Madden NFL 13
EA Sports Xbox 360 (review copy) Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Wii
A Lions fan might take one look at Calvin Johnson gracing the cover of Madden NFL 13 and feel his heart swell with pride. He might proudly declare that Megatron being voted this year's cover star catapults the Lions to new heights in respectability as a talented, dangerous team, light years removed from the 0-16 debacle that took place just four chronological years ago. And EA could probably sell plenty of copies of Madden 13 — around here, anyway — based on nothing more than the fact that our favorite 6'5", 4.35 40-running, triple coverage-beating deep threat is on the box. Thankfully, this year's Madden is more than just a $60 souvenir to commemorate the Lions' recent foray into the limelight after over a decade of irrelevancy during the dark age otherwise known as the Millen Era. Like the Lions, Madden 13 has upped its game, offering an across-the-board overhaul that provides a solid foundation for years to come.
The first thing that gamers will notice when firing up Madden 13 for the first time is the revamped presentation, which aims to provide an even more realistic looking and sounding game experience that rivals being right there on the field, or at least in front of your TV during a real game broadcast. Game menus and load screens do an excellent job of capturing the authentic look and feel of the NFL brand, and navigating the game's many modes and options hasn't been this intuitive in years. Improved lighting effects, new camera angles, more character animations, fully-redesigned pregame presentation packages and motion blur effects make this the most realistic-looking Madden yet. In fact, the visual difference in one year hasn't been this pronounced since the series first made the leap to current-generation consoles back in 2005.
Much of the enhancement of the visual aspect of Madden 13 has less to do with graphics, in the traditional sense, and more to do with gameplay, thanks to the introduction of the new Infinity game engine. This real-time physics engine creates more fluid, organic interactions between players on the field than ever before. The variety in player movements and outcomes of contact is virtually endless. In one game, I marveled as Ndamukong Suh used a swim move to get past an offensive lineman, then leap frogged a bowled-over tight end en route to sacking the quarterback. The motion appeared so natural and unpredictable. It's a feeling I experienced often while playing Madden 13 — that no button press or stick movement had a predetermined response, but rather an intended one that would also be influenced by a number of factors on the field. A similar experience was a play in which Calvin Johnson caught a pass over the middle, broke two tackles, and was then brought to the turf by two cornerbacks, but not before he stretched out backwards with the ball to get the first down. This kind of attention to detail brings the incredible talent of NFL athletes to the game in a way that has never been captured in previous entries. The new Total Control Passing system adds more nuance to the passing game — a must in the pass-first world of today's NFL.
In the audio department, the disjointed and recycled commentary of Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth has been replaced by the real-life CBS broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms — a vast improvement. The conversational, naturally-flowing commentary between the veteran broadcasters is a welcome change. Also, the usual mish-mash of pop music has been replaced by rousing, NFL-worthy instrumental theme music, along with authentic sound effects and player chatter provided by NFL Films.
In addition to improvements to the core on-the-field game experience, which is better than ever, Madden 13 also offers its richest selection of games modes in franchise history. Gamers can easily jump into a quick Play Now game either offline or online, try their hands at recreating classic NFL finishes in Madden Moments, build a dream team in the fantasy-style Ultimate Team mode, or dive into the extremely deep Connected Careers mode — touted as the first-ever sports RPG. This mode rolls the old Playmaker, Career and Franchise modes into one, allowing players to experience the league as either a coach or player, and then go on to achieve legendary status. Whether online or offline, with current players and coaches or legends like Vince Lombardi and Barry Sanders, the Connected Careers mode provides a deep, rewarding and immersive NFL experience.
Every year, EA manages to put out a Madden product that at least appeases its fans with updated rosters, a handful of improvements and a few gimmicky additions that may or may not stand the test of time. We eat it up because it's the only NFL game out there and we, as a nation, are NFL addicts. Madden 13 represents the first time in a long time that the franchise has given its fans much more than they have asked for, and the result is the beginning of a bold, exciting, new chapter for the series.
Lions Madden 13 Season Simulation
This edition of Real Detroit Weekly's annual, highly unscientific, Madden season simulation reveals that the Lions will take the next step in their development as an up-and-coming, soon-to-be Super Bowl contender, winning the NFC North division with an 11-5 record and making consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1995. Regular season highlights include a home opener fireworks show against the Rams in which Matthew Stafford would earn NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his 401 yards passing and four touchdowns in a 47-28 rout. The Lions would stay hot in week two in a "handshake-gate" grudge match against Jim Harbaugh's 49ers that would end with a thrilling fourth quarter comeback, capped by a 24-yard Calvin Johnson touchdown reception on fourth down with eight seconds remaining to ice the 20-17 victory. The Lions would once again get off to a 5-0 start before losing to the Eagles in Philly in a 21-10 nail-biter. The team would rebound on Monday Night Football in Chicago with a 23-0 drubbing of the Bears, including four interceptions. The Lions would exorcise some demons by winning on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2003 and doing so in explosive fashion, crushing the Texans 40-20 thanks to two kick returns for touchdowns by Stefan Logan, deep touchdown passes from Stafford to Nate Burleson and Titus Young and five takeaways by the underrated secondary. The Lions would not, however, break their losing streak at Lambeau Field, where they haven't won a game since 1991. Nevertheless, a big win against the Bears in week 17 would earn them their first division title since 1991, bringing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to town for a home playoff game in the Wild Card round. The Lions would play a solid, well-balanced game and advance to the divisional round with a 20-17 win. Detroit would have to travel back to San Francisco for their divisional matchup against new rivals the 49ers. Despite a 7-3 lead at halftime, the offense would stall in the second half, and the Niners would defeat the Lions 24-10. Calvin Johnson, Tony Scheffler, Ndamukong Suh, Chris Houston and Louis Delmas would all get voted into the Pro Bowl as the Lions inch even closer to Super Bowl glory. | RDW