Madden NFL 13 Review

By Alex Rubens - Posted Aug 24, 2012

Madden NFL 13 innovates on the already-strong gameplay with a revamped physics engine and a new Connected Careers mode. Despite a few hiccups, these changes make it one of the best releases of Madden in recent memory.

The Pros
  • All-new Infinity Engine makes tackles feel much more realistic
  • The core of Madden is still extremely solid from years past
  • Connected Careers is great fun for larger, more competitive leagues of players
The Cons
  • Kinect integration is a neat idea, but it doesn't work well in execution (360 edition only)
  • Repetitive commentary tracks

Madden NFL 13 Review:

When you’re one of the most popular games in North America, it can be easy to slip into the spell of doing the same things over again because it works. There isn’t a need for innovation, as people seem to be happy with what you’re doing right now. Luckily, the team behind Madden NFL 13 at EA Sports didn’t feel that way at all, redoing major components of the game that changed gameplay quite dramatically. That premise alone demands a second look as Madden NFL 13 revamps it’s core gameplay in a way that alters how we play football.

 

 

BEAST MODE

There’s a big emphasis on change this year, but that doesn’t mean that Madden will feel any different. You’re still playing football, and that will always be the case. It’s the things that you don’t notice that make the biggest difference in this year’s iteration of the classic franchise. This is the case with the all-new Infinity Engine, the revamped physics engine, that makes it feel like you’re actually playing football, not just running into each other.

In past iterations, when a defender would tackle you, you would just fall down. There was no struggle, no attempt for those last few yards as if your career depended on them. That’s all changed. Players react similarly to how they would in real life. If a defender dives for their back leg, they’ll hop and attempt to step over them. They might not make it far, but they tried something to avoid the tackle. If players get hit on one side, they will spin around, as if they were actually hit. It’s a small thing to notice, but it makes a big difference in selling the believability of the game’s events.

This does lead to some hilarious moments as the players become tangled with each other at the end of each play. As you’re choosing your next play, players are constantly falling, trying to get back up, and tripping again; sometimes in hilariously overboard fashion. It’s been a problem in recent FIFA titles too, but it’s a small price to pay for a new physics engine.

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Go Long!

Another great change that might not be noticed as much, but improves the gameplay is the addition of pass leading. It isn’t something that you think you’ll need much, until all your receivers are covered and the defensive line is closing in. A simple move to the side right before a pass will lead the receiver in the intended direction. It’s an extremely elegant system that works in the background. It became second nature and a vital part of my offensive gameplay.

However, because of this new feature, it’s also much easier to intercept the ball when on defense. If you see the quarterback starting to lead the passer, it’s easy to quickly switch to the passer’s defender and pull a user-pick. But while picks may be easier, it certainly doesn’t seem any easier to force fumbles. Sure, it’s all about hitting the player at the right angle using the hit-stick, but in the dozens of games that I played, I only saw two fumbles. It has more to do with the way that players handle the ball and the new physics system than anything else.

Madden NFL 13

Connected Trash-Talk

Gone is the old Franchise mode and in its place is Connected Careers. Connected Careers combines Offline Franchise, Online Franchise, and Superstar modes into one cohesive experience that blends the best elements of each into one fully connected mode for the best of the Madden Franchise; that’s the idea at least. Connected Careers puts you in the shoes of either a player or a coach as you work your way through the season. As a player, you’ll play in the games (or get cut!) and have coaches gunning for you to join their team. When you play as a coach, it is extremely similar to the old Franchise mode, as you play through all the games as you normally would, make team decisions, and negotiate contracts.

Madden NFL 13

If you choose to take your team online, you can join a league with up to 32 players. This is where things get really interesting and fun. It isn’t just about you anymore, you’ve got thirty other players who are relying on your success (or failure!). You can all be players, coaches, or mix it up and have a mix of the two; it all adds to the overall experience as different coaches compete for the same player’s contract.

Connected Careers is a huge change from things in years past, but it doesn’t come without its faults. Bundling both franchise modes and Superstar into one mode makes it very confusing how to set up a regular franchise. It also doesn’t autosave, and while that might not seem like the biggest mistake, it just makes sense that it would autosave between weeks rather than requiring you to save manually.

Madden NFL 13

Wait, that’s not what I said!

[Editor's Note: This paragraph only applies to the Xbox 360 verion of the game] Madden NFL 13 uses the Kinect to provide players with the ability to call audibles and change plays using their voice. Thankfully there isn’t any motion controls, but the voice controls don’t work exceptionally well either. In theory, I’d be able to yell “No Huddle, Spike” to spike the ball and stop the clock when I’m in a rush, but in actuality, I end up wasting more time repeating myself that I would have if I had just pressed the buttons on the controller. It’s a neat idea, but it isn’t something that worked well in execution.

Getting rid of Cris Collingsworth and other commentators, Madden NFL 13 introduces commentary from the team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms from CBS Sports. They’re brand new to the Madden series and are a much welcomed addition. Unfortunately, their new voices made for some lacking commentary. They have some high-quality back-and-forth, but it was often repetitive to the point that I was predicting what lines they would say at certain points of the drive. As annoying as it can be to hear the same thing over again, it’s hard to fault them; they completely scrapped the commentary from previous years and tried to make it better. That’s a commendable task even if it didn’t pan out as well as they would have liked.

Madden NFL 13

It’s still Madden.

For a game that didn’t need to do much to succeed, Madden NFL 13 went above and beyond to innovate the already-strong core gameplay. The new Infinity Engine makes for solid tackles and more realistic play, even if it does come with a few quirks. While Connected Careers is a really interesting proposition, it doesn’t come together as fluidly as it should, but thankfully it’s still a great way to enjoy online competition with friends. Madden NFL 13 has a few rough patches, but it’s still such a solid experience that they don’t take away from the overall quality of the game, making it one of the more solid Madden releases in recent memory.