Marc: We’ve talked about how it plays, but what about how it looks?
John: Madden NFL has been a great looking game for many years. This year we don’t see the major jumps in graphics, however the biggest visual changes are in the presentation and lighting systems of the game. The improved HDR Lighting system gives the game a more realistic look, and as games unfold the system tracks the direction of the sun after each play. So no longer do you get the huge changes from quarter to quarter, but the lighting changes progressively after each play.
Marc: Actually, I’d have to say that visuals in the game are a pretty hefty step up for the series. Everything seems cleaner and more defined, from the field to the models. The animations are smooth, and the framerate stays consistent throughout.
John: The biggest visual change is in presentation. The new broadcast graphics, replays and pre-game packages really look identical to what we see every Sunday on TV. Each game begins with a unique opening video package and then we go into the booth with Phil Simms and Jim Nantz give us a preview of the match-up. The broadcast style continues throughout the entire game. Replays are much more refined than years past, though at times the replays are a bit dragged out with the slow-motion. There are also tons of new camera angles for replays and a much better depth of field to each of the cameras.
Marc: The replay system is strange. They drag and are accompanied by silence from Phil and Jim, making them feel disconnected from the rest of the game. They are typically so long that they break the flow of the action. Next year, I’d like to see some commentary on the replay from Phil, along with some telestrator action, and to have the replays all have different feels. Currently everything is so slow and methodical that it makes the replays less interesting.
John: Sound has also been drastically improved. With all new crowd recordings, the sounds of a crowded stadium are amazing. As the home team gets on a roll the crowd noise will become massive, as there is a much better dynamic in crowd reactions than in years past. The other audio improvement is in the commentary. It’s obvious that both Simms and Nantz recorded their commentary together as the conversations flow much better than last year’s game. Last year the commentary was very disconnected from normal level of talk to all of a sudden out of nowhere with high energy. This year that issue is almost non-existent. However at times the commentary is off, for instance Simms would begin talking about me stretching and completing a touchdown dive, however I was blocked and the drive continued. One thing that I was surprised to see missing is the studio updates we saw introduced this year in NCAA Football 13. I think studio updates would have further enhanced Connected Careers and would have upped the presentation realism even more.
Marc: In terms of their audio, Jim and Phil are great. I’m glad that they finally got a set of announcers that actually work together, which hasn’t been the case for at least the last 3 years, and the chemistry that Simms and Nantz have is apparent in listening to the commentary. Like John said, it still needs some work contextually to make sure that the commentary follows the action, but it’s a great start for the team.
I’m also happy to report that Madden 13 has a wonderful TV-Style presentation, with a realistic use of cameras, banners, and on-screen graphics that look and feel like something that you’d see on CBS. I’m disappointed in that it doesn’t appear that the pre-game cutscenes that take place for Play Now games appear in Connected Careers, as I feel those would have added even more to the presentation.
Madden 13 feels like a new start for the Madden NFL series, one that has taken too long to arrive, but is nonetheless finally here. From the TV-style presentation, to the improved managerial aspects of Connected Careers, and the Infinity Engine’s implementation of physics, Madden 13 positions the game in a great spot to take advantage of whatever the next-generation hardware will be. Some may argue that we should have gotten here a long time ago, but we are happy to report that the first truly “next-gen” Madden NFL title has finally arrived.
A copy of Madden 13 for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review by EA Sports.
Additional review contributions made by John