Madden NFL 13 review (PS3)

Another year, another instalment of the gridiron. Normally this would mean: take Madden 2012, add something new, add new names , add a slightly almost unnoticeable new skin, a new cover star, and cash in.

Some features of Madden 13 remind you that there’s a wee bit of rinse-and-repeat, yet some are so unique and refreshing that you really get your money’s worth straight out of the box

That’s new!

The Infinity engine is what powers Madden NFL 13’s enhanced animation and physics, and EA Tiburon should definitely be proud of the tech.

Whilst Madden 13 is not the prettiest game that I have played, the physics engine makes the game incredibly realistic. I have clocked a fair amount of in-game hours playing both the review copy and the demo, and even in the demo, not once did I see a body fold in the same way once tackled. It feels as if the impact and momentum is distributed and absorbed as it would be in a real-life situation. I truly hope that Sidhe sits up and adds this into their future rugby titles.

In terms of audio presentation, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are the Hugh Bladen and Geoffrey Boycott of the NFL. Before each match, these fine gentlemen appear on-screen and provide content-rich commentary, which is both non-generic and relevant to the match that’s about to unfold. The authentic commentary, detailed character models of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, and well-designed stadiums make it feel like you’re watching a real match.

Gone are the EA Trax that abused your ears in the earlier titles. They have been replaced by 16 tracks of fully orchestrated audio work, composed and conducted by Mr Colin O’Malley and his orchestra. It really is well suited to the NFL franchise and adds a sense of drama to the matches.

The new user-interface is super-slick and drop-dead gorgeous. No glitches and extremely easy to navigate. It almost feels as though it has been designed for a touch device. From the opening sequence where Ray Lewis gives you a “Remember the Titans” style speech with sweeping orchestral music in the background, through to the pre-game selections, the UI is excellently presented.

Game modes

Connected Careers: I am really hoping that FIFA 13 has the ability to integrate this. Whether you want to start a collective career mode with your mates, or you want to track your career success with the best in the world, Connected Careers gives you the ability to do this. The majority of my sports game-time is spent building a team from the ground up, and the ability to now do this with friends is a huge addition.

If I had to single out one reason to buy the game, this is it. You can now play a full career as a player or a coach with up to 31 friends, each taking control of a different team. Whilst you still don’t have the ability to have a custom player and coach (such as in FIFA), this is still a step in the right direction and you truly feel that this is a game-changing event (pardon the awful pun). A brilliant feature is the twitter feeds of NFL journos and celebs that appear on the left of your main career page. It really makes the experience feel authentic and alive.

Madden Ultimate Team: A combination of Madden NFL 13, Fantasy Football, and a card trading game. Select your Captain from your favourite team and start building, trading, and auctioning off your player cards to build your ultimate dream team.

Madden Gridiron Club: This may very well be the most ground-breaking and most sought-after element in the realm of sports games since the genre’s inception. You can download real-life games that took place in the past week and replay them. This not only allows you to change the result of your favourite team’s loss over a rival, but also allows you to experience the same pressure that your team’s players were put under. Through this mode you can also download the latest NFL rosters, watch tutorials and tips form the best Madden players, track your progress through previous Madden titles, and access loyalty rewards.

Gameplay

Total-control passing gives players the ability to control height and speed changes. You can also stop a predetermined pass and lob the ball away before you’re sacked.

You can also now intercept the ball by pressing an intercept button at the right time, making interceptions about timing and accuracy as opposed to luck.

If you’re not into the intricacies of the sport, Gameflow automatically selects the best play for you at that time, allowing for the game to be sped-up significantly. You can choose to opt out at any moment and select your own play if you’re feeling ambitious.

Whether you’re playing with your mates or online against some American enthusiast, multiplayer is where Madden shines. The human element highlights the strategic elements of the game. Mistakes can be made and games are always close.

An interesting online feature is the “friendly-quit”. I was playing online via my extremely volatile 3G connection and I had my opponent request to end the game; thus ending rage-quitting and allowing you to opt out in a respectful manner.

Some things never change

The day a developer decides to produce a properly interactive crowd I promise to play that game until I have completed every game mode twice! In any sporting event, the crowd is solely responsible for atmosphere. A 2D pixelated block that looks vaguely human does not a crowd make. Dead and soulless animations with scripted sound effects only detract from what good Madden does with its presentation.

MIA

The Half Time show – I have no idea what happened to the halftime show, but it is sorely missed.

If you are even remotely interested in American football, do yourself a favour and buy this game. It is a must-have for any fan of the genre. Sporting titles are either on-form or not, and this title is the start of a hot streak for EA. Let’s hope that future FIFA , NBA, NHL, and Rugby titles can get the same Madden Gridiron treatment.

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