'Madden NFL 13' Review

'Madden NFL 13' Review

When it comes to yearly sports titles, the biggest complaint you hear from fans is that the game didn't change enough. It's too much like last year's game, etc. Madden NFL 13 has made several franchise-altering changes, so fans will have a hard time declaring that this year's game is just a roster update or Madden 12.5. Madden 13's changes are plenty, and a step in the right direction.

Connected Careers is the new career mode in Madden 13. There's no more Franchise Mode, no more Online Franchise Mode, and no more Superstar Mode. All those game modes are now rolled up into Connected Careers. In Connected Careers you will start your career as a player or coach. Being a coach is just like playing traditional Franchise Mode. You will play all the games, make the roster moves and manage the salary cap. You can start your career as a created coach (you can use Photo Game Face if you choose), a current coach, or a classic coach like John Madden or Bill Walsh. Starting a career as a player will be just like playing the retired Superstar Mode. You will pick your position and start your career with the goal of making the Hall of Fame. Starting your career as an individual player gives you the same options as a coach: start as a created player, current player, or classic players like Walter Payton, Steve Young or Barry Sanders. If you go the classic player route, you will start your career with a rookie version of that player and have to work your way up.

One of the differences between Connected Careers and the previous career modes on Madden is the ability to change what you do within the same dynasty. For example, you can start your career as Bears coach Lovie Smith, coach two seasons, then switch to just playing with Jay Cutler as an individual player. But my favorite part about Connected Careers is being able to play it online with friends. All 32 NFL teams can be user controlled. This is finally the true online franchise experience we've been waiting for. But there are a couple of drawbacks. You won't be able to import your draft class from the NCAA Football game like you have been able to do in year's past. Hopefully this is just a one-year deal while the Madden team makes the transition with the all the changes. And custom playbooks do not carry over into Connected Careers and hopefully this is just a one-year deal as well.

Another big change for Madden 13 is the new Infinity Engine. Real-time physics has finally made its way to the Madden franchise and it's a welcomed addition. Gone are the days of the canned animations, so now you will see tons of different collisions and players will react differently on those collisions. Now, real-time physics can make for some strange visuals. You'll see players tripping over each other after the play is over and sometimes ball carriers hit the ground like a folding chair, but when you see those realistic broken tackles and big hits, it's well worth it. My personal favorite was a touchdown run I had on a draw play where my running back got hit, he put his hand on the ground to keep his balance, and took it in for the touchdown. This year I'm playing Madden on slow gameplay for the first time (I've always played Madden and NCAA on normal game speed). The slower gameplay seems to make for less wild collisions with the real-time physics.

Playing around with sliders is going to be key for a quality Madden experience vs. the AI this year. As is the case with Madden games, All-Madden level is way too hard - mainly wide open drops by WRs and a ridiculous amount of broken tackles by the AI, and All-Pro is too easy. I've been playing around with sliders all week, and I think I might have finally found a good balance. In my Chicago Bears offline Connected Career I beat the Colts in my first game 24-10, lost at the Packers 23-17, and blew out the Rams at home 35-3. To me, that's a scenario that could realistically play out when the 2012 season kicks off.

Madden 13 will have a new sound to it as Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are the new broadcast team. They are a lot better than the previous team of Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth, although, that wouldn't take much. But Nantz and Simms are solid and hopefully they will be here for the long term as consistency in the booth has been an issue for Madden on this generation of consoles.

Similar to NCAA Football 13, Madden 13 has added the new Total Passing Control and Read and React Defense. Playing NCAA for several weeks has prepared me for Total Passing Control on Madden. It will take some time to get used to, but once you get the passing down, you'll be able to put the ball where you want as a quarterback. But the defense reacts quickly (especially playing on the higher gameplay levels) and the throws you could comfortably make in previous years get picked off this year.

The Xbox 360 Kinect has been integrated into Madden 13. You can use the Kinect to call out hot routes, motions, audibles, etc... This could be an option for those who aren't the quickest at cycling through in-game menus to make changes. Just make sure you speak loud and clear or it won't read your voice at all.

Madden 13 has made a lot of changes to the franchise, and while there surely will be some growing pains, these changes are all a step in the right direction.

Score: 8 out of 10

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