Madden Football for the current generation of consoles has been a very mixed bag, at best. For every good new feature added; there’s been problems with AI, broken features, and a general feeling of “been there, done that” with the franchise. This year, Tiburon set out to change the game with Madden 13, and may have finally set the standard for current gen NFL gaming.
The first big addition to this year’s edition is the touted Infinity Engine – adding new physics to the game in an attempt for better realism. This is a welcome addition for anyone who found the animations stale, and hated the “suction blocking” that was prevalent in the O Line/D Line interaction. For the most part, the Infinity Engine has completely changed how players interact on the field – adding better realism to how the play unfolds on the field. The passing game feels more like what you see on TV on Sunday afternoons. The blocking looks more realistic, the interaction between offensive and defensive lines feels like what you’re doing matters. When you’re running the football, you feel like you’re actually fighting for yards, not just flicking the right stick and hoping that your animation takes priority.
Leading your receivers is much more fluid this year with the passing controls, which are similar to the controls introduced in NCAA 13. The trajectory and how you place the pass with the left stick really help add to the control in the game, without feeling tacked on like new controls of years past. Also the animations with the Infinity Engine make the game feel more like the games you watch on TV. Receivers reach for passes in front of them, and jump ball passes lead to actual fighting for the ball between DB and WR.
This doesn’t mean the Infinity Engine is perfect. Sometimes, you see some odd stumbling after the play that can make for rather humorous visuals in the background of the cutscene as you set up the next play. Also, some contact is unpredictable – light hits can cause the ball carrier to go down while some major hits are shaken off. In addition, it can sometimes lead to some traffic jam like pileups in the trenches. However, these are minimal in the times I’ve played Madden 13, and the game feels more like your decisions and play matters – which is a HUGE departure from past versions. In the past, losses almost feel predetermined. This year, it feels like your decisions have a much greater impact on the game in crucial moments. Another change this year, the money plays aren’t as prevalent. Long passes are tougher, unless the DB makes a huge mistake, so heaving up the ball isn’t going to be as successful as years past. On both sides of the ball, diversity matters – change things up, and you have the advantage; keep running the same 4 plays, the AI is going to tear you apart.
Madden has added Kinect functionality, and the ability to call out defensive shifts, route changes, and audibles using Microsoft’s motion and voice based controller. It’s good – when it works. The problem is, any background noise can interfere at times with it. If you have a surround sound system, loud TV speakers, play in the room next to your AC unit, or have kids who don’t like to keep quiet, you’re going to have mixed success with the Kinect functionality. EA seems to not be as capable of filtering background noise as MS does when using the audio commands, and at its best I can get around a 65% success rate calling out audibles and the like. However, when it works, it’s a great feature to change things up at the line, and really adds to the immersion of the game.
The final major addition to this year’s edition of Madden football is Connected Career’s mode (CCM). This mode is the merging of online and offline franchise modes, and adds elements of Superstar mode as an option. You can choose to go into an online league or offline, and choose to play as the player (play only what’s on the field) or coach (which is really GM/Coach mode, while allowing you to control all of the on field play). The major improvements with CCM include free agent bidding, improved AI GMs for trade offers (you’re going to part with draft picks more often than not), and better headline coverage of league/team stories – including the addition of Twitter feeds from EA and ESPN personalities. To those who have complained about realism being missing, I ask you to read Skip Bayless’s twitter entries – he’s still as big an idiot on the Xbox as he is in real life. Finally, EA has moved to CBS style production values in game, adding Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as the broadcast pair this year. The commentary feels fresher, but Phil Simms has an incredible tendency to be talking about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the play at hand. I can’t decide if this is a glitch in the game, or the most masterful instance of programming a virtual announcer that is exactly like their real life counterpart I’ve ever experienced in a sports game.
The final product in regards to Madden 13 is one of the most fun football experiences I’ve played in a long time – and the best football game I’ve played this generation from top to bottom. The gameplay on the field is fun and addictive, the franchise offerings are fresh and give you the feel of real control over your favorite team, and the production has seen a major boost to immerse you into the game. Ray Lewis ends the opening video to the game – which is really great to pump you up for the game experience – with the words “Leave. Your. Mark.” While not the perfect football experience in some areas, Madden 13 is the NFL game this generation where Tiburon finally leaves their mark – in a positive way.
I give this game an 8 out of 10 – it’s great fun, but some improvements can be made in the Infinity Engine, and especially in the Kinect functionality, to bring this score up.