Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Madden 13 Review

Much like coverboy Calvin Johnson, Madden 13 is a freakishly-engineered game package loaded with options that is sure to satisfy hardcore gamers. However, the plethora of choices when playing could scare off casual fans.

By JJ Miller

As the only game in town -- at least in the realm of virtual console football -- EA has often taken slack for putting out the same repackaged game year in and year out.

Madden 13 is a change in the course.

The latest edition of this cult game is loaded from top to bottom with new features ranging from graphics and sounds to just how you can play the game.

Often heralded as "Madden Nation," EA found an exciting way to bring friends and gamers alike together. They did so with the "connected careers" feature that adds a bit of role-playing element to Madden.

Players will have the option of joining leagues that can contain up to 32 human players either online or offline (think along the lines of a college dorm getting together on one Xbox). These gamers can either create a player or coach from the ground up, take over the role of an existing star or sideline boss, or even bring back a legend such as Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders or John Madden himself.

Players play the games and coaches handle other aspects like training, scouting and roster management. Reaching goals earns experience points used to improve your player or coach.

And if you get sick of your current role, connected careers allows you to retire and take over a new persona while keeping your former player or coach in the league under the computer's control. This was a well thought out feature to include in case you get bored with your role or don't have the time to commit that you thought you did.

Of course, a career mode doesn't have to include your whole neighborhood as you can create a solo league. One drawback, especially as a coach, is that you can't take out the RPG aspect, meaning you may spend a lot of time doing things like scouting or practicing instead of just playing the games. You do have the option of having the CPU executing these things, but perhaps it would have been better to just have a simple mode included.

Long overdue is Madden's new Infinity Engine, which tracks attributes like mass, speed and body type during every play. No longer will players like LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice truck over the likes of Ray Lewis or James Harrison. Instead, smaller players are likely to wiggle out of tackles or use their speed to pull away from bigger defenders.

The players themselves look great and the interactions are most realistic on hits and blocks. However, one humorous thing that often happens comes after the whistle, when players fly off each other and fall while walking back to the huddle. It's a minor glitch that doesn't hinder the game too much.

Total control passing, which allows the user to dictate the placement of passes, better receiver awareness and tons of new animations enhance the game.

Also, players sensing the blitz finally (finally!) have the option of breaking out of play action early when in the past the play usually resulted in an automatic sack. New sack avoidance moves are also a welcome addition.

Madden has also implemented use of the Kinect, allowing players to use their voice to alter the game. Users can call out audibles, protection changes and run the hurry-up offense without having to use buttons and also do things on defense like change alignments, blitzes and shift players.

The Kinect actually works pretty smooth and trying to change your defense when facing a hurry-up offense is as hectic as it looks on TV. You are going to have to practice a few times to nail down key phrases and I'm pretty sure that once the commentary said a phrase that the Kinect actually registered as me changing a play.

Speaking of commentary, Madden 13 puts the CBS team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms into great-looking booths that are actually based on the real things in each stadium, ensuring accurate looks and placements in the stadium.

Nantz and Simms are a welcome change of pace and interact pretty solid with each other despite being virtual representations. Simms in particular does a good job with rivalries and taking about key players, though his constant pointing out of plays that didn't result in first downs -- even a run on 1st-and-10 that netted 8 yards -- can get annoying.

Love them or hate them, the Nike uniforms are included in the game, which also features very nice pregame packages that even alter for primetime games and the postseason.

Madden 13 is by no means perfect, but the latest addition of the popular franchise shows that EA is no longer content with just running the same old play over and over.
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