I’m not the Madden guy. I’m sorry. I hate to disappoint you. I can’t even say that I genuinely like football… or any sport really. In that way, I hope I can offer a unique view at a simulation sports game that comes out every single year and rarely adds as many new features as it did for the 2012-2013 season.
It’s true that EA Tiburon and EA Sports have brought real-time physics to their dominant sports title and that Connected Careers is meant to put you in the cleats of your favorite footy-baller. It’s also true that everything else from previously years is still on the disc, but does anyone care? Are we even paying attention?
If you haven’t been paying attention, you really should. It’s shocking, especially to me, to say this, but Madden NFL 13 is the best yet and it offers genuinely compelling gameplay, even to the uninitiated like me. In particular, I want to highlight Connected Careers as the single greatest addition to the series in a decade.
It makes fantasy football look like boring, old reality. Connected Careers lets you suit up as anyone from the name brand first-string quarter back leading the team to the super bowl to the rookie hoping to get on the field at some point… in the next two or three seasons. You can even unlock legendary players like Jerry Rice or play as coaches calling plays throughout the season.
Ultimately, it means you can be as invested as you want to be. The diehard football fans will get a ton of gameplay out of consecutive seasons, while casual fans like me will enjoy lacing up as Tom Brady and throwing the winning touch down pass. I repeat that Connected Careers outclasses any fantasy football league you might be joining by including up to 31 of your friends.
Week to week, you and your buddies can all play in the same league, even competing with each other and ultimately facing off in the playoffs. Players will complete training and games before the week advances, with plenty of settings to tweak for your particular group’s needs.
It speaks directly to the wealth of enjoyable gameplay that Connected Careers is mentioned before the new physics engine. That’s not to say there aren’t truly impressive moments in 13‘s presentation. While San Francisco’s Frank Gore leapt over a handful of linebackers, a defensive back dove for the running back’s legs.
EA is calling it the Infinity Engine, a physics system that ensures that Frank Gore’s legs don’t go cartwheeling through the air and off into the crowd. Instead, Tiburon has developed the Infinity Engine to account for the muscles in each of those legs, meaning Gore doesn’t perform feats of absurdity on his way to the red zone.
The dog piles and tackling animations no longer look canned and out of place. Instead, players tumble over each other and stumble as they get to their feet. In between moments of brilliance, the Infinity Engine also stumbles from moment to moment.
At one point in a match between myself (the NY Giants) and Anthony (the Patriots, how predictable), Eli Manning’s face mask suddenly turned to velcro. It stuck to the shoulder pads of linebackers merely brushing by him.
In another offline game, Adrian Peterson struggled to get off the grass because his ankle was bent at an impossible angle while stepping over a defender. This caused him to fall back over and stay down until I called the next play. I wouldn’t say that the Infinity Engine wasn’t worth the trouble.
It is truly a step forward for the series and helps to defend Madden against competitors that come complete with real-world physics. It’s refreshing that players don’t slide around just to get in position for an animation. Frankly, it’s the first iteration of the engine and there’s a lot of room to grow.
Aside from those two large additions to the franchises, you should already know what you’re getting into whether you’ve bought and played Madden every year or you’re just getting into it now. The reality is that it comes down to whether you even like football or not.
Do you? Do you watch every Sunday? Do you wish games were on every day of the week? Do you have friends that have already preordered Madden NFL 13? Can you put up with some nagging issues like frame rate lag and small glitches? Can you deal with the same commentary repeated several times in a single game?
If you answered yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, then Madden NFL 13 is a fantastic game and you should buy it right away. It’s not a generational leap, but there’s enough new for returning armchair quarterbacks and enough good for fans even mildly interested in simulating their favorite sport.