Lace up those cleats and dust off those shoulder pads, it’s time for another season of Madden NFL from EA Sports. Madden NFL 13 is poised to reinvigorate the franchise with a ton of new features on and off the field. The single biggest change on the field is the new Infinity Engine physics system. However, a major theme of Madden 13 is to be more connected to each other and the NFL. In the spirit of the more social approach that Madden 13 takes, Editor in Chief John and Gaming Editor Marc decided to tackle this review with a more back and forth “Connected” approach. Enjoy!
This review is very indepth so we have it split into a few sections to make it a bit easier to read, keep reading or use this quick table of contents:
- Gameplay (This Page)
- Connected Careers and Madden Ultimate Team
- Graphics/Presentation/Sound and Final Review Score
Marc: The team at EA Tiburon shocked the sports gaming community when they announced a real-time physics engine for Madden NFL 13, dubbed the “Infinity Engine.” They touted it as a wholesale change for the collision modeling in the game and, while it provides a fresh take on tackling in Madden football, the revolution is a bit oversold.
The first problem is that the physics have only been implemented in tackling situations. What this means is that blocking, WR/DB jostling, and movement are still basically the same as in Madden 12 (or, more appropriately, the upgraded NCAA Football 13). The interactions on the offensive and defensive lines are still animated without physics, although the pocket does form more realistically than in past years. Defensive ends still do not “run the arc,” as they are taught to do, but the team is inching closer to having realistic line play.
John: I must say the Infinity Engine is by far one of the biggest changes and improvements on the field. Getting rid of pre-defined animations not only offers up good looking on-field action but also gives the game much needed variety. No longer will you know what is about to happen, unlike in years past where you would be able to see patterns in the movement within the game. From the movement of your running backs to the hits your wide receivers take, the action is great. Seeing receivers jump up for passes only to have the defensive backs wrap them up mid air and bring them down is great. In years past the two would just collide and bounce off to the ground, or they would always tackle in the same exact way. Another aspect I really enjoy is in the way the running backs move. Running into your offensive line could cause your RB to bounce off or slide along your players, or while going through the line you might see your RB stumble, twist, then recover to gain more yards.
Marc: The second place that the Infinity Engine is lacking is that the physics do not come into play on initial contact. Most of the initial tackles are straight out of the EA animation banks from years past, and it’s really only in the aftermath and “clean-up” of those tackles that we see the physics engine come to life. That said, there are some excellent organic moments that happen in Madden 13 thanks to the Infinity Engine, such as players “crowd-surfing” on bodies for extra yards, or running backs getting their feet tangled with their own offensive line when hitting a hole. Players will have to be careful on the sticks this year, as like John mentioned, it is possible (and somewhat easy) to crash into your own players and get taken down.
The final issue with the Infinity Engine is that weight and momentum are still not taken into account when determining which tackling animation should play on the initial hit. I’ve seen diminutive defensive backs successfully tackle large tight-ends up high around their shoulders with great success, and using power backs doesn’t feel remarkably different than past seasons. Hopefully with some seasoning and greater implementation, we will see the Infinity Engine truly revolutionize all aspects of Madden’s on-field gameplay.
John: The physics definitely aren’t perfect. Sometime the tackles are unnatural with limbs twisting in inhuman ways. Or post play, players will stumble over each other and tumble to the ground. My other issue is stumbling is very easy, it seems like my players are constantly stumbling over other players feet. It just seems too sensitive at times.
Even with the issues, the new physics are a great step forward for the franchise. I’m sure over the years the mechanics of it will be refined. This is one system that should have been added to Madden NFL years ago.
Marc: Of course, the improvements to zone coverage and passing that were present in NCAA Football 13 are also here in Madden, and they are further refined. The issues with deep zone coverage that plagued the initial release of NCAA are not present in Madden, and the defense reacts more appropriately to what’s happening in their space. I would prefer that zone defenders played a little more aggressively and more effectively “squeezed” the underneath routes, but by and large the principles of coverage are accurately represented here. However, the improved passing trajectories, defender and wide-receiver awareness, and properly timed dropbacks make passing in Madden 13 a dream. I previously held NFL 2K5 as the “gold-standard” when it came to passing in a football game, but Madden 13 has leapt over it, and then some.
Finally, out of the box gameplay is unfortunately unbalanced. The running game is under-powered, and passing is far too easy. As you bump up the difficulty and adjust sliders, it is possible to make the game harder and more balanced, but I have yet to feel really threatened by the CPU, even on All-Madden, the highest difficulty. This was an issue on the lower difficulties in NCAA 13, but on the hardest difficulty (Heisman), that game presents a fun and fair challenge. It remains to be seen if there will be tweaks to Madden’s difficulty in future patches or tuner downloads, but seasoned players should immediately look to tweak the difficulty.
John: I have to agree with Marc on the balance of the game. Even though Phil Simms constantly reminds us that the NFL is now a passing league, the ground game is a big part still, but it’s a pain in Madden NFL 13. I feel the physics engine has a big part to do with it, as years past we never really had to worry about touching and possibly stumbling on other players. But there is also a major difference in the difficulty levels, the jump from Pro to All-Pro seems to be drastic compared to jumping between the other difficulty levels. Obviously playing with the sliders will help, but it will involve players taking time and trying different combinations.
There are a few other interesting changes to passing this year, as well. This season there are some actions that have been automated into plays. For instance if a play requires a pump fake, the pump fake will occur automatically as required by the play. Drop backs also now happen automatically, so no longer do you have to hold the left thumbstick back and set up. The timing is there in the drop back, so a properly run play can expect to have the ball coming out on the last step of the drop. Finally, you can now bail out of play action by using the right trigger as the play is developing. This will cause the running back to block, and the quarterback will transition to a traditional drop back.
Another neat addition to Madden NFL 13 gameplay is Kinect integration. Being able to bark out orders on the line is much faster and simpler than using the controller buttons. I think this use of Kinect fits perfectly with a football game. It doesn’t force you to play the game in an unnatural way like many Kinect titles do. Madden NFL 13 sports over 6,000 Kinect voice commands, so just about any football term and order you know, Kinect will be able to accept. For those that are unfamiliar with the commands, there is a handy voice menu bar at the bottom of the screen when using Kinect that gives you the basic commands and when to use them. The only Kinect voice issue I had is that you need to know the different cadence of each QB. Some snaps occur with a “Hut-Hut” while others only require a “Hike”. Bottom-line if you have a Kinect collecting dust like many gamers you might want to break it out for Madden NFL 13 as it really is a neat way to play the game.