By Dave Gilmore
12:09 PM EDT, August 27, 2012
"Madden NFL 13"
Xbox 360/PlayStation 3
Score: 3 stars out of 4
The "Madden" series hasn’t quite lived up to expectations since eliminating competing NFL franchises in 2005. Still, it is taken for granted how much EA Sports maximizes its exclusive license with the NFL to produce video games that allow fans to come as close as most ever will to an NFL field. The knock on “Madden” is that it’s the same year-in and year-out. “Madden NFL 13” absolutely disproves that notion, though “different” doesn’t automatically mean “better.”
Like it’s little brother, “NCAA Football,” this year’s edition of “Madden” has fine-tuned its passing game to mirror the throw-happy offenses in the real NFL. Receivers run their routes in a less robotic fashion than previous editions, and as a quarterback, the player has a real opportunity to put the ball where they want. The result is a dynamic passing experience in which the same play can look slightly different each time, with both passing and receiving animations beefed up for “Madden NFL 13.”
The biggest change players will notice is the overall feel of the game, thanks to the new Infinity Engine, which drastically alters the game’s physics. Infinity gives every player on the turf a lot more weight and inertia, preventing players from ricocheting off one another at unrealistic speeds or flying to the ground at the slightest touch. Not unlike “FIFA 12’s” Impact Engine, the Infinity Engine definitely provides more realistic physical interactions about 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent, players are tripping over one another wildly like the Marx Brothers.
EA’s “Madden” team has tossed offline/online franchise and Superstar mode out the window in favor of the new “Connected Careers” mode. The move is a bold one for a franchise that has relied on players’ devotion to these modes over the years. Depending on your preference, it can be a bit of a shock not to have the familiar experience of running a franchise or building up a player.
It’s not that there isn’t depth to Connected Careers, it just shows itself in different ways. A fake Twitter stream from ESPN and NFL Network personalities will keep you updated of storylines in your Connected Career, and there are definitely more realistic patterns in player development and the NFL Draft. Players who like to dive deep into the traditional “franchise” mode will take a while to adjust to the layout, but overall it’s at least a fresh take on an old model. Traditional player progression has been abandoned in favor of an RPG-influence experience points system, allowing for a more dynamic roster and greater user control of their team.
Aesthetically, “Madden NFL 13” does an excellent job of capturing the look and sound of the NFL experience, both on the field and via the TV broadcast. The new commentary team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms provides an accurate, if not dry broadcast for your games, although their avatars are firmly ensconced in the creepy “uncanny valley” of CGI faces. The stadiums, sounds, new uniforms, familiar celebrations (yes, there’s “Tebowing”) and player traits lend a level of authenticity to the experience that is bolstered by very solid gameplay.
In some years “Madden” inches forward, and in other years it truly evolves. While not every new facet of the game finds the mark perfectly, there is no mistaking that “Madden NFL 13” is an innovative football experience.
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