Among the Wii U games that came out last week are three sports titans that have scored a huge success on other systems: "Madden NFL 13," "FIFA Soccer 13" and "NBA 2K13." We tested them to see how well they compare to versions on other consoles.
"Madden NFL 13" (EA Sports, $60)
The Wii U version is missing some fundamental features popular in other editions — namely, Infinity Engine technology, which improves tackle animations, and the "Ultimate Madden" features that enable "building" your ideal team universe. But there are some unique GamePad features that really get you into the game, to the point that you're tweaking plays on the fly.
With custom hot routes, you see the players line up from an overhead perspective on your GamePad screen. At any point, you can touch your finger on a specific player and set up a route, either on offense or defense. This sure beats trying to do it with a game controller. The passing/running gameplay works just fine, too.
The graphics, while a step back from the PS3/360 versions, are realistic enough, with solid player animations and stadiums modeled after their real counterparts. (Yes, Dallas' mega-stadium is included.) Jim Nantz and Phil Simms provide good running play-by-play commentary to boot.
The Connected Careers mode combines the best in team and player management. Finally, you can easily play online against friends. [See also: ' Madden NFL 13' Scores On a Tremendous Drive ]
"FIFA Soccer 13" (EA Sports, $60)
"FIFA 13" offers a ton of GamePad options, whether it's watching the action from the owner's box or making substitutions through a top-down, on-field display, which shows formations and players in real-time. You can also set up a player to chase after a particular defender or ball handler or direct a precision pass from anywhere on the field to an open man, simply by tapping on a player and setting the route.
Not every feature is fundamental, however. There are moments when you can take a shot on goal by holding the GamePad up and tapping the screen. But the regular button/analog controls work much better, if only because using the GamePad takes seconds more to aim and shoot — during which the ball could get stolen.
Traditional run-and-shoot gameplay is refined and ideal for soccer fans of all skill levels. The graphics and sound bring the game to life in utterly realistic ways; and the online features let you send comments — or taunts — to friends while setting up potential matches.
"NBA 2K13" (2K Sports, $60)
2K's basketball sim takes full advantage of the Wii U, enabling you to play on your TV or on the GamePad screen. Another interesting feature involves Gatorade-sponsored biometric player readouts displayed on the GamePad. Players appear "hot" (red) or "not" (blue) through body heat readings. You can tap on a player to check stats, in case they're suffering from fatigue. (Substitutions can also be made through a GamePad sub-menu.)
The rest of the game features are just as good as with other console versions, including free-flowing game commentary, the 1992 and 2012 Olympic dream teams (with Charles Barkley), strong career management modes and fun gameplay.
That said, the graphics come up short, running at half the frame rate of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. It doesn't get in the way of game performance, though. In our tests, however, the game crashed several times, forcing us to restart the game entirely — a problem when you've scored well on the floor. Hopefully, 2K will address this with a fix soon.
"NBA 2K13" misses the hoop a few times, so to speak, but overall, it still offers fun play for basketball fans — as a rental, at the very least.