Madden NFL 13 Review: To Infinity and Beyond

out of 5

Madden NFL 13 Review: To Infinity and BeyondI’ll admit it; I’m not a huge fan of the Madden NFL game series. I can’t justify paying $60 each year for what amounts to a roster update and a few feature rehashes and some technical tweaks. I enjoy playing the game, as I am a football fan, but since 2005, when Madden NFL became the only game in town, my interest in the series has waned.

So, imagine my surprise when I witnessed a Madden NFL 13 demo at E3 in June and saw the first glimpses of the new, greatly heralded Infinity Engine at work. I was intrigued. Could EA Sports have actually done something new to the tired old franchise? As soon as the demo was released, I was on it. For the first time in seven years, I was excited about a Madden NFL game again.

And now that Madden NFL 13 is officially out, I can say that this may be the best Madden NFL game in this console generation. It certainly represents the greatest year-to-year advance in the game’s features. Madden NFL 12 had issues. Lots of issues, but Madden NFL 13 has seemed to correct them, without creating a plethora more.

Starting with the presentation, gone are the rap/rock songs that thumped over the menus. Now there is an orchestrated overture that makes the game feel like a true NFL broadcast. Gone are Gus Johnson and Chris Collingsworth, whose play-by-play seemed to be coming from Curiosity on Mars. Now there is the CBS Sports “A Team” of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz to tell us all about Robert Griffin III, and why defensive backs shouldn’t play the line in a dime package, when the offense is lined up in the I.

Madden NFL 13 Review: To Infinity and Beyond
But the changes don’t just stop there. The entire game engine has been revamped, and this monumental rebuild is what makes Madden NFL 13 a must play for any sports game fan.

Total Passing Control has been totally rebuilt, which makes for precision passing by nudging the left stick on pass plays. It takes some getting used to, but the control is nice and adds a new level of realism. No more can you just press the hot route receiver icon and then the catch button and hope it all works out. Also, play-action abort has finally been built into the game. If the LBs are creeping on the line and burst into a blitz on the snap, pressing R2 or RT cancels the play action, and the ball goes to the RB, who then normally gets nailed, but hey, it wasn’t a sack.

As nice as these new builds are, the true gem on Madden NFL 13 is the Infinity Engine. This all-new engine was created by the developer, Tiburon, solely for the Madden NFL franchise. The engine adds a new level of physics to the game, both in gameplay and in the graphics. Now, no two plays will ever look – or play alike. Pass trajectories will be different each time they are thrown. How the DBs react will be different. Even the routes ran are different. And what the Infinity Engine does for the player models is amazing. I still, two seasons into my career, gawk at the beauty of the gameplay on the field. Players act like they should, and their bodies react to bone-crushing hits and pancake blocks more realistically than I have ever seen. Defenders crowd to the ball, and actually pile on to RBs, and the unique animations of each player, no matter the position they play, gives another level of realism.

The Infinity Engine also creates a very unique, and realistic, running game experience. Hitting the hole is now more important than ever, and the game forces you to actually use your juke and stiff arms to grind out each yard. When you get off a long run, it is satisfying, but when you miss, the crunching tackle is enough to destroy your morale – and the drive. In fact, all the hits are bone crunching without seeping into NFL Blitz-like territory. All of these instances factor into how great the new Infinity Engine is. This is, by far, the best-looking Madden NFL game to date.

Madden NFL 13 Review: To Infinity and Beyond
Also new for Madden NFL 13 is a major overhaul of the franchise mode. Now the franchise, dynasty, and even create-a-player are all rolled into one massive mode called Connected Careers. EA Sports has streamlined the entire experience into one cohesive career, hence the name. You will control a player, created or otherwise, until they retire, and then start a new player, but the game doesn’t reset. It keeps going.

Same goes for the coaching mode. If you are fired because you can’t get the Redskins back to the playoffs with RG3, then you hope another coaching offer comes by, or you retire, only to start a new coaching career in the same game world that your previous coach failed in. It is a unique idea, and with online careers, EA Sports is moving the Madden NFL experience into the world of MMOs, which honestly, might be a great idea.

Up to 32 players can play in a “connected career,” both as players or coaches. Unfortunately, it is only one human per team, though. So, I can’t coach a team that has a user-controlled player, and vice versa. Connected Career is not perfect, but EA Sports’ willingness to shake up the stagnant franchise and try new things must be commended.

Also, created players and coaches can be adorned with EA Sports Game face feature. Using an uploaded photo of myself, I was able to create an online “Me” that I could then map to my created coach. And the results were stunning. It is “me” roaming those sidelines, coaching the Redskins back to glory, and seeing my face each time really puts me “in the game.”


While Madden NFL 13 is a great game, there are some issues. The Infinity Engine, while amazing 99% of the time does sometimes create so very weird collisions, and “rag doll” moments. I’ve seen player’s heads twist 180 degrees, and arms bend in ways that arms are not designed to bend. Hands are sculpted into weird shapes, and legs do very weird things, like folding under and sometimes through other players. Sometimes players, after a pile up, begin to look like abominations taken out of the Silent Hill game franchise. In fact, you could play the old Benny Hill theme song over most of the plays and it would fit like a glove. And there is one player reaction that has come up a few times in a tackle that resembles a man just learning that the love of his life was just killed in a car accident. The player falls to his knees and the life is drained completely out of him. While enjoying the overall beauty of the game, it is nice, in a sadistic way, to see these mangled bodies pile up.

Madden NFL 13 also brings back the Madden Ultimate Team mode, where the player builds a team of NFL players from packs of cards and then takes that team online to battle other players. This mode satisfies the card collector in me, and the need to build the perfect team, made up of legends and current superstars. Packs can be bought with coins earned in playing and winning games, or with cash via the PSN wallet on Playstation 3 or Xbox Live account on Xbox 360.

The has partnered with EA Sports to create an interface within Madden NFL 13 for Fantasy Football. Players can run their leagues right through the main menu, and you can add or drop players and set lineups. Also, Madden NFL 13 will alert you when your real life fantasy players score points for your team. It is just another link in the overall NFL Experience chain that this game has built.

Madden NFL 13 Review: To Infinity and Beyond
Madden NFL 13 utilizes the Kinect on the Xbox 360 for the first time this season. Players can call out audibles, timeouts, and even challenge plays during a game by simply speaking out loud. While this sounds great, the Kinect only picks up the audio about 80% of the time, and god help you if you are driving down the field to score with seconds left and you scream “TIMEOUT!” only to have the Kinect not pick up the command. It has happened to me and it sucks. But, with some tweaking, and implementation of additional features, Madden NFL and Kinect could become a unique partnership in the years to come.

It is easy to dismiss the Madden NFL franchise as “over the hill” and a “shadow of its former self.” Trust me, I’ve done it. But this year is different. EA Sports and Tiburon Studios have rebuilt the Madden NFL experience from the ground up. The new Infinity Engine marks the greatest advance in gameplay mechanics in the series history, and the game looks – and more importantly plays – incredibly realistic. The presentation is all football. NFL football. And after all, that is what the game should be about.

Madden NFL 13 is the best football game that I’ve played in this console generation, and is up there with one of the greatest Madden NFL games ever. After years of misses, more so than hits, Madden is fun again. Playing solo, or online against strangers, this game is fun, and I truly enjoy myself. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a new era in the storied Madden NFL pantheons, and years from now, Madden NFL 13 will be looked back on as the first of many great football games from EA Sports.

Shop for Madden NFL 13 on Xbox 360 or PS3 for a discounted price at (August 28, 2012 release date).

Madden NFL 13 Review: To Infinity and Beyond

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