game of Madden NFL 13 and notice no differences with the actual gameplay. Most improvements are small aesthetic fixes and changes like differences in flight trajectory from the QB's throws. The casual player can still enjoy playing football with the use of GameFlow to choose the right play for you, but the AI is more likely to exploit someone who favours a few plays more than others. The Madden gameplay you know is back, so is online play the the EA speciality in Ultimate Team. The real change is Connected Careers.

For the first time ever your career on Madden is now an universal experience that allows you to seamlessly integrate multiple modes into one. Connected Careers rolls Franchise and Create A Player modes into one in both an online and offline mode. Online mode lets you enter a universe with players around the world as you shape your own path, while offline lets you follow the generic path of a coach or player in a 30 season career. This is a huge mode that has endless possibilities, especially if you set up a group with friends that has a variety of players and coaches all in the same mode, yet living completely different experiences.

The great thing about Connected Careers is that the world is your oyster for the whole 30 seasons. You can start out as a quarterback and then after a few years decide that isn't for you, switch to a linebacker who is already in the NFL. After 10 years you might want to try your hat at coaching before stepping onto the field to cement yourself in the Hall of Fame. The best thing about this is that it is all incorporated into one big world. The effect you have will carry on even after you retire players and coaches, meaning that the adventure will be different for everyone.

30 years may seem like a long time to invest into a game, but EA do a great job at keeping you invested in the experience even if you are riding solo. Everything you do from pre-game practice and proper matches earns you XP which can be used to boost the stats of your player or team. A struggling coach may decide to horde his points knowing that he is going to retire at the end of the season and let a young rookie blossom onto the scene with a swag of skill points at his disposal. The more you put into Connected Careers the more you get out, which is really rewarding for players who have previously been stuck in Ultimate Team mode to feel this.


Seamlessly integrating multiple areas of the game into one experience you can have by yourself or with literally hundreds of others is a big risk. Whether the online mode works as designed, only time will tell. But from its current situation Connected Careers could be the next defining feature making it into all the major sport games around the globe. Madden NFL 13 is more of the football you love on a Sunday and less of the unnecessary junk shielding you from the real action in years gone by. This is an ode to football lovers with the easy accessibility that allows fairly novice users to still enjoy the Madden experience. One of the best Madden games in years and proof that presentation goes along way to an enjoyable and lasting game.

Graphics - 8.5/10
Sound - 9/10
Gameplay - 9.10
Overall - 9/10