Review by D87Cook

"EA Sports. It's Completely Insane."

For years I have eagerly awaited the release of Madden NFL -insert year here-. I have attended parties, midnight releases, endured the evil looks from my wife for having played too much and so-on. I've always been a big fan of the Madden series. However, EA is really starting to let fans like me down by trotting out the same garbage year-in and year-out.

Madden 13 features my favorite player, Megatron, on the cover. Seeing as I'm a massive Lions fan this pleased me to no end. Madden's always been a reflection of the best and most popular, featuring the best athletes on their cover because it's in fact a quality, top-of-the-line game. However...this year's title shows why the NFL should not renew their exclusive contract with EA Games.

Since Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald graced the cover of our fine game-love EA has relied on one thing...that gamers and fans will buy Madden at it's $60 price tag because of roster moves, rookies and online gaming. Being a fan of the Madden series, I can tell you that I bought it every year for these reasons. I'm not proud of it, but I did. I love Madden football. I love seeing all the new ratings, feeling out the new online features, and creating my fantasy teams with the new NFL kids on the block in Fantasy Draft.

The Absence of a Fantasy Draft

I know to any outsider reading this that it may not be a big deal. "So what, play as a normal team like you're supposed to," the casual passerby may say. However, fantasy drafting a league is what makes Madden so fun. If you want to have RG3 on the same team as Trent Richardson then by football gods you should be able to. The entire point to not improving Madden from a gameplay standpoint is that EA lets you run wild with player options and the ability to mess with the rosters and modes in all sorts of ways. No longer says big brother Electronic Arts. We have introduced to you our brand new Connected Careers mode!

Connected Careers Mode
Ever play NFL Head Coach? Probably not, but a few of us have played it to some extent and know the general focus of it. You are a head-honcho in the team of your choice. You make scouting decisions, make personnel decisions, gameplan, draft and much more. You control every aspect of the franchise you're with except for one crucial thing...you don't throw the passes of have any direct input into the game. Connected Careers gives you that control...along with all of the decisions. This gives the franchise mode a sort of strategy feel. To some this may be awesome. To those of us who didn't enjoy NFL Head Coach? Not so much.

There is hope! Connected Careers also includes Player Mode. This is different from Coach Mode as you create your very own player and then play as him. Sounds like Road to Glory from NCAA? It's literally the same mode from previous installments. You make a player. He stinks. You make him better. He still stinks. You don't get to control anyone but yourself. It's a decent enough mode, but it's already outdated and for most gamers, myself included, it has limited appeal. Buying the new Madden to create yourself on it is like buying a little red Corvette because you like the wheel arches. They were the same the year before so you wouldn't buy the brand new one to do the same thing with the same system.

That's Connected Careers. If you want to control all the players on the field you'll also have to scout out the incorrectly named college player you want to draft in the 5th round. If you don't want to do this, then you'll be limited to controlling only one player who isn't real on the field of battle. Maybe Madden Ultimate Team is better?

Ultimate Team
MUT is famous for being that game mode thrown in that no one wanted and no one really plays. You start off with a card deck that makes up your team. They're all terrible. You then play games against other players online in an effort to get credits to buy new card packs with random players within. It's very simple and should be addicting...but it's always been the throw-away mode in comparison to your more traditional Franchise Mode.

Sadly Madden Ultimate Team is the most traditional mode remaining. It has been improved with a smattering of single player challenges. In the end though...you're playing games against 13 year olds who quit halfway through because you intercepted a pass. It's not great, but it's the best Madden 13 can do for the digital meatheads.

New Collision Engine
Backbreaker came out a few years ago and accomplished one thing. It created a new physics engine based around multi-player collisions and location impact. It did a pretty decent job of it, so EA took the initiative and revamped their own physics system. It's not a drastic change, but the player "interactions" look and feel more realistic. It's still a little buggy. Chris Johnson may launch 20 yards upfield when he gets hit by a linebacker. The running game has suffered a bit due to the excessive tripping you'll experience during almost any inside run. Issues aside, it's really the only forward step Madden took this season. Considering it's their first year working with it, the developer did a decent enough job with it.

Graphics, Sound, Presentation
The stadiums and players look better than ever. There's not a lot to say about the look of the game besides that it's the best looking Madden to date. The presentation is much improved and the stat overlays throughout look amazing. Jim Nantz and Phil Sims absolutely rock in comparison to Madden 12's crew-who-shall-not-be-named. They must have done a ton in the sound studio because the amount of information they give you during the game is impressive.

Madden really delivers the total experience during the game. Stat overlays flood the screens at the right time, the menus are simple and easy to navigate. Even the opening screen really draws you in and makes you feel like you're about to play something special.

Gameplay
Once you've navigated through the terror of Connected Careers or whatever game mode you will finally find yourself at kickoff. From beginning to end, the game shines on the field. The passing system has been reworked and feels more fluid. Everything on the field feels much more intelligent and refined. Even the running system with all it's tripping and launching is better. When you break into even a little bit of open field...the analog stick almost disappears and you naturally make the moves without thinking. It's all very well done and makes for a great experience when you're on-field.

Pros
+ Feels great when in-game
+ Graphics have been refined and look fantastic
+ Sound and presentation are the best since Madden and Summerall
+ Madden Ultimate Team has been improved

Cons
- No Fantasy Draft
- Connected Careers takes away from actual gameplay
- The Cowboys are still an NFL Franchise

EA Sports and Madden have shared a masterful relationship -most of the time- over the years. I have been a true fan of the game since Madden 98 and this is truly the first year I was horribly disappointed. I never would have imagined I would return a Madden title, but there is a first time for everything.

On it's own, Madden NFL 13 is a decent football game with a lot of clutter you don't want. The core gameplay shines by EA Sports seems to be content with piling useless options and tasks on top of it to water down your football experience. However, longtime Madden fans will be turned off completely with the removal of the traditional game modes focused around strategy. Us meatheads of the world don't care who our defensive coordinator is...we just want to steamroll the running back.

I give Madden NFL 13 on the XBox 360 a 2.75 out of 10. Some good was done for the title, but the bad just kills it in the end.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/12

Game Release: Madden NFL 13 (US, 08/28/12)


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