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28 August, 2012

Madden 13 Review

 I did the podcast with Bill Simmons today (see the post below) but wasn't able to get to everything, so here are some thoughts on Madden '13.

   Props to game play designers like Larry Reichart and his crew for really upgrading the realism of the game. Last year was great, but this version really is improved. 
Also a shout out to Stephen Gibbs and Zach Farley who put together the Madden Strategy guide. There's a ton of great info in there and great tips for each team that can help you win. 
Check them out at

   As for the game, make sure to watch the opening Ray Lewis monologue when the game begins. It's like LT's speech in Any Given Sunday. "When a man looks back on his life, he should be proud of all of it..."


As I mentioned in the podcast, the fantasy draft for on-line franchise play is gone. 
If you play in an on-line league, this is a crusher. One of the best parts of that process was putting your team together, out-scouting your fellow owners and finding the real value players and watching them grow. Now you have to be a team and work with them. In other words, you go into Connected Career Mode as a coach and you still play the game the regular way, but you have to start with an actual team roster. I'm not sure how free agency works in this mode. It would be fun if there came a time when our league got together for "free agency day" and we battled it out for the best free agents. 
   There are fake Twitter accounts in this mode, so you see guys like Mark Schelreth and Adam Schefter tweeting about developments in the league, which is kind of cool. 
  In CCM retired players can come back, so there may be hope for Bill to play with Steve Grogan some day. 
  You can also choose to be a player, rather than a coach, and just take part in the plays that involve you. Kind of like Road to the Show in MLB the Show. In your CCM leagues, one guy can be a QB of the Steelers, the other guy could be the Raiders coach and the league goes on like normal.  In short, the game designer, Josh Looman, is really trying to make it the first true sports rpg.
  One part of CCM that I really like is the practice mode. As you go through each week as a coach, you have the option to run a practice. There are dozens of challenges each week that vary in their points value. IE, you are down 14 points at the start of the 4th quarter, come back and win and you get 500 points. These points are used to improve your team or can be used in scouting college kids. It's a great way to really work on your schemes and game plans and get value for your time spent.

   When you play afternoon games, shadows can be problematic. When the sun is behind a team, the shadows block out the jerseys and on kick returns and long passes it's tough to identify which team players down the field are on.  

   The infinity engine is really good. Basically it puts physics, momentum and reaction to contact into the game. The bodies move in life-like ways. Running backs progress can be impeded by their lineman. Players can make trip tackles. DB's vaporing through your receiver to pick off passes now get called for pass interference. The only down side is after the whistle players tend to fall over each other and flop around. It looks like a Rudy Fernandez highlight film. Overall, this is a huge improvement. 

KR has it's juice back. It's back to where it was a few years ago where kicks can get past the 20 more often then not and the really good returners are weapons. 

Total control passing- There are 25 new trajectories on passes and over 400 new catch animations plus total control passing allows you to throw the ball to space. This makes it  much easier to throw balls over defenders and into space. You can lead guys much better. Receivers catching along the sidelines do it better. The "moon ball" pass to the flats is gone. 
Also, receivers can't catch the pass if they're not ready, so throwing it when a guys not looking is almost always incomplete. This comes into play with RBs out of the backfield on blitz plays. You'll see a lot of passes bouncing off the back of helmets. Again, more realistic.

You can abort a play-action pass if you see pressure. Also on play-action, it doesn't take as long to develop and your RB's chip before going out on their patterns. You don't see a lot of PA passes with 4 or 5 receiving options, and that is no longer the case in the game. 

User control catching is much improved. When you take control of the receiver, he doesn't run off his routes and your chances of pulling a pass are much better.

Read + React defense system. Players can only make plays on balls they see. The magical linebacker who jumped and swatted a pass that his back was turned to is gone. Between this and the new passing trajectories, passing is a whole lot more enjoyable. 

Disguise coverages. Even in zone a DB will go in motion with a receiver and defenders adjust their coverages on the vacated side of the ball. This really puts an emphasis on reading coverages and makes the game much more of a chess match. It also lessens the chance of a LB covering Calvin Johnson (which would never happen. Hey, more realistic!)

You can also commit to runs or passes before the snap. This is really helpful against the previously unstoppable QB sneak on 3rd and inches. 

EA mic'd up the QB's and were able to get authentic cadences from Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Tim Tebow. So when you audible with these guys, you hear their voice. Pretty cool. It also sounds like they recorded actual stadium crowds for some of the noise. After touchdowns you can hear some great random screams and stuff. 

   Oh, I almost forgot. With legends mode in CCM I can be a rookie John Elway and play his career. That is awesome. 

   Every year I wonder how they can make the game better. Every year the people at EA find a way to do it. If spending the money on the new game is a tough call and you feel like you're not really missing out on anything, no one can blame you. But I will say Madden '13 represents the largest increase in year-to-year improvement the game has presented in quite some time. I just wish they had found a way to keep the fantasy draft for on-line league play. 

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