It’s been hyped for a while now, but Madden NFL 13 has really brought a lot to the table that could revolutionize sports gaming. Madden NFL 13 has finally listened to the hardcore sports gamers after drifting towards catching a casual audience the past few years. Recently, NCAA 13 decided to add modes to the game that they believed would be a hit with players that were not necessarily big requests from the community. In return, we saw one of the weakest responses to the series in years and quite likely the most-widely criticized installment since the move to the current generation.
Then we see Madden. In my opinion, Madden will take sports gaming to a new level. I’ve been eager to for a while, so I think I’ll finally tell you why.
Madden, from the start, had some promising news for the more casual fans with Madden NFL Social, a game on Facebook that would help bring friends together as they participate in an Ultimate Team-style game. To me, I hoped this did not mean Madden was turning the corner into only targeting the consumer fanbase, but we soon heard that maybe our requests were finally being heard.
First, we heard the broadcast crew was now the CBS Sports crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Two guys who don’t really seem to offend many people and aren’t exactly polarizing announcers. While that may not seem like hearing our requests, for me it was. I could not stand the commentary of Cris Collinsworth, so much so that I muted the commentary after a while of playing each Madden game he was in. I hated audio for Madden in recent years because of Collinsworth being just as incoherent as John Madden could get, but with none of the entertainment value. I didn’t like the commentary much at all, aside from maybe Gus Johnson yelling “He’s got gettin’ away from the cops speed!” I’d rather not be bothered by commentary than try to be entertained and fail.
But audio was nowhere near the end. Madden Ultimate Team is a mode that I’ve grown fond of and I take great pride in never paying any real money into the system to get top teams. With this year’s Ultimate Team, we have not only higher auction caps, but a full-fledged team reserves section AND an online version of the game to manage your collection. On top of that, they added a nice new mode to keep things fresh in Solo Challenges. Again, I felt like Madden was reading my mind on how to improve part of the game.
Then it came… the big announcement. PHYSICS, in Madden. Physics. I heard it and at first expected more of the same. I remember Pro-Tak and how excited I was, and how it ended up not being as revolutionary as I thought. I decided to withhold judgment until I saw it in action. I have to say, I was really impressed. Everything felt like I was ACTUALLY watching a virtual football game, not just silly canned animations. It felt like these two players were actually hitting one another, not just getting sucked into different animations. There were videos released showing us how player interactions for the same animations completely changed. I don’t believe we’ve seen just yet whether ball physics will behave properly in every animation, but we’ve seen a large sampling of examples where two players interact as organically as we’ve seen in football gaming, let alone with contact sports gaming.
But that wasn’t it. EA Sports wasn’t finished writing this love letter at E3 just yet. Around the same time, we get wind of Connected Careers. I wasn’t sure what to think of it. I thought maybe it was some sort of 2 or 3 player mode where players could use their superstars together and check out stats against one another– a simple mode. What we are getting, however, is so much more complex and brilliant. Gone are the days of “online” Franchise and “offline” Franchise. It would be one mode, available offline and online with equal depth in both experiences with the possibilty of each of the 32 teams being controlled. Already, I was excited. Then they included Superstar in this as well. This absolutely shot me over the edge. Now I can not just control teams with my friends online with a fully-featured mode like I had been waiting to see in Online Franchise, but we could also take over PLAYERS? Now it’s Online Superstar, with up to 30 people? It was music to mine and any hardcore Madden gamers’ ears. Not only could we be players in the same league, “live” with one another, but we could easily play one another without it defaulting to a team vs team game. One of my favorite features is your ability to be cut from the team as a player or fired from the team as a coach. After such a thing, if no team picks you up, you have to retire that player. It’s perfection. There is a consequence for playing badly. No more throwing seasons to get that number one pick. But then again, that number one pick could go back to college for senior year because THAT’S a new feature with dynamic recruiting. Not to mention we could do as many simultaneously as we pleased according to interviews. The innovation just didn’t seem to end.
This game is an absolute masterpiece on paper for what I do and how I play Madden. I love RPGs, and I love sports. My favorite modes have always been the ones where I could put my mark on the league in my own special way. Now it was possible, and it was possible with friends as well. XP won’t come easy, and we’ll have to earn everything we get. It’s the ultimate sports RPG, and it’s ONLINE with friends.
And finally, likely one of my more industry-minded favorite aspects of this game, is the exclusion of “pay-to-win” style DLC for the Connected Careers mode. If you want to earn a perk as a coach, you’ve got to grind and coach well. No more of the DLC we see so much from NCAA to get boosted player ratings in Road to Glory mode (though I understand its place in NCAA). Madden Ultimate Team became such a great revenue stream, it has allowing hardcore gamers to experience game modes untainted by systems put in place to get money. Madden Ultimate Team has taken the place of the sprawling DLC we see in some other games, and it has even become a great game mode for players who aren’t interested in paying money like myself.
Whether these promises will be fully delivered upon is yet to be seen. It is very hard to imagine the game to be a disappointment considering how many additions they have made this year and how much they would have to fail on each to really feel badly about the entire game. It is very possible that, in the final year of their exclusivity contract with the NFL, EA Sports is making a bid to extend it. I can’t complain, because I’ll be getting a great game no matter the factors involved.
I think what this game has shown will only help drive other sports games that are lacking in some of these game modes to push themselves further. Connected Careers is a game mode I would easily play in any EA Sports title it would work for, and even a similar mode if the NBA 2K team took a shot at it.
Madden NFL 13 does not look to be a game that just pleases another set of users for another year. This looks to be one of the most complete experiences sports gaming has ever offered and will easily push the genre forward. It’s bringing “my player” or “superstar” modes together online with dozens of people, making the biggest deep online team management mode we’ve seen, and learning how to make more money without trying some of the panhandling-level schemes other companies have resorted to. They’re showing the rest of sports gaming what smart revenue streams and listening to hardcore audiences can accomplish. I think on release day and months after, we’ll see how powerful that recipe can be.
If you’re frothing at the mouth as much as me after all of that, (which I doubt, it’s impossible to be more excited for this than me) then you can pick up Madden NFL 13 on August 28th on PS3, 360, Wii, Wii U, and Vita. The Vita, Wii, and Wii U versions will likely vary in features.
Note: Also if you noticed I used a Titan in both gameplay pictures, good eye. I’m a huge Titans fan. I had to.