I’m not ashamed to admit this: Madden NFL 13 is the first Madden I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in years. Ever since the release of NFL 2K5, I’ve never been able to get into EA Sports’ NFL experience. There are a number of reasons for why that is, all of which I won’t delve into here, but suffice it to say, Madden just hasn’t been my cup of a tea for a long time.
That changed with this year’s offering, though. Granted, Madden NFL 13 isn’t perfect, but what is available makes this year’s game feel like so much more than a roster refresh. For the first time in a long time, I’m proud to say I play Madden.
It all starts with the franchise’s brand new physics engine, the “Infinity Engine.” In the simplest of terms, the Infinity Engine makes collisions look and feel more realistic; gone are the days of stock tackle and collision animations. With the Infinity Engine, you rarely see the same tackle twice. That said, however, there are still a few quirks with Madden’s new back-end, which result in some hilarious face-plants in between snaps due to legs getting tangled up, for example. But the good far outweighs the bad with Madden’s new engine, making it a welcome addition that finally makes the franchise feel more dynamic and realistic.
Speaking of feeling more realistic, EA Sports has beefed up the presentation of Madden NFL 13 in a number of significant ways. The biggest of which is the new commentary team of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz, who bring a CBS flavor to play-by-play. Thank god EA finally did away with Chris Collinsworth and Gus Johnson. Their tired and oftentimes infuriating commentary has been benched indefinitely, making way for Simms and Nantz to step in and give a track that feels more energetic and spontaneous. Sure, there are a good number of lines/quips you’ll hear frequently, but overall Simms and Nantz make Madden actually enjoyable to listen to for the first time in years.
EA Sports also put a lot of effort into all other aspects of presentation in Madden NFL 13. Frequent camera cuts to check in on the head coach on the sideline, or the quarterback giving the signal in the huddle make Madden NFL 13 feel like the closest thing to an actual NFL broadcast thus far. It’s the little touches that EA paid close attention to that make the overall product stand out as something any diehard NFL fan should be happy to pick up and experience.
Outside the new Infinity Engine, the new Connected Careers Mode is probably the biggest addition to this year’s Madden. EA Sports did away with three separate career modes – Season, Franchise and Superstar – to instead combine them into one all encompassing mode that can be played online or off. Essentially, Connected Careers is anything you want for 30 seasons with up to 31 of your closest buddies.
Whether you want to create a new player, play as someone already in the league or an all-time legend, or be a head coach – whether new or established – you can do it all in CCM without ever having to quit your league and start over if you're looking for a change of pace. Ambitious much? Still, EA Sports managed to pulled it off quite admirably. But do note: EA did have to get rid of draft class importation from NCAA Football 13 and the ability to do fantasy drafts in order for this new Connected Career Mode to work properly.
I know it probably seems like I’m skimming over a lot in this review, only spending time touching on the items that are highlighted on the back of the game’s box. You’re not wrong. I’ve had Madden NFL 13 for roughly two weeks and I’m still peeling back the layers. With that said, I’m finding myself anxious to play Madden every single day after work, and that’s a feeling I haven’t had since roughly 2005. That’s probably the biggest compliment I can give the folks at EA Sports for their work on this year’s offering. Finally, there’s a football game I can talk about in the same breath as NFL 2K5. It’s about damn time if you ask me.
Full Disclosure: We received a copy of Madden NFL 13 for the PlayStation 3 from EA Sports. We played a number of games online and off, as well as roughly half a season in Connected Careers before starting this review.