Madden is more than a game to many. Even it’s release day has previously been known as a fake holiday. But to many gamer’s it’s the one game that never changes. It’s always being poked at as a $60 roster update. Even the hardcore crowd complains that the game lacks vision and change and that EA often leaves the game unfinished and unpolished. Can EA finally change that mindset with Madden 13? Or will the series continue to run the route of the recent years and bring an overpriced update to a mediocre football sim?
If anything, we can quickly answer the first question. That answer is no. Madden 13 does little to change the mindset that EA Tiburon only slightly updates the game, however for the first time in many years Madden feels different. With the new additions of Connected Careers, Infinity Engine, and updated Madden Ultimate Team, the game feels new and refreshing. However, under the glossy new shine the same Madden exists. Traditional franchise mode is gone, at least in the traditional sense. Now to play a franchise you must start a Connected Careers as a coach. You can choose one of the current coaches (Minus Sean Payton and Bill Belichick), create one, or even choose from a Hall of Fame Coach. Once you’ve created your coach you have the freedom to run the team how you wan to, just don’t expect to start a fantasy team with the popular Fantasy Draft option. That’s right, EA has left out the Fantasy Draft option this year and that’s something I just don’t understand. I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy draft’s on sports games. It seems like any sports game I play I use a draft option if it’s available. It’s in EA’s NHL, NBA 2k, and it was previously in NBA Live. It’s been in every Madden this generation since 2008 and was previously in the game since the mid-2000’s. Arguably it’s the biggest thing missing from this years installment. I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around the reasoning behind it. It adds so much potential replay value to the title. Imagine you’ve played Madden for roughly 100 plus hours, you’ve completed 10+ years of Connected Careers and now you’re a team full of no-name draft picks. What if you could start the mode all over, but this time you could draft your own team with a designated plan created by yourself. Maybe you’ll draft all young guys and rookies, or maybe you want a team full of veterans wanting to win now, or you just want to draft your favorite players at each position? You could do that, it’s something I’ve done every year and it added an incredible amount of replay value to the game. It’s a shame it’s missing, but I won’t knock the game completely for this.
Madden 13 is trying to be a new game. The addition of the Infinity Engine is a sign that EA feels like Madden needs to move forward. Sure, the Infinity Engine suffers from the fact that it was built for FIFA and the constant collisions cause the engine to create some interesting, and sometimes funny, moments on the field. Arms and legs bend behind player’s backs, bodies fly and flex as if what hit them was able to break them in half. Yet, sometimes the engine works perfectly and you’ll see players bounce and collide realistically. This adds a whole new element to Madden, and is a welcome addition to the title.
Another new addition is something that can also be seen in this year’s NCAA title. A new “Read-and-React” logic system is in place for defensive players. No longer do Linebackers warp across the field on a pass or leap 20 feet in the air to pick off the ball (it still can happen just not as often). Defensive backs respond to routes. The fade finally works and is one of my go-to plays near the end zone. Also seen is the shading out of passing icon’s until the player is expecting the ball. This is a cool addition, as you’ll realize throwing the ball too early often leads to mistakes or missed opportunities. The passing game is finally fun again, but can be the death of a team if used too often. Running and blocking has changed very little, and it’s a shame that the one last legacy issue still exists.
Connected Careers is arguably the biggest addition to this years title. It combines online Franchise, Franchise, and Superstar Mode into one unique package that creates some amazing value. You have two game styles to choose from, either play as a player or as a coach. You can play either online or offline. Online allows you to play with friends as well as use the updated tuner sets (according to a recent EA blog). Offline allows you to play at your pace, so you can move forward when you want to. The mode is refreshing, fun, and finally makes the superstar mode of old exciting.
So far I’ve played as a QB for the Denver Broncos. And no, I didn’t choose a current player or Hall of Famer, I decided to make my own player. Backing up Peyton Manning isn’t a lot of fun, but after choosing the back story of being a “Late Round Draft Pick” the future could be interesting if I make big strides.
I haven’t spent a lot of time playing Connected Careers, but the mode pretty much seems as it is, and I look forward to spending a majority of my time with Madden 13 playing this mode.
Ultimate Team is a mode I slowly started to fall in love with last year. I didn’t spend much time with it, but what time I did spend I realized it needed a lot of work. It was tough to find the proper collection for all of your cards, the head-to-head mode was broken and suffered from multiple disconnects. So far this years installment has improved as each card lists which collection the card is part of, and the collection system seems to be much improved and shortened as it loads faster and choosing different collections is much faster.
Also new to this years Ultimate Team “Single Player Challenges”. This mode has already been seen in both FIFA and NHL and is a welcome addition to the Madden franchise. The addition allows players to play each team’s preseason and regular season schedule, as well as against Hall of Fame coaches. Winning games gives you credit bonuses, as well as free card parks and Special Cards. Some games take up contracts, while other games won’t, just simply check the game details before you start the challenge to see if it’s a contract game or not.
One of the most important parts of a sports game is it’s presentation. For the past few years Madden has been known to have some of the worst commentary in a game. Gus Johnson was obnoxious and over excited, Tom Hammond was boring and monotone. Not since the game featured John Madden himself with Pat Summerall has the game felt authentic. That commentating crew felt like a Sunday afternoon of the NFL on FOX, even the presentation overlays at times reminded me of FOX’s. This years package is very detailed and similar to that of CBS. The combination of Simms and Nance is one of the best we’ve seen in awhile. It also reminds me very much of an authentic Sunday afternoon NFL broadcast and is something Madden has been desperately needing for a long time now.
Madden 13 is a solid game in the franchise, and it’s the first time this generation that the game feels improved. I like the new Infinity Engine, as will most of you, but it needs a lot of work. The new Connected Career modes are interesting and add a new element to the traditional career modes. This is the first time I’ve enjoyed Madden since 2008’s edition. It’s just a shame that my favorite parts are missing. Player edits are missing, you can’t fantasy draft, and the overall package feels slimmed down. The addition of Kinect does little to improve the overall quality as the game often misses what you’re saying. I hope that the staff at EA continues to improve this package, as the commentary feels better but still stale at times, the presentation package is the best I’ve seen since the last generation of consoles. I really want Madden to continue to move forward, but it’s going to take a lot of work. I’ve giving Madden 13 an 8.8 out of 10.