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As EA sent us the 360 version of Madden 13, I got to take the liberty of using the new-fangled Kinect features. Do you like yelling at your TV like you have some sort of football-related version of tourettes? If you do, you and Madden 13 for the Xbox 360 will be getting along just fine. Truthfully, the Kinect features are pretty damn cool and actually fun to use when you see an opportunity against the opposing team. Is Kinect the savior of the Madden franchise? Hell, I didn’t even use the features more than 10-15 times a game. What Kinect does do though is introduce a new way to feel just a little more like part of the action. When using the Kinect play calling features, I had to use simple football terms to direct my team. If I noticed that the other team’s offensive line was spread thin on an obvious pass play, I could call out “Blitz play!” and watch as my team showed an oncoming blitz. On offense, I could move receivers around, direct routes or call for blocks in certain directions. As most Kinect enabled games brag “Better with Kinect”, Madden 13 actually gets the concept right.
What else is new with this year’s Madden? We have the new Infinity Engine, which is a real-time physics engine that accounts for things like mass, speed and body type in every collision in the game. Last year, something was said about no tackle being the same, this year makes that statement an absolute truth. I ran the ball up the middle with my favorite running back, only to get clipped by a defender on the line. In old Madden, that defender would have magically become magnetized to my player, initiating a tackle until I went down or broke it. With the Infinity Engine, Adrian Peterson jerked his shoulder back, stumbled a half step in the opposite direction and then recovered his speed and composure to continue his assault down the field. Hits in the game feel much more violent and realistic while reducing the lame flop-like tackles that existed in the earlier games. This has to be one of the most worthwhile changes to the Madden franchise since the addition of the Hit Stick. I noticed players on the field moving in much more realistic fashions and far less seizure-like movements and oddities. Ball movement is effected by the engine as well, no longer looking like it is following a predetermined path, while punts can take those very awkward bounces now, which are a staple of real football.
When I started playing Madden 13, I was immediately greeted by the most kick ass opening of a sports game ever. Ray Lewis recites a speech about being the best, overcoming your obstacles to stay the best and leaving your mark in what you do. I feel like this was an appropriate opening for Madden this year simply because the developers have said “We are getting rid of the pop soundtracks, psychic receivers and weird ass presentation and giving you the closest damn thing we can to the football you would see every Sunday. This is the way it is going to be from now on”. The improved AI certainly is better than past Madden games as well. Receivers have to be looking to catch your passes now, which means much more realistic game mechanics. I like it. A lot.
As I have been singing Madden 13′s praise this whole time, it likely sounds like this game is a perfect game all around. Unfortunately this is not the case. Graphically, I can’t help but feel like this game is only subpar in comparison to any other videogame. Almost every surface looks really weird when you look at it close enough, with textures actually looking painted on in many cases. Players faces seem to look much more like their NFL counterparts but everything else about them looks so… plastic. Pixelated graphics are still very common and weird things can be spotted that can immediately pull you out of the immersive state that everything else puts you in. While I was playing a game at Mall of America Field (an indoor stadium with fake turf), I noticed fine lines of grass in the endzone during a cutaway that resembled hairplugs more than actual grass. In fact, why was that there? It’s supposed to be fake, it’s almost as if they added the wrong type of field to the stadium. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are awesome additions to Madden but why do they look worse than any player or coach on the field. They actually look like they are absolutely fake, their faces look all smashed and squished. While still being (probably) the best looking Madden as of date, I still feel like the game could have looked better this far into all the consoles’ lives. I mean, the next gen systems are all around the corner and you still can’t give me an arrow on the field showing a route that doesn’t look like it came off of Tecmo Bowl?
My online experience wasn’t too great either. When I played online, there were obvious issues with lag that actually started making weird things happen, like reduced framerates and sloshy, unresponsive movements. Although I was getting trounced, it still felt like everyone on the field was moving around through knee-high water. Mixing that with the jerky movements of the game trying to catch up visually, I didn’t want to spend an overabundance of time in the online modes. Fortunately, I am almost 100% sure this type of error will be fixed by the actual launch of the game or at very least within a week of that. Patches can be great things indeed.
On the positive side of things, Madden’s new presentation is absolutely what the doctor ordered. Menus are sleek and easy to navigate, while other improvements have added to some of the other game modes. Connected Careers is one of the game’s most intriguing features, adding a fully fleshed out career mode that goes beyond just playing and more into the life of an NFL superstar. You can build rivalries, pander to the press and make major career decisions with a new created character, existing player/coach or a collection of legendary players and coaches. My favorite addition to Madden 13 is Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as the color commentators. While this isn’t the first time that Madden has used the commentating role, this is the most detailed that I have ever experienced. Often times, there is informative banter, like facts about player’s college backgrounds or draft history. It is almost a perfect remake of the Sunday game-day experience.
I enjoyed Madden 13 far more than I have enjoyed the last decade’s releases. While not perfect, Madden 13 delivers exactly what players should expect from the latest installment of a legendary franchise. Every year is the “Greatest Madden ever!”, yet this year, Madden 13 is exactly what the doctor ordered.
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- New Engine is AWESOME
- Simms and Nantz do nothing but make the game even better
- The new presentation for the game is so much better than ever
- Ray Lewis’ intro will give you chills every time
- Graphics are a little funky still
- Lag will seriously piss you off when you play online