Madden 13 hooked me with its impressive demo. Once I had the full game in hand, I couldn't wait to dive into all of its features.
For some reason, there is nothing like Madden release.
The franchise has as many lovers and haters as Floyd Mayweather, Jr., but just like Money everyone shows up to see the performance.
I haven't loved every version of Madden, and there are still things I'd like to see done with the series, but all in all I like how the game has progressed.
Let's take a close look at this year's version, and I'll share with you my hits and misses for Madden 13.
Visuals and Presentation
This is the best the series has looked from a player model, uniforms, stadium and animation standpoint. The Infinity Engine was a big deal in gameplay, but it also does wonders for the visual appeal.
In Madden 13 you can actually see realistic pileups. The player's bodies react to incidental contact, blades of grass fly when ball-carriers cut and change directions.
The accuracy and authenticity goes even deeper.
The face renders that were included in the game are spot-on. When you see players like Matt Schaub, Adrian Peterson and other stars, with or without their helmets, you know it's them.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent job done with the lighting and shading. It makes a ton of difference, and EA has done an excellent job of distinguishing day from night and indoor stadiums from outdoor stadiums.
The camera angles and concepts behind the presentation package are great. Many of the cut-scenes are right out of a CBS broadcast. It really adds to the TV-style look that I believe is best suited for sports video games.
I love the way Phil Simms and Jim Nantz look on-screen before games. Their mouths are synced with the audio as well as I've ever seen with commentators and dialogue in a sports game. They even have on different suits for every game.
The menu system is attractive, I really enjoyed the three-dimensional spin on the traditional menu system
Check out some presentation footage here:
While there are several players whose facial likenesses were captured properly, there are more that are just generic likenesses with the appropriate skin complexion.
In a way this is understandable, but players without the full facial rendering treatment probably shouldn't appear in the pre-game hype sequences.
In regard to animation, most of this concept is expertly done, but there are some instances where limbs are bending unnaturally, and you get a bit too much of the rag-doll physics.
I still prefer this over canned animations, though.
This is somewhat expected as this is the first year using the engine, but its something noticeable. I certainly don't think it's a big enough deal to ruin the positive aspect of the physics based engine.
But it leaves some room for improvement in Madden 14.
On the subject of sound, I believe Simms and Nantz are better than Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth were. But there are still dead spots in the commentary, and a lack of reaction to some major moments.
Looking further into the presentation aspect, I love the concepts but it's really time that Madden employed a solid pre-game, halftime and post-game show. It's really about utilizing the stored replays and applying appropriate comments to bring them to life .
Madden 13 still doesn't employ these details and it's a shame because it could really augment the overall presentation.
Simply put, this game is pretty—if you love football. It doesn't mean it's without blemish, but the predominant feeling I get from the visuals is positive.
Visual and Presentation Score: 9 out of 10
For most this is king, and I don't blame them. Madden 13 is easily the best gameplay I've seen in the series. The game speed is rock solid, the physics are on point, in both the running and passing games.
One of the nicest additions is the Total Control Passing. This really works and you can see the effects when you're playing with one of the games' better signal callers, and when you're playing with the lower-tiered throwers.
I've found that the players play truer to their ratings in this version as well.
At this point, I've played at least one game with every single team, and there are noticeable and distinct differences about each of them.
That isn't just limited to the ratings of the players, it also has to do with the playbooks and the execution of the team's philosophy.
The playbooks themselves are huge and very authentic. There are far more signature sets that NFL teams actually run.
This year teams have a more distinct identity, and I love that. Take a look at this gameplay:
I can honestly say, in this area I have very few qualms.
One thing I'll mention is that it does feel a little difficult to step up in the pocket, and even take off with your QB. It feels as if there are a few little hops your QB will take before he runs.
That causes a few sacks, but I may just need a little practice and grasping the feel for the player movements.
Beyond that, I don't have anything else worth calling a miss as far as gameplay goes.
This is the sharpest gameplay the series has ever seen. It will be hard for even the most strict Madden critic to find incurable ills with this game.
Gameplay Score: 9.5 out of 10
Modes & Options
This has to start with the Connected Careers mode. This is an awesome concept, and for those that aren't familiar with it, here is a brief summary from EA Sports:
Live the NFL dream—whenever you want, wherever you want in a fully interactive, social, and connected online experience.
Create your personal legacy or relive an all-time legend’s as you build the ultimate franchise as a coach, an NFL superstar, or yourself.
Manage your team from your console, the web, or mobile phone in a 24/7 world as NFL insiders and experts analyze, praise, and criticize every move along the way.
It is essentially combining the concepts of Online Franchise, offline franchise and Be a Superstar mode. This allows you to experience the game the way you want to.
I have two profiles, and I've begun a career as a coach and as a player. I can tell you that both have their own separate challenges and require a different approach. If you're playing as a player, you have to pick a team and assess which team gives you the best opportunity to play.
Because you'll only be controlling the one player you either create or choose.
As a coach, you're controlling every aspect of the team's operations and playing. It's more of what you're used to in a franchise mode, only this offers so much more.
You can connect to up 31 different gamers in a season, and they can all participate as players or coaches in the same league. If you don't want to play online you don't have to, you can just go through your career offline.
It really is a blast, and this is because EA has employed so many cool things. There is now a more engrossing NFL draft experience and free agent bidding.
Those things were included before, but not like they are now. Take a look a this video of the NFL Draft in Madden 13:
This mode is now the standard by which other sports gaming franchise modes will be judged, and EA seems to already be planning to break the mold again with NHL 13.
In addition to the humongous and addictive Connected Careers, there is also Madden Ultimate Team. This is a returning feature and it allows you to build a fantasy team by acquiring virtual football cards.
It's not my favorite mode, but there is something about opening a virtual pack of football cards that is exciting. Being able to use those cards as players in a real game of Madden takes the whole card-collecting experience to the next level.
Beyond this, there are other options available with this year's game.
Madden 13 uses a smart and practical form of Kinect integration. It uses the voice recognition aspect to allow you to call plays, audibles, etc with your voice. This is much better than trying to get gamers to make throwing motions at their TV screens
Madden Moments also returns for Madden 13, and I really like this mode. It allows you to recreate the best moments from the previous NFL season to see if you can repeat or change history.
Overall, this is a jam-packed version of Madden from a feature standpoint. There is a lot to like about the plethora of ways you can enjoy this game.
I really do enjoy Connected Careers, but it would be nice to still have the option to play traditional franchise mode. I feel that way is because there were a few features I miss, that were removed primarily because of the Connected Careers integration.
You can't use edited rosters in Connected Careers, so for those that like to flip rosters like myself, a traditional franchise mode would have been nice to have.
The option to import rosters from NCAA Football 13 was removed. There were some issues with it in Madden 12, so it was held out of this year's version.
In a sense, I understand that decision.
Connected Careers is the driving and selling point for Madden 13. EA probably didn't want to risk any expendable feature threatening the stability of Connected Careers.
I will say they did an awesome job covering for not having the import roster feature with the engaging NFL Draft with Trey Wingo.
Connected Careers is great, but I miss being able to edit players in my franchise mode. Beyond that this mode is exceptionally well thought out, and is addictive.
Modes and Options Score: 8.5 out of 10
What is your favorite aspect of Madden 13?
The best way for me to express my thoughts on Madden 13 is to keep it simple.
I really like this game a lot.
It isn't perfect, but it has so many awesome concepts from a gameplay, options and presentation standpoint, that it's hard not be impressed.
Even in the areas that aren't perfect, I see the thought process and I have faith that the next versions will build on what they've established in this one.
This is a must-have if you love video games and football, and it's a benchmark in the history of this storied sports gaming franchise.
Overall Score: 9 out of 10 (Yes, it's that good)
Follow Brian Mazique and Franchiseplay on YouTube and Twitter for reactions, analysis and news from the world of sports and sports video games