4 stars = Outstanding
Every year brings a new "Madden." Some years are better than others, and the same is true with the long-running NFL simulator.
This year's edition is a winner.
"Madden 13" offers a new in-game engine and a reworked career mode that bring fresh innovation and the potential to change the series forever.
"Connected Careers" combines the classic "Superstar" and "Franchise" modes of the past with added online gameplay. Players can start out as a legendary player or coach or as an entirely new character. Meeting goals earns XP, and solid stats build the player's legacy.
If gamers choose the coaching route, the experience will be more comparable to "Franchise" mode. The user handles the Xs and Os, manages the team's finances and draft picks and controls the players on the field.
This version of "Connected Careers" is more role-playing game than sports game. It's painful to get blasted by the media after throwing five picks in a blowout loss, but playing well and carrying a team to the playoffs are exhilarating.
It's when "Connected Careers" goes online that it becomes fantasy football on steroids, HGH and a whole lot of vegetables.
Leagues can be created, and friends or strangers can join as coaches or new players. Slots that aren't filled will be computer-controlled, and the leagues play out like an actual season of football. Players can trade with one another for players and draft picks, and a designated "commissioner" advances the season from week to week.
A large pool of willing players could turn "Madden 13" into an unparalleled fantasy experience.
Thanks to the Infinity Engine, "Madden" has never looked or felt better. The new physics system creates an infinite number of tackle animations. An athlete's size and momentum are taken into consideration, which ultimately decide whether the tackle is broken. It's about as authentic as you get in a video game.
The system isn't perfect, however. There is the occasional wonky tackle. Chaos after the play is pretty common as well, as players are constantly stumbling and tripping over the downed player. It looks a little ridiculous but is still good for a laugh.
The Xbox 360 version adds Kinect integration as well. The feature adds pre-snap voice recognition, allowing the user to call audibles out loud. Options appear at the bottom of the screen and the voice commands open up more specific choices. While it's fairly reliable and responsive, the controller remains the quicker choice for play calling.
"Madden 13" feels fresh, and that's a good thing for a franchise that puts out a new game each year. EA Sports pulled out all the stops and made a game that truly distinguishes itself from its predecessors. It's a whole lot more than just another "Madden."
Read more in Max Parker's Game Guy video-game blog at communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com.