Review by nastynate3118

"There's a flag on the play"

Introduction

Madden NFL 13 is (at the time of this review) the latest installment in the Madden football franchise. I have played only one other Madden game before this, Madden NFL 10. I enjoyed that game and looked forward to this one. For the most part I was underwhelmed with this game, and it appears to not live up to the praise that professional critics have given it.

Gameplay –5/10

The gameplay is practically identical to most of the other football games made after 1996. You control a football team and play through games executing plays on both offense and defense. There are several game modes that are available including an exhibition mode, online play and a Career Mode. I spent most of my time in Career Mode and I will spend the most time describing that after discussing actual gameplay first.

The gameplay in this game is truly a mixed bag. It follows the same formula as the other Madden games, but occasionally it can be glitchy. There were a few times when I was playing and converted a 3rd or 4th down and the game acted like I didn't, even though I clearly did and the announcers said I did. The physics engine in this game is completely new and still has a few glitches that should have been ironed out before release. The passing physics are revamped and rely more on timing and proper throwing mechanics. I would rate this aspect of the gameplay highly, but everything else with the physics is not up to par. Field goals and onside kicks seem to be more difficult in this game than the other Madden game I played and for some reason your players will run like they are stuck in molasses (with the sprint button held down). This is especially a problem as your character makes an interception; they seem to always fall to the ground or immediately get tackled while the computer-controlled player always takes off running. It is a mystery I cannot figure out.

Calling plays is very similar to the other Madden games except for one addition. You can either use the traditional box format that presents three plays at a time for you to choose or use a feature called “Gameflow.” On offense, Gameflow allows you to pick a run, pass or “gameplan” play that is either a run or pass. On defense you can either be aggressive, conservative or once again stick to the “gameplan.” I did not have a problem with this system in the single player although sometimes the plays they offer you make no sense, such as short checkdown passes in situations where you need to quickly drive down the field. I noticed that the Gameflow is really bad in 2 minute drill situations. It is also very poor in local multiplayer considering it does not tell you what the running or passing play will be and you are guessing blind, making it completely useless.

The online play in this game is pretty fun. I do not have Kinect so I'm not sure what that brings to the table but I still had fun. I wish I could have talked to other players on my headset.

The main “story” mode of the game is Career Mode. You can either play through as a coach or player. I played through as a coach and the amount of customization you have on the outset is pretty impressive as you develop your offensive and defensive philosophy. You do several tasks that would normally belong to the General Manager of a team such as signing and negotiating player contracts.

As you progress through your career, you are able to upgrade your coach and players by gaining experience points and purchase different upgrades. This RPG element is very poorly executed because you never really know which upgrades you already purchased and what difference they are making. You can earn experience points from practice and meeting certain goals in games, such as throwing for three touchdowns. You can also gain experience in practice, which is mandatory every week. The experience that is gained in practice makes no sense. You are given several different scenarios to complete in practice, each with a difficulty rating and certain amount of experience points that can be earned. These experience make absolutely no sense because some of the easier scenarios give more experience than the harder ones and take far less time. Eventually these practices become a chore and you inevitably start to plow through the rest of the career doing only the short, easy practices.

There are several other features to the gameplay but those are the main ones. You can play your career online as well but I personally don't see too much of a difference between doing that and playing locally. There are many ideas that are excellent that serve as the foundation for the gameplay but few of them are executed well.

Interface- 5/10

There are numerous problems with the interface in this game. Menus are hard to navigate in career mode and everything is just haphazardly organized. Expect to go through several prompts in the menu just to get to the information you are looking to view. Along similar lines, as I stated above one of the problems with the experience upgrades is that you do not really see any stat increase to your players when you use them and the game is unclear about which ones you have already purchased. When you do your upgrades you can either upgrade your characters yourself or have the game do it for you. The first option is very tedious and having the game do it for you leads to you not really being sure what was upgraded.

When you play a game, usually in the beginning there will be an onscreen graphic displaying the starting lineups for each team. These graphics whiz by so fast that it is pretty much impossible to read them, so I am not sure why they bothered to include them. Loading screens in this game are numerous and when you turn on your game, expect to sit through a few sequences of loads to get things started.

Presentation- 7.5/10

This is the category I would normally call “story” but seeing as how this is a football game, I decided to change it to “presentation.” This is not the same as graphics, but rather focuses on how Madden NFL 13 presents each game to you, as well as the introduction before the title screen. You can think of this as the production quality of the Madden 13. There are many things to like about the presentation in this game such as the introduction with Ray Lewis and the Twitter feed in Career Mode from various NFL pundits. The presentation and commentary of the Draft during Career Mode is outstanding and the final sequence when you win the Super Bowl is memorable.

There are a lot of nice touches to the presentation such as Aaron Rodgers doing his “green eighteen” snap count, but some of these are inconsistent and some players receive far more attention than others. The commentary in this game is provided by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Overall, their dialogue is not as varied as I'd like it to be and becomes repetitive very fast. They also tend to say wrong or foolish things. One thing that absolutely drove me nuts with the commentary is the fact that they would advertise various things while you are playing the game. I understand that they are trying to bring realism to the experience, but I think that product placement really has no place in a video game. It is annoying enough to hear it on TV and it is certainly unwanted in the game.

Graphics -8/10

The graphics look great in this game. The amount of detail given to the player is very high and their jerseys and arms are given lifelike features. I really like the use of light and shadow in the graphics and how it reflects off the players' helmets. The initial loading and title screens look excellent.

There only two things that I do not like with the visuals in this game. Faces tend to look awkward and strange. Some players look exactly like their real life counterparts and others look nothing like them. Some of the coaches look pretty strange and deformed as well. The crowd in this game looks like it came right out of a PS1 game with the cardboard cutout people monotonously cheering. It is laughably bad.

Sound/Music – 8/10

There really isn't a terrible amount to say about the audio in this game. The voice acting for both the players and the announcers sounds great and is very clear. I love the random things the players will yell on the field (“Lord have mercy!!”) and their grunts sound realistic. As I stated earlier, the voice acting does become repetitive and as I reached the end of my season, I did not want to listen to Phil Simms talk about gaining first downs anymore.

The menu music is not bad by any means, but it really isn't good either. They play generic football orchestrated music (reminds me of the Monday Night Football theme) and I believe alternate between two songs in the menus. During the games you can hear bits of several other songs (such as “Crazy Train”) but unfortunately they do not play in the menus. The menu music becomes repetitive and is very generic.

Play Time/Replayability - 8/10

I completed my Career Mode as a coach in 16 hours, 45 minutes and 47 seconds. I played every football game with 4 minute quarters. This seems to be a very lengthy amount of time to complete one season and I believe it to be inflated due to the romp through the menus you have to endure and the practices (some of them last as long as full games).

There is replay value in the fact that you improve your roster as you play on and you can play with multiple difficulties, but it really felt like I was drudging through Career Mode after a while and I was just playing to finish it. Most of the replay value comes from playing online.

PROS
+Passing physics are improved
+Online play is fun
+Presentation in introduction and draft is very well done
+Jerseys and players are designed very well
+Sound effects and voice acting are very clear
+Multiple difficulties and online play enhance replay value

CONS
-Physics engine is glitchy and inconsistent
-RPG elements in Career Mode are poorly implemented
-Gameflow system is bad in the 2 minute drill and broken in local multiplayer
-Menus in Career Mode are sloppy
-Commentary is repetitive and foolish
-Faces tend to look awkward
-Crowd graphics appear to be cardboard cutouts
-Menu music is pretty generic
-Career Mode drags on and takes a lengthy amount of time to finish

Final Recommendation

Madden NFL 13 is a very middle-of-the-road game for me. I am not blown away by it but at the same time I enjoyed my playthrough and have fun with the multiplayer modes. It is a game that has many great ideas that can be expanded upon in the future but they were poorly executed in this game. The online play makes this game worth trying out, but be prepared for a lengthy playthrough if you choose to do the Career Mode or any of the other extra things in this game.

Final Score: 6.91666667/10 rounded to 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/05/12

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


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