EA Sports has taken its "Madden" franchise to new heights over the years, getting its start on the Sega Genesis and Super NES and eventually moving to new consoles without losing any step in its stride.
Last year, however, a few players felt turned off by "Madden NFL 12," with its almost-too-strong defensive game and lack of fundamental new features. This year, however, it’s safe to say that the company has made a more successful run with “Madden NFL 13” (Which sells for $60 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC).
Within a few minutes of playing, you’ll see the fundamental changes that the series has gone through in a year's time. The passing game is much stronger, letting veteran QB's (like Peyton Manning) and newbies (like Andrew Luck) get their chance to shine in the spotlight — no favoritism here. Defenders have been toned down a bit too, so that they aren’t so psychic, though they’re still a little quick when it comes to bringing you down. The running game, however, remains fairly balanced, so you can juke, jump and spin your way to a quick score.
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On top of gameplay improvements, "Madden NFL 13" also has plenty of extras that will entice pigskin fans throughout the season. Connected Careers is a mode that ties together some of the best features from previous online franchise modes. It lets you earn experience points from games played to spend on player skills in whatever aspect you choose, while also keeping an eye on how your career blossoms. You can also team up with your friends in a league, and even throw a few coaching options out there, in case you’ve got some better plays up your sleeve.
The online action remains swift as ever, with barely any noticeable lag. Granted, we played the game before the storm of players that invade servers this Tuesday for "Madden's" official release.
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You can also monitor your team’s scouting and free agency situations, even keeping an eye on draft-day shenanigans with ESPN’s Trey Wingo and monitoring team-produced media tweets to see where the excitement lies. This is as involving as a football game gets.
Likewise, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are handling running commentary for each game, and while they get repetitive at times, they do know what they're talking about and even relate to situations that occurred previously in the game. Crowd cheers and arena music back them up almost perfectly.
As for improvements in the presentation, there are plenty. "Madden's" new "Infinity Engine," which drives the game, features refined animations that represent the sport well, from the thunderous hits on receivers to the crazy over-the-top dives in end zone pile-ups. There are minor glitches here and there with awkward player animations and minimal crowd movement, but overall it's a winner.
There are instances that keep " Madden NFL 13 " from being the grand champion of football games, such as the too-good defenders and the visual hiccups. But everything else comes together so well, you probably won’t even care. It's become the young buck to cheer on the field once again, rather than the tired old quarterback that needs to be put out to pasture. Not bad for a new entry in a 20-plus year franchise.
RATING: 3.5 / 4