Madden NFL 13 Demo: Grading Each Aspect of This Year's NFL Game
In the words of the legendary Notorious B.I.G., "If you don't know, now you know."
On Tuesday morning, the highly-anticipated Madden NFL 13 Demo hit the Xbox Live Games Marketplace, and I'm here to give you the full scoop on what's hot and what's not in this year's only football game.
As with every sports game, there were a few disappointments, but I was definitely inspired by what I saw and, of course, I'll be camped out in line to get myself a deluxe edition the night of the 27th.
But without further adieu, let's dive right into dissecting and grading each portion of the freshly-released demo.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
I might've been the only guy who picked the blue-collar San Francisco 49ers over the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, but their depth with my favorite Oregon RB, LaMichael James, helped me establish a basis on which to determine if Madden got speed and acceleration right this time around.
And, as usual, they fell short once again.
The fast guys are REALLY fast, which is good because, you know, that's actually realistic. But what's unrealistic is how fast the slow, sloppy linemen are.
I know Justin Tuck is one of the fastest defensive ends in the NFL, but there's absolutely no reason why he should be remotely close to tracking down the Heisman nominee who's in full breakaway speed up the field.
As I sprinted up the field for a touchdown, Tuck trailed James, no more than two-and-a-half yards behind.
That's just not right.
EA Sports, you fail in the speed department, yet again.
DISCLAIMER: There is a setting—likely in the full game—called the Speed Threshold where you can make the fastest players much faster than slower players, but who wants to go through all that when EA could just get it right the first time?
Play-Calling Interface: D-
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
The only reason I didn't flunk Madden 13's play-calling interface is because I'd get a technical foul for lack of respect for the game.
Or is that basketball? Either way, this year's football game took a step in the wrong direction in terms of cycling through and selecting plays.
In the previous installations of Madden NFL, the name of each play would be located at the top of each diagram, showing three plays per row. This time around, EA went with a preschool blue color scheme and decided to fool us dedicated "Madden-heads" by moving the names of each play to the bottom of each diagram.
Not only is it hard on the eyes, it's just a culture shock to those who, like myself, have been around Madden games since John Madden was on the cover. (For some perspective, the first NFL stud ever featured on a Madden cover was Garrison Hearst, in his prime. You do the math.)
Hurry-Up Offense: A+
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
In past Madden games, I used the Hurry-Up offense solely to catch my opponent in a defense that I could pick apart time and time again, without giving him ample time to audible out of it.
However, in this year's Madden, the Hurry-Up offense runs to perfection, catching defenses before they even set into their positions.
During my second go-round, I picked the Seattle Seahawks (a.k.a. Marshawn Lynch) over the Washington Redskins (a.k.a. Robert Griffin III) and ramped up the difficulty to All-Pro. When I finally managed to get into the redzone, I picked up a quick six-yard gain with Lynch. I then went to the hurry-up offense and quickly audibled into a play-action pass, finding Zach Miller WIDE open in the corner of the end zone.
With the right amount of practice, everyone can use the hurry-up offense to their advantage.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
I had to pause the game after being denied a first down just to get this out while it was fresh in my mind.
I trudged up the field on first and 10 with Marshawn Lynch, stiff-arming my way about eight yards when I ran into All-Pro linebacker Brian Orakpo. Lynch was about to drag Orakpo about another two yards to pick up the first, but FS Tanard Jackson appeared out of thin air, plopping on top of me and effectively ruining my chances of moving the chains on the first possession.
That kind of interactive gang-tackling is a beauty. In past Madden games, we would've seen Lynch drag Orakpo, while the helping defender stood around watching, or better yet, incompetently flailing around and over but never into the runner.
Madden has come a long way, and their new tackling system shows just how far.
I forced a bit too many fumbles with the Seattle linebacking core, and EA will need to clean up a few of their tackling animations, but all-in-all, I was very pleased with how they improved this portion of the game.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Unlike in every previous Madden game, this time when you point the arrow where you want to kick the ball, it goes in that direction.
Unless you've somehow managed to get Chad Ochocinco punting the ball for you, coffin punts should be easy.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
I was able to effortlessly put up 42 points with the 49ers while simultaneously holding the Giants to 0 on the pre-set Pro difficulty. When I switched teams, I also bumped the difficulty up to All-Pro, just one below the highest—All-Madden.
The second time around, I could only muster up 10 points with the Seattle Seahawks, while holding RGIII and the Washington Redskins to three.
And finally, when I used the Giants against the 49ers on All-Madden difficulty... let's just say All-Pro is a very comfortable difficulty to play.
Rushing Attack: B-/B
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Sometimes, there's a such thing as being too realistic. While rushing with Frank Gore and a clear gap for at least 15 yards ahead, I managed to trip over my own fallen linemen at least four times, cutting my potential yardage down to a menial two yards.
Other times, I was crowded by the Seattle front seven, getting stuck behind linemen without being able to take advantage of the wads of space in front of them. While the jukes, spins and elusive maneuvers are on-point this year, Madden could stand to clean up some of the animations that prevent runners from picking up easily available yardage.
It's also worth noting that it becomes extremely difficult to run the ball on All-Madden difficulty.
Passing, Receiving, Hot Routes and Audibles: A
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Though I like to mix it up with my play-calling as much as possible, I defer to the air game every year. The Hot Routes are pretty much the same, and they give the same audibles (you can edit them in the full game) as the previous games, but the passing attack is so much more crisp in Madden 13.
With a good quarterback (Eli Manning), passes get darted right between the numbers where a good receiver (Victor Cruz) can make a great catch and keep it pushing. With a not-so-good QB (Matt Flynn), passes towards the sidelines are a bit more difficult, and attempting to lead a receiver can easily result in an interception.
My default team is the Detroit Lions, where I can abuse defenses with the Stafford-Johnson connection, so when the full game comes out, I'll think about giving you a more in-depth review of the receiving game.
Deflections, Interceptions and Open-Field Tackling: B/B+
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Making the right decision down the field is now more important than ever.
Mistiming a jump, tackle attempt or dive can put you into a receiver's rear-view mirror in the blink of an eye.
If you've played Team Play in the previous two Madden games and you're up to the challenge of covering the likes of a Victor Cruz or Sidney Rice down-field, by all means step up to the plate. But if you're new to Madden and still wet behind the ears, stay on the D-Line and let the computer handle all the tough stuff.
One wrong step and you could find yourself down by seven, but if you're a Madden-head like me, that's exactly the way you like it.
Al Bello/Getty Images
At first I was a bit disappointed with EA for not making major improvements in this year's game, but after a couple more exhibitions, the game definitely shows promise.
Seeing as though it's the ONLY football game set to hit stores in 2012, the Madden NFL 13 Demo earns a 7.7 out of 10 rating so far. It'll likely go up when the full game hits shelves worldwide on August 28th, but for now all we can do is sit back, relax and wait for that day to come.
If you're up to the challenge, you can always add me on Xbox Live for an old-fashioned leather and brass belt whooping, but for now, thanks for reading and post your comments, concerns and questions below.
Xbox Live Gamertag: BriscoJack
Follow me on Twitter here