Over the years I've reviewed quite a few Madden games and like its popular cousin, FIFA Football, the series has often provide us with a wonderful sports game which is extremely representative of the real thing. America seems to love Madden as much as we love our FIFA and so the series powers on from strength to strength, getting more realistic and adding many new features as each year passes.
So here we are again, this time talking about Madden 13 and the many new features that it brings to our consoles in this, its latest version. Perhaps the biggest improvement in this year's Madden comes thanks to the introduction of the new Infinity Engine. But what does it do? Well quite simply it provides a big boost not only to player animations, but also how they react to what it happening around them. This all means that what you are watching and playing is a more fluid and realistic version of football.
Looking back at the action on the park from previous games is probably the best way to show yourself just how much better this year's version is looking thanks to the new engine. Collisions appear as they should, tackles feel more realistic and everything runs a lot smoother than before. Madden now plays like it should have previously and it's only now that you'll realise this.
The Infinity Engine isn't the only main change of course. In fact straight from the off EA's introduced a new one hub menu screen, making it easier to access stats, see who's online and also giving you easier access to the various game modes. It's a less confusing, cleaner menu system which gives a great impression of what's come, rather than leaving you scratching your head in confusion about what to do next. This new and improved presentation continues throughout the entire game experience, with new cutscenes between plays and before games, lighting changes based on the time of day and a new stats overlay at halftime. There's even a new commentary team, although you'll still hear the odd phrase repeated now and again.
To be honest I'm not really a follower of NFL at all, so it's difficult for me to imagine how close Madden 13 feels to real-life broadcasts, but in comparison to FIFA, it's pretty much up there. All the fanfare, stats and exciting commentary is there, giving it the feel of a real life broadcast. If this isn't what real NFL already looks and sounds like on American TV, then it should be.
The huge amount of tweaks to presentation are all very well, but what about the gameplay? Well, EA has also been reworking the mechanics here too. Changes include new pass trajectories and ball speeds, improvements to quarterbacks - giving them new moves, timing windows for receivers and tweaks to Running Backs and Defenders. What this provides is a more refined experience, although to be honest this is hard to see unless you are playing the game for yourself.
As you'd expect from EA Sports, Madden 13 is absolutely packed with features and gameplay modes. There's online matchmaking, an Ultimate Team mode which is not disimilar to the one in FIFA and then there's Connected Careers, which is a brilliant way to lose hours in the day without realising.
Connected Careers basically combines Franchise, Online Franchise, the Superstar modes and the historic players into one gameplay option. Here you're able to play online or offline as a coach, specific player or a character created by yourself. You can play together with friends, allowing them to coach while you play or vice versa. If you get bored of your character, then you can retire him and take control of a new one. One of the main draws here is that as you play you'll gain experience, which you can then apply to your player or team, allowing you to mould either the way you want to. Throughout the entire season in Connected Careers you'll see story lines based on the season so far and even a virtual twitter feed, which shows comments from 'media experts' based on top stories and players.
One of the main features of Connected Careers is the legacy stats. As you play through the season you're players legacy score will change. Going into this allows you to compare your player to both all-time great NFL players and friends. Anything you achieve within the game will help towards building your legacy and getting you into the hall of fame, which lets face it, is what any player should be aiming for.
Connected Careers will certainly help keep you hooked to Madden 13. It's an addictive mode which makes you want to keep playing. I love the fact that I can be a coach and then if I get bored, retire him and become a player instead. But perhaps the most exciting and addictive part is being able to gain experience and improve your player or team the way you want to. All of which will have been earned by yourself over the course of the season.
Madden 13 may not look much different to previous games at first glance, but there is no doubt that the improvements made to this game this year have made it feel relevant once more. Often when a yearly release of a game comes out it's quite tempting to skip it and wait for the next one. Madden 13 makes NFL fun once more, so if you love playing with a virtual oval ball, I'd urge you to make sure you catch this one.
Review Policy (Version tested: PS3)