by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on X360
Something added, something lost
Beside the gameplay, modes and features are significantly different from previous iterations, for better and worse. The licensed music is gone, replaced with NFL-style orchestrated scores. It makes the game feel much more like a Sunday afternoon and less like a bad MTV sampler. Beyond the music is an entirely new menu layout, which puts all sorts of different modes and options in tiled squares and tabs. It’s a bit sloppy and overwhelming at first, but now that I’m used to it I prefer it much more that the old system which would regularly require three or four presses to get anywhere.
One thing that really needs to be discussed is the amalgamation of Franchise, Be a Pro, and online Franchise into one new mode titled Connected Career. When you start a career, you choose to be either a coach or a player. You can have it so the whole team is controlled, or set it to only work with one player a la Be a Pro. Additionally, these can be worked either online or solo. In theory I think this is great. It cleans things up, and connects previously separate modes. Unfortunately, a lot of features have been axed in the process. For example, player stats can no longer be customized, players’ numbers and positions can no longer be changed, there is no longer the ability to import an NCAA Football draft class, and there is no fantasy draft.
The last major mode in the game - which does not get nearly enough respect - is Madden Ultimate Team. This mode is now back with several improvements. In a nutshell, Ultimate Team mixes trading cards with football, allowing you to build a team based on booster packs that you buy with either currency earned from playing with your team, or Microsoft Points which takes away from the integrity of the mode. Besides that, the biggest problems I’ve had were the lack of a ranked matchmaking system, and that the only option for playing was head-to-head online games. The former has not been fixed, the later has. More options have been added for different ways to play and earn cards. In addition to online play, there are a number of single-player challenges. For instance, you can play a series of ‘pre-season’ games against real low-rated teams which earn you progressively more coins each win. You can also try your luck against historic teams and coaches which will net you a special card for the win. These extra options are fun, and a great way to mix things up.
Give it some love
The biggest thing that the Madden franchise has working against it now is this strange affinity for bashing the game. I get the feeling that even if a near-perfect entry into the franchise was released next year, customers and reviewers would still tear it apart. Madden 13 changes things up quite a bit, much more so than in any other recent edition. With the latest title in the long-running series, Madden finally has a solid foundation to capitalize on in the coming years.
The Infinite Engine shows great promise, commentary is greatly improved, Ultimate Team is better than ever.
Connected Careers dropped too many features, and the Infinite Engine occasionally glitches out.