Got smart playing dumb.
With temperatures soon dropping and kids about to go back to school, fall is rapidly approaching. This means only one thing: Football is upon us! I’m talking about real football, not that pansy soccer stuff, with those guys running around in short shorts, crying about every little foul (I actually love soccer, I’m just playing macho, play along). A sport that, up until this year, hasn’t even had a female official, let alone a female player. True man’s game. *grrrrr* Well (wo)men, if you aren’t excited, get there because Madden football is back, again.
Actually I take that back, a little. Don’t get too excited like I did before I had a chance to see what this year’s model would bring. In the past, I typically wouldn’t have too many negative things to say about Madden, but I’m not so sure this title is invulnerable from such things this time around. Madden NFL 13 is fairly different from past years—the Madden we all have come to know has grown up and put on its big boy pants.
Technology is taking over as many may notice. Everything is merging, becoming a one-stop shop. Cellphones can now pick your kids up from daycare. Your blender can probably cook your eggs. Well, the NFL wants its products to be bunched together as well. The new Madden menu has a striking resemblance to DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket’s menu. The functionality is almost the same as well, so much so that it doesn’t feel like a game anymore. When turning on to play, it literally feels as if it’s not meant to be played anymore but instead it’s just for show. Major game modes have been completely taken away and replaced with other non-familiar modes that have yet to show their full value.
Now that Season mode is gone and no mini-games to practice with, the replacement content has got to be equally as great or better. The biggest and most talked about addition would have to be Connected Careers, which is much like a cross between Franchise and Superstar mode, both which are now obsolete. With this new feature, playing online is no longer the same. Now you start a career as either a created player or coach and work your way through the trenches into the Hall of Fame. If you don’t feel like developing a rookie, you can take on an existing player or coach and continue their legacy. Taking it a step further, you can also dust off past greats such as Barry Sanders or even John Madden himself and relive their triumphs to glory.
You can also a league or create one of your own, and play with up to 31 other human-controlled players/teams. Just like the old Superstar mode, the objective is to have the best consecutive seasons possible and retire your player/coach at the top. But now with Connected Careers you are able to start a career, join a league, and never have to start a new one again. If you want to develop a strong-armed QB but in the middle of your career get tired of playing the position and want a hard-hitting linebacker, simply retire or let your player go. Once you do, you are free to create or pick up any new player/coach you desire. On an interesting flipside, other people in your league may now use your inactive player and continue what you started. (No player left behind, huh?)
For all intents and purposes, this is the new Franchise mode and it seems like a game option that is here to stay for future installments. As the headlining new feature, it wants to be recognized as the real deal, as if you were truly a player or coach in the game. In-mode menus will have up-to-date information about everything you would want to know about your league: key trades, injuries, top match-ups, and even in-depth looks at rising and falling stars.
There are even NFL analysts and real-life media personalities discussing action around the league. You might read a Tweet from Skip Bayless talking about how your half-back is washed up and won’t make it in the NFL, or listen to Adam Schefter talk about player signings no one cares about. All in all, Connected Careers is a football RPG for the jocks who secretly love playing World of Warcraft too.
Unfortunately, all of the strong elements from the previous Franchise mode and the fun mini-games from past Madden titles have been nixed. The Connected Careers mode forces its point too aggressively.
There are plenty of other modes to spend hours with. Madden Ultimate Team has returned and is “bigger and better than ever”. Much of the same from the past appears for this mode, except now there are even more cards, collections, and challenge fun to be had! You can spend hours just situating your “Riot Camp” and outfitting each one of your fantasy players with vital enhancements in order to make them the best they can be. The more you play, the more you will be able to unlock, such as collectible items like past legends that can carry into Connected Careers.
Gridiron Club is mainly for all the fans that enjoyed many of NFL’s last-season antics. This is where players will be challenged to reenact some of the “Madden Moments” from the 2011 season. The cool part is it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the year there will be updates so we can all enjoy playing special moments as they happen.
Madden NFL 13 isn’t just about all of the game modes they can throw at you. It’s about how well they can adapt and progress with gameplay animations. EA hawks the Infinity engine as the “greatest technical innovation in a generation”. Funny enough most of this physics engine has been implemented for EA Sports' other football franchise, NCAA Football 13… which actually happens to be a better game to play, though it just doesn’t have all the star power Madden has because of all the non-licensing of players names and basic info.
A lot like last year, the physics engine hopes to improve player interactions by accounting for almost everything—weight, mass, momentum, muscle tension, and balance all play a role. Before, you would make a tackle and the engine would kick in with some pre-determined action. Now, if a 300-pound defensive lineman bull-rushes a 180-pound quarterback and grabs the little guy with his huge meat hooks, the QB is most likely going down hard. Or if big-ass Brandon Jacobs wants to use his momentum and force to run over a much smaller Asante Samuel, he probably will.
It’s all about true-contact simulations. Players can also run into their own teammates which can cause a mishap in a play, like a center backing into the quarterback and not moving around in the pocket efficiently. Still, there are kinks to be worked out with the Infinity engine. Animations like players rag-dolling at the end of a play can occur; making guys abruptly fall to the ground, squirming like fish out of water.
Other aspects have been added to the mix such as total control-passing (which I thought was new last year), pass trajectories, receiver awareness (a page from NCAA Football 13), new QB dropbacks, pump fake animations, and more. Presentation is in full force and hopes to liven things up. Virtual reality has never been so sexy with the details, like the proper placement of the broadcast booth in different stadiums and accurate surrounding landscapes of home cities.
Bit of a downer, though, is the new announcer’s team. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms bore the hell out of me, and I miss Chris Collinsworth’s old quips. At least they added some authentic voice cadences from players such as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
If you want to feel like a big superstar on the field and have a cadence of your own, you can utilize the Xbox 360 Kinect and adjust plays using just your voice, calling hot routes, audibles, slide line protection, the whole nine yards (…that’s not a 1st down, though). Apparently there are over 6,000 voice recognitions; crazy computers, I wish my dog would recognize just 10 commands.
All that said, every year we beg the question: Is Madden really worth $60 for what little tweaks are made? Probably not, but most people buy it anyway because we all feel that desire to be caught up and current with what’s new. Say there were just year-round updates for “Madden Football”—all one would have to do is download the latest content, they’d be set right? Not quite. The entire allure of the game would be gone. No longer could people get pumped about learning new schemes to show off to their friends. If there’s no actual new game, then there’s no new cover, which means no curse. What’s Madden without its curse? (Good luck this season, Megatron.)
But whatever the case, every year there’s a new issue, so here we are with Madden NFL ’13. All of the glitter and colorful tassels have been added for our pleasure. There are plenty of new and not-so-old features to test out. And with the 2012 NFL season already underway, the excitement is already in the air. The final question is to be asked: Are you ready for some football?!