Having recently finished watching the final episode of that great football drama series Friday Night Lights, I have a new found love for all things NFL. Over the years I have enjoyed the Madden games very much, but this year I'm even more attuned to the game because of the exploits of the Dillon Panthers and the Lions. So it was with great enthusiasm that I fired Madden NFL 13 up and prepared to do battle. The game was released at the end of August for PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360, with a Wii U version in the offing. Our review is of the 360 version of the game.
Slick Front End
The first thing you will notice when you get into the game is that the front end presentation has been polished with a more logical and unified menu system. The menu fades, in game player overlays and TV style flyovers are slick and comfortably surpass Madden 12's disjointed approach.
The system feels more like you are tuning in to televised coverage and it just looks right. The game uses a solitary hub based screen that works well to access all of the menus and this helps you transition more easily to the gameplay mode you are looking for. Indeed, while Madden 13 doesn’t deliver a quantum leap forwards when it comes to texture mapping and other graphical garnishing, the new presentation style is definitely slicker.
Fresh Football Physics
The animation and most importantly the gameplay has been polished significantly too. This is evident because Madden publisher EA Sports has implemented a totally new physics system which covers everything from the movement of the ball to the biomechanics of the players as they run, throw and tackle. EA claims that with the Infinity physics engine, “no two hits are the same” and they are right. Power into a running back and the arms and legs will go flying as you sack him, but most importantly you won’t be forced to suffer a carbon copy animation you have seen a hundred times before. Instead each fresh hit delivers new results and these can sometimes be pretty spectacular.
The Infinity engine doesn’t just shine when tackling either. Players run, throw and hit the deck more fluidly and you don’t so much feel they have been “animated,” but that they are simply reacting to the normal everyday laws of physics as they ply their trade.
So, while the textures and lighting effects haven’t been improved significantly, Madden 13 manages to look far more believable than its predecessors. When it comes to matters of motion we are more readily convinced we are watching the real thing rather than an animated rendition.
There are other areas where the game has stepped up to the plate too (to use a phrase from a rival sport). The playmaking system has been given a tweak and you can now more easily select different receivers and your pass options will even differ depending on whether or not they are looking downfield at your quarterback. This adds an extra tactical dimension to passages of play. It also helps things seem even more fluid as you are given more opportunity to improvise while your receivers scramble for an opening. You can also lead receivers away from charging defenders as you try and execute the perfect long bomb snap.
On the other side of the coin, defenders have more flexibility and you will be delighted by how much easier it is to intercept a poorly chosen pass. Madden 13 still favors the offense, but this is something the series has always done and it makes sense as it is always more fun to be going for yards as opposed to defending.
The commentary team from Madden 12 has been given the boot and the dynamic duo of CBS’ Jim Nantz and Phil Simms represent a much better fit. This new pairing happily go about the job of delivering smooth flowing chatter that isn’t too repetitive.
The season management system has been given a solid tweak with Connected Careers replacing Franchise mode. The new system has more depth, works both online and offline and allows you greater flexibility in selecting a path to explore as you follow your favorite player, team or coach through the season. You can dip in and out at any level at any time, playing as an individual player or then controlling the team – and you can even sub in different coaches, including some quite famous names no longer in the business.
You can even build your team from the ground up, experimenting with free agency recruiting or by using the draft. This allows you to massively personalize your team and will suit serious fans of the sport. There are seven coaches with names like Lombardi, Flores and even Madden on offer too. Not all of the “superstar” players and coaches are available at the start of the game, though. You will have to earn the right to use many by achieving success on the field.
Thus there is much to like about this latest iteration in the series. However the physics system does suffer the odd hiccup. There are moments after tackling pile ups when players extricate themselves demonstrating suppleness that is unnatural and looks plain wrong. Legs are only meant to bend one way.
Sometimes close-in ball work, like hand off passes, can seem to miscue as the ball moves seemingly by itself and without human contact. That said, the physics engine is for the most part a welcome development and many will find they are returning to play the game time and again because everything moves so well.
The controls are responsive and the game blends the right degree of arcade style playability with serious tactical depth for more focused fans of the sport. Kinect support for play calls has also been added, but this feels like an irrelevant afterthought to us and it doesn't often work accurately either.
Madden 13 is the best game in the series yet and the physics system is a big part of why this is the case. It is no wonder the series is one of the longest running out there.
Gizmag Rating 8/10
Images provided courtesy of EA Sports
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