Madden NFL 13|
Thereís an odd dilemma one confronts when tasked with reviewing a Madden game. When talking about quality, there really isnít any other football game out there to compare it too, and when giving purchasing advice, itís as simple as asking yourself if you want to play a football game, and more specifically, a football game with the NFL license. This is why, when Iím writing a review of a sports game, I generally like to compare it against the actual sport thatís attempting to be emulated. This obviously isnít a perfect comparison, so Iím not expecting the game to be utterly perfect, and this obviously wouldnít apply to something like Blitz or NBA Jam, but for a Madden game I feel it is appropriate. So, instead of continuing to talk about my thought process behind reviewing this game, Iím going to start, well, reviewing it. That is to say, Iím going to start telling you why Madden NFL 13 is another lackluster entry into a long, stagnating franchise.
Although I donít think too highly of this game, I will start off by saying there may be light at the end of the tunnel. This year, unlike the past half a decade, has actually brought along some interesting changes that may prove to be a step in the right direction for the Madden franchise. The biggest change this time around is the adoption of the Infinity Engine. The Infinity Engine replaces the canned animations that the previous games had with more realistic collisions, throws, and player movement.
This gives the game a different feel that makes each play feel less stilted and more realistic in a way that can be extremely beneficial, but also hilariously goofy in a way that makes it seem like they havenít truly worked all the kinks out. Sometimes collisions are more natural and smooth in a way they have never been before, making the interaction on the field as true to real life as weíve seen, while other times the engine seems to break in crazy ways that cause players to defy the physics the engine is supposed to be implementing. After almost every play there will probably be some ridiculous collision between players while they walk to their respective huddles that will make you laugh.
At the end of the day, these hilarious intermediate displays arenít all that bad (in fact they are actually a pretty nice bit of comic relief if youíre losing badly), and they make me optimistic for the future of the Madden games. Not because I think physics defying freak outs are the future of Madden, but I do like that there is some initiative to try out something new with the addition of the Infinity Engine, and that maybe in the coming years the team will refine its implementation to make a better game.
Apart from the addition of the Infinity Engine, there are some other significant and not so significant changes EA has made to this year's game. One of the nicer changes is the addition of ďReceiver AwarenessĒ, which requires the receiver to actually be ready for, and looking at the ball in order to catch it. Problems still persist when the player manually switches to a receiver and then catches the ball, but Iíll get to that later. One of the less important, yet heavily marketed, changes is the incorporated Kinect support. Surprisingly, using Kinect to vocally call audibles actually works nicely (provided the room you are playing in isnít too noisy), though in reality, itís much quicker and easier to simply call audibles with the controller. There are also some other improvements like increased pass trajectories to give throws more variation, but these improvements ultimately prove inconsequential due to how the game actually plays.
Connected Careers is one of the mor prominent features for Madden NFL 13, allowing you to live the NFL dream whenever and wherever you want in a fully interactive, social, and connected online experience. Create your personal legacy or relive an all-time legendís as you build the ultimate franchise as a coach, an NFL superstar, or even your own custom player. 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 using the new My Stories feature complete with a virtual Twitter feed customized to your game experience. And expand your Madden NFL 13 experience even further with Madden NFL Social launcing to iOS and Facebook later this year.
Now onto the reasons Madden 13 is just as mediocre as many of the previous games. This game is not football. It may look like football, it may have similar rules to football, but when you actually play the game, football strategy and logic do not apply. One may find the game is not all that bad while playing alone against the CPU, but going online and playing other people is always the draw of sports games, and itís the way in which you find out how truly ďun-footballĒ this game is.
So, letís start with Defense. Calling plays and playing defense is not a strategic game of countering the offenseís plays, no. Defense is a game of finding a play or two that works for you (preferably 9 Velcro or an effective blitz play), and then calling an audible if you believe you may be facing something you werenít expecting. Thatís all there really is to playing defense. There are no head games, no strategic play calling, no variety, simply pick a few of the plays that work, possibly call an audible, and then try to make a user pick if you can. Other than that, playing defense is pretty much letting the computer controlled players do most of the work while you hope and pray they make some insane plays rather than doing something you canít control like letting a man get wide open. Even then, if you are controlling a defenseman, and even if you are making a really good play, sometimes the game just decides it doesnít like you, and even though you are attempting a user pick on a poorly thrown ball right at your hands, your player drops it as if heís never come in contact with a football in his life. On the other hand, sometimes the A.I. defensemen will make the most outstanding plays youíve ever seen, leaving you to question why that player didnít make a play half as good ten seconds ago. All the while youíre not really ďdefendingĒ as much as you are waiting for your opponent to screw up, because anyone who knows what theyíre are doing on offense will have a pretty easy time driving the ball.
Offense is insanely easy if you know what youíre doing. Madden NFL 13 is wholly unbalanced in favor of the offensive player, especially if they are playing with a good team. Picking a good team basically means picking a team with a really good/fast QB, along with some high end receivers. Combinations like Aaron Rodgers/Greg Jennings, Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson, Tom Brady/Wes Welker, and Michael Vick/DeSean Jackson are deadly, and practically unstoppable. Especially when you take into account the speed of someone like Michael Vick running out of the pocket while most of the defense and receivers are down field, thereís almost nothing the defense can do. Add a few screenplays and miracle catches by the league's elite wideouts and thereís almost nothing an opponent can do but sit back and wait for a mistake.
This makes playing the game simply boring and annoying. Defense is basically a joke, while offense is a piece of cake. The entire thing makes the actions you are doing in game feel almost trivial, like this terrible excuse for football is simply just playing out in front of you and thereís really not much you can do about it. The worst part is the people that actually get to be really good at this game, arenít the ones who understand football and play intelligently, no, they are the ones who are able to exploit the broken systems to their limit.
I know this game isnít supposed to be some kind of E-sport game with Starcraft-esque balance, and I know complaining too heavily about the lack of correlation between the real game of football and a video game can become a bit misguided, but I would ultimately be fine with the way the game is if it didnít feel cheap and almost offensive. Take away even the fact that the game is poor excuse for a football game, and just look at the fact that the main reason the game doesnít change is because they know they can sell the same game year after year and people will buy it simply because of the NFL license. Itís the equivalent to what EA did with its NBA Live franchise, only that game had a competitor that ended up driving NBA Live to its grave.
After saying all this, I give Madden NFL 13 a small pass on its flaws because there are some steps in the right direction with the addition of the Infinity Engine and some of the improved systems. I know this will never happen, but I really wish the developer could take a year off and really make some drastic improvements to this game. In the meantime though, Iím glad to see them trying to make as drastic a change they can in a yearsí time. I also praise Madden for something other sports games seem to still be struggling with, and that is the almost overwhelming number of modes, as well as the ability to thoroughly customize these modes. Pretty much any way you could imagine to play a football game is in there. Even though the game may not be all that fun when youíre playing to win, it can be really fun just playing against or with some friends in the many online modes.
I wasnít surprised by Madden NFL 13, but I am at least more optimistic for the future of the Madden franchise than I was going in. I still think there is a lot of room for improvement, but there are some definite steps in the right direction. Itís hard not to recommend Madden 13 to anyone who wants an NFL game, or even a football game for that matter, simply because there really isnít anything else out there on the market. At the same time though, if you are a fan of sports in general, I would suggest waiting it out for the upcoming NHL and NBA titles this year. So, unless youíre a diehard NFL fan, and this is just one of those yearly purchases for you and your friends, I would recommend steering clear of Madden NFL 13.