I recently got the opportunity to spend a few days in the brand new world of Madden NFL 13. Now for any of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a big time NFL fan; I love American Football and I’ve loved Madden games in the past. My all-time favorite Madden games would be Madden ’93 (one of the best in the old school, was included with CE of Madden 09 with updated rosters!), Madden 2004 & Madden 08. I did like Madden 11, but I felt it suffered from the same problems as the others. The AI was still awful, the commentary was still awful and there just wasn’t enough new in the game to not make it a $60 roster update.

So when Madden 12 launched, luckily I had Gamefly at the time and I rented it. Only spent about 3 days with it before I understood that this was the worst Madden I’ve ever played in my life. So when they announced Madden 13 (not that they needed to announce it), I was VERY hesitant about it. But when I played the demo last month, I was shocked. The graphics were overhauled, it had a new engine and the commentary was more solid. Everything seemed to work, but I don’t review demos, so when a buddy of mine said he picked up a copy and he’d let me borrow it for a few days so I could review it for you guys, I jumped at the chance. But did Madden NFL 13 really live up to the hype of all these changes? Or does it still fall like an incomplete pass?

Let’s start by going over the changes EA Tiburon has made this year. First of all, and the thing most people will notice right off the bat, is the new Infinity Engine. This new engine lives up to its name. I played quick 5 minute quarter games and was able to make it through 4 years of the new Connected Careers mode and I rarely saw the same animations during plays or in between them. They definitely did their work with these new animations. Now the tackling is a bit wonky this year, not that it’s hard to make tackles, but if there’s more than one player dog piled, the AI will actually stumble and trip over each other, sometimes in very stupid, but humorous ways. You will laugh at them, trust me. Speaking of tackling, the AI in this game has been so overhauled, it’s unbelievable! I have never found it so difficult to find plays to call where I didn’t feel like it was going to end with a pick six. The AI in this game is tough, even on the easier difficulties, and if you play carelessly, they will eat you alive on both defense AND offense!

Another new small but very welcome feature this year is the ability to cancel play action animations. Played a Madden game in the last 10 years or so and been sacked thanks to a well-timed blitz before you even take control of your quarterback? Not anymore. Now with a simply button press, you can cancel the play action, mash the turbo and avoid that sack with ease! I actually love calling play action passes now where as in older games, I would actively avoid them at all costs. They have also reworked the pump fakes so that they will actually work on the defense, but not all the time, that would be cheating like hell. Really, the entire passing game has been reworked with new animations, new features like a couple I mentioned above, new trajectories and speeds for ball, and now, receivers won’t just catch the ball willy nilly without even looking back. If they don’t look for the ball, they aren’t going to catch it. I’ve had too many times where I have thrown it far too early to a receiver and they didn’t even see it coming so it went as an incomplete. Was I upset? Yeah, but it wasn’t at the game. I was upset at myself because I knew I messed up and threw it before I was supposed to.

Even the commentary has been overhauled this year. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have recorded over 80 hours of commentary so that it feels as real as it can every play. And it works too. They never messed up a player or team name like in 12, they 99% of the time called the play to the T, they even do what real life announcers do and call the ball on the wrong yard-line. For example, if XX player runs the ball and gets 3 yards, in real life, the announcer will sometimes say he only got 2 or he got 4. Well they do it in the game too! It’s nothing big, most people won’t notice it, but I notice the little things and it was a nice addition! I can’t really talk about the new Kinect features because I played the PS3 version of the game so I apologize to my 360 readers.

Now we are going to spend some time talking about the things I didn’t like about the game. The first is the new Connected Careers mode. I honestly am a fan of it, but at the same time, don’t like it. My main gripe was that they got rid of my favorite feature every year to do this. There is no Franchise mode. I loved Franchise mode, really in all the sports games I play. It’s my favorite mode. I also enjoyed Madden‘s Superstar mode from time to time, that’s also gone. But really, this new Connected Careers mode is basically Superstar mode, except now you can either create a player, use an active player or use a Hall of Famer. I spent my time bringing the old #8 back to glory in San Francisco! Now I know, you can play this mode as a coach, and the game says it’s like Franchise mode, but I’ve been playing Franchise mode for years and its nothing like it. I like what CC brings to the table as far a new features go, but I dislike much more that they got rid of my beloved mode to do it.

And now I want to get a little something off my chest here. It’s not a real big problem with Madden, more so for other EA Sports games like Tiger Woods. But Madden somewhat does it too with the Madden Ultimate Team (MUT). In MUT, your team is based on trading cards. You pick a player, you are given that player and then the game builds a team for you based on that player. I picked Chris Johnson from the Tennessee Titans. Now, I love the mode because it’s a challenge. Your team when you start off will suck with ease!

What you have to do is play games with your team and complete challenges that unlock points, or coins really. And then you can buy other packs to hope you get better players. Or you can sell, trade or buy other cards from other players in auctions. All this is great. What pisses me off is that EA goes ahead and offers these card packs for actual money. And its done in tiers.

So if you want to start off with the best cards, you can buy a deal of card packs for $59.99! That’s the price of the game! And people do it. And then when you play those people, they beat the living crap out of you! It’s unfair to the people who want to work to build their team up. But that’s not even where it gets me mad. Because you can buy those same packs with points (even though it will take you a lot of games to afford them). It’s games like Tiger Woods that piss me off. Because even though I spent $60 on the game, I bring it home, pop it in, create my golfer, play the career but come to find out there’s courses you have to buy.

And they are not cheap. And these courses are ones that are in the career, so if you don’t buy them, you have to skip those events which means you lose. I mean that’s like buying a NASCAR game, but not having all the tracks in the game without buying them and having to miss those events which means you lose points. It’s ridiculous! What happened to the days of me shoveling out the full price of the game and getting the full game?!

Anyway, sorry about that, just a small rant. Back on track here. Madden NFL 13 isn’t the best Madden game. It is however the best Madden game in the last 8 years! It is well worth the money for any and all fans of the sport and it is a blast to play alone or with your buddies! I highly recommend it, but ONLY if you enjoy the sport.

Madden NFL 13 – 8/10