Madden NFL 13

Trust Issues

Unfortunately, Madden NFL 13 is the most realistic NFL experience yet.

By Drew Toal • August 28, 2012

To judge by their commentary in Madden NFL 13, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms aren’t crazy about the current state of the NFL. Oh sure, they’re impressed with the talent level and overall competitiveness, but nary a series goes by where they don’t complain about rule changes that enable prima donna wideouts and too-precious quarterbacks to avoid crushing hits—effectively reducing the zero-sum level of NFL toughness. To hear Simms, you’d think back in his day, he was out there pushing Reggie White’s face into the Meadowlands turf for looking at him wrong, instead of the other way around.

But the game was different 25 years ago, when Simms was in his prime. Today it’s faster, with increasingly complex schemes, and more rules to facilitate exciting offensive play. Being a coach in the NFL anymore requires the technical skills of a rogue-state nuclear physicist, the personnel management acumen of Omar Bradley, and the ego-soothing, temper-smothering abilities of your childhood babysitter.

Madden 13 goes for the immersive NFL experience with “Connected Careers,” what some of the promotional material describes as the “first sports RPG,” but without any enchanted halberds or macabre collections of elf scalps. You can choose to play, online or offline, the role of player or coach. Either way, the experience is heightened by Game Face, the service on the EA Sports website that generates an in-game avatar using your front and profile head shots. This is the first Madden game to use it, and the results are hilarious. And, as funny as the player renderings can be, the auto-aging of your in-game likeness as coach is sobering enough to make you quit smoking and lay off the bacon.

Madden NFL 13

The player role is in many ways the simpler one, and the mode more akin to a traditional role-playing experience. You start your career by choosing to be a high draft pick, low pick, or an undrafted first-year player. Each of these starting points have particular challenges, mostly involving expectations and your place in depth-chart hell. Even if you make yourself a highly touted rookie quarterback, you still have to somehow displace the starter on your chosen team by building experience through different practice scenarios—hopefully get helped along by a convenient career-ending injury that opens up a spot, or at least a blockbuster trade. But those factors out of your hands. Here, you only control your own guy, not personnel or roster hierarchies, and at first you’ll be watching regular-season games from the bench, at least until you take over and get some reps.

Coach mode is more akin to the conventional “career mode.” During games, you control both sides of the ball, and you don’t have to worry about breaking into the starting lineup. However, being the leader comes with much in the way of off-the-field responsibility. Beside playing the game, you must scout college prospects, negotiate contracts in-season with current players, sign free agents, make trades, deliver your star cornerback’s firstborn, and cure West Nile. Winning one for the Gipper is no longer remotely sufficient.

Madden NFL 13

Both types of career can be played online (hence “connected”), with leagues full of friends or strangers. Online or off is a matter of personal preference. What concerns me more is that many of these features—the yearly attempts to make the full sports video game experience more “realistic”—come at the expense of the game on the field. I get annoyed when real players start dogging it on the field because of contract disputes; I’m not sure incorporating that into Madden is a net positive. In a “player” career, it might be several seasons before you even get off the practice squad and into a real game. Yes, that’s realistic. No, it isn’t that much fun. Once you get on the field, the game touts improved body physics, new “passing trajectories” similar to those in NCAA Football 13, and over 430 new “catch animations,” but none of those feel like a big step forward. That’s partly a limitation of the hardware, but also indicative of a bigger problem.

For adherents, the worst thing that happened to Madden was EA pushing out 2K Sports by signing an exclusive deal with the NFL after the 2005 season—the last year that the ESPN 2K series came out. ESPN 2K5 was priced at $20. That was a shot across EA Sports’s bow, and it responded with the full broadside. But without any legitimate competition, Madden can be phoned in, and it won’t affect the bottom line. Now that EA has settled a class-action lawsuit that threatened its exclusive NFL deal, it looks like Madden will continue to run uncontested for the foreseeable future. That’s too bad. It’s time to reevaluate the modern rules that protect the industry’s biggest star from harm. I’m sure Phil Simms would agree.

Madden NFL 13
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: PlayStation Vita—$40; Wii—$50; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360—$60
Rating: E

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897 Responses to “Trust Issues”

  1. HobbesMkii says:

    I haven’t picked up a Madden game in years.  This sounds like the perfect time to pick up Madden 12 on the cheap!

    • George_Liquor says:

      I haven’t picked one up in ever. This sounds like a perfect time to continue not doing so.

    • Madden12 is really bad and broken, they even admitted they made no real changes or improvements to the on-field gameplay. Zone coverage simply does not work, and that’s the least of the game’s problems.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         Well then Madden 11 will be even cheaper!

        • manekineko says:

          After an hour of disappointing revelations, HobbesMkII went down to his local pawn shop to purchase Madden ’93 for the Sega Genesis.

        • Mike_From_Chicago says:

          I think it would be interesting to see a “decadent” article comparing, say, madden 93 to madden 03. There was a “madden through the years” article a while back, but this could be more in-depth.

          I say this as someone who likes video game history and cares fuck-all for sports.

    • Asinus says:

      I rented Madden.. um.. I don’t know… it must have been 05 or 06 not long after the Wii came out. It was probably the first time I had fun playing a Madden game since the N64 (and the really fun 2K on the Dreamcast, but that’s not Madden). I haven’t tried one sense, but i really liked the throwing motion and the use of the nunchuck to ram players or lower your head. You know what I’ve never thought was missing? Off-field drama and recruiting sims. I have never played a football game, or any sports game for that matter, and thought, “This isn’t realistic enough. I demand more bench-warming! I miss my sophomore-year football season!”

  2. lokimotive says:

    Holy crap is that a creepy screen capture or what?

    • Asinus says:

      Yikes. He looks better here, settled into the deepest depths of the uncanny valley, than he does in that actual photo. 

  3. Ryan Olson says:

    Holy uncanny valley on Simms and Nantz! I know TV personalities sometimes don’t look real, but this takes the cake…

    The extra bells and whistles don’t interest me too much (at least you can play it offline, unlike some of EA’s recent offerings). I’m more interested in just playing the game. Too bad it sounds like EA’s improvements in that area sound minimal.

  4. GhaleonQ says:

    Someone’s game design degree master’s thesis: a breakdown of Electronic Arts’ sports sims over the years, starting with each console’s reboot and how they built on the base year-over-year.

    I do think that soccer and hockey lend themselves better to simulation gameplay than football or baseball, but the amount of effort poured into Madden is distressing when you look at the quality gap between it and NHL or FIFA.  There’s little legitimate competition in the sim space for those 2 sports in 2012, so it can’t just be chalked up to monopolies. 
    Golf ought to be awful, and the amount of golf classics or near-classics is in the double-digits; it can’t be inherent fit.  What makes refreshes successful, and how much stuff can you pack in before they become burdens and not enhancements?

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       Sports franchises tend to be, like many game properties with quick turnaround on sequels (ie Mega Man), seem to be more about many incremental increases and a few big changes (usually, as you mention, at the launch of a new console).  Granted, the publishing schedule of a sports franchise has more to do with keeping the roster up-to-date than anything, but it still goes with a sort of “quantity over quality” design philosophy.  With this sort of series, only the most obsessed fans will actually buy every single game in the series.  It is almost like every preceding game is a beta for its successor.

      Still, aside from the almighty dollar, is there any reason that they simply don’t just update the roster through DLC (at least until the next console generation adds a slew of new bells and whistles)?

      The article talking about a sports RPG making me wonder why no-one has really done really interesting like that.  I don’t mean the earnest, reality-based type in the Madden NFL series, but rather something that goes nuts with the whole concept:  magic enhancements, consumables, power-ups, classes, cybernetic limbs, buffs, a  whole mess of RPG tropes.  Granted, there have been games that have made attempts at this, like the Mario Sports series or Mutant League Football, but they’ve never (to my mind) gone far enough with the notion.  Ideally, it should be just a little imbalanced to keep players on their toes; It should serve as the counter to the oh-so-serious legit sports franchises. 

      • Destroy Him My Robots says:

        Not to put Ghaleon out of his job or anything, but I think you’re looking for the Tsubasa games or Inazuma Eleven.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

          Yeah, that’s pretty close to the right idea. Now that I think of it, NBA Jam does, too, albeit in a limited fashion.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          HEY.  HEY!  Knock it off.

          @The_Misanthrope:disqus , you should play Inazuma 11 or the Captain Tsubasa games.

      • The thing is, obsessed fans aren’t the key demo – regular college/high school kids are. There’s a 3rd group of people outside of the casual/hardcore gaming cliques – sport-game players. They buy Madden, NBA2K, and one other sport game (FIFA or MLB) every year because that’s literally the only thing they buy. 180 bucks a year is nothing to them, as compared to most gamers who can spend up to 500 bucks on the hottest new games.

      • Chuck Spear says:

        A friend of mine used to work for EA Sports and she said (then, at least) the standard operating procedure with Madden was that one year’s release would see the implementation of a new feature–or features–and the following year’s would be a perfection of that feature. Given the quick turnaround time on these games, that sounds about right.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      The shadow of PES still looms large. No one who was serious about his football video games checked for FIFA for about half a decade, but they managed to come back. I think consumers are largely aware of that story and they’re still keeping an ear out for a possible PES comeback, and that keeps FIFA on its toes.

      As for the last part, I think that’s completely subjective. I’m certainly more well-versed in games in general than most of my friends, but personally I can’t be assed to get into 8-buttons-and-2-sticks controls for a sports game like they do. I guess it pays off for them because they play little else. I’d like a simple SEGA-style 3-button affair, but they might get bored with it at some point where I’ve already moved on.

      • double_hawk says:

         I remember PES’s heyday, even without licensed teams it was so much better.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        That’s a very good point.  It’s already been proved that the leader can fall.  However, in the last week(?), it sounded like the 1 AFTER this year’s is coming from a Western studio and published by Konami.  We’ll see what happens.

        I wonder why that divide is.  The only thing that I can think of is that simulation-style soccer and hockey games “feel” the same in both eras.  The early football sims were very arcade-like, and they don’t feel much like Madden.  What’s the closest simulation pre-3-d that was popular?  The Tecmo Bowl series?

    • I think the problem may be unique only to Madden. Part of it is that there’s no focus in Madden’s creation. There are all these different games in the package. Career mode, the Ultimate Player card game, etc. Rather than scale it back and try to make a better football game, Tiburon just tears down some parts of Madden City, rehabilitates others, and tries one of two small new ideas each year. What it needs, first and foremost, is a complete reconsideration of how it plays on the field.

      The need for that sort of drastic refresh doesn’t outweigh the need to bring in revenue for EA each yeah though.

      In fairness to Tiburon, it’s always interesting to see how different Madden feels one year to the next. All those animation and AI tweaks result in something that is tangibly different in execution. The difference between ’09 and ’10 specifically springs to mind. The big addition that year was new tackle animations and everything felt, well, squishier. A lot squishier. Squishy doesn’t make for a grand refresh but it does demonstrate real experimentation.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        But even during this generation’s reboot, wasn’t it pretty basic?  It didn’t start out with the passing cone or anything, right?  What’s your feeling about the 1 that launched with the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360?

  5. caspiancomic says:

    430 ways to catch a ball:

    1. Right hand
    2. Left hand
    3. Both hands
    4. Right foot
    5. Left foot
    6. Both feet (chimpanzee only)
    7. In teeth
    8. Behind the back
    9. Between the legs
    10. Between the pecs
    11. In your helmet
    12. Between index and middle fingers (“the cigarette”)
    13. Between index and middle fingers (left hand variant, “the Frenchman”)
    14. In right armpit
    15. In left armpit
    16. Between bicep and forearm (“the strongman”)
    17. Between bicep and forearm (left arm variant, “the French strongman”)
    18. Between buttocks
    19. Between thighs
    20. Down the front of your shirt
    21. Down the front of your trousers
    22. In the pocket of your trousers
    23. In the pocket of your trousers (left pocket variant, “le Pantaloons”)

    • lokimotive says:

      24 Up left nostril
      25 Up right nostril
      26 Down the throat
      27 Bellybutton
      28 Urethra
      29 Vagina

    • Raging Bear says:

      30. On the end of a pike, then planted along the sidelines as a warning to other footballs

    • Effigy_Power says:

       31. Inside your Steel Plate helmet while riding a warhorse below Whiterun.
      32. With your grappling hook while riding a pilot-less airplane.
      33. With a Slavic accent while driving Roman home drunk.
      34. On your nano-assembled wrist-blade while charging for the citadel teleporter.
      35. In your fedora while backing up onto Rusty.
      36. In your fedora while shooting a minor thief in the back.
      37. In your fedora while accusing a rape victim of murder, just for laughs.
      38. In your imaginary fedora while wearing a silly MoCap suit.
      39. With your ballcatching app for the iPhone 15, coming 2014.
      40. With P.Diddy’s $300 ear buds.
      41. With the debris from Kirkwall’s Chantry.
      42. By playing “Drop down yer balls” on a flute.
      43. By praying to Cthulhu to destroy all existence, thus also dropping the ball somehow.
      44. By spraying it with Mighty Boosh’s Goth Juice and just getting a ladder.
      45. With Cloud’s uber-attack, this incinerating the ball, smashing the stadium and killing everyone in it.
      46. By looking at it harshly in ArmA2, thus injuring it somehow and causing it to loose consciousness.
      47. With gay marriage, according to some people.
      48. By going back in time and murdering the Quarterback’s great great great uncle Aloisius during the Industrial Revolution.
      49. By waiting for the ball to go on Steam-sale.
      50. By making Bryan Cranston sneer at it, thus emasculating the ball for all eternity, causing it to roll up on the floor in a fetal position.

      • 51. Telekinesis.
        52. Reverse Pyrokinesis
        53. Pigskinesis
        54. Husker-spirit
        55. Carrying a larger ball which has a mass that attracts the regular ball, like a small moon.
        56. Pretending it’s a snitch from Quidditch
        57. Accio Football
        58. Press X rapidly to catch football
        59. Wormhole in your pocket
        60. Enticing the ball with some delicious Raspberry sherbet.
        61. Kinect integration; by fondling your own balls
        62. Tweet “@Madden13:disqus I caught the ball!”
        63. Pre-order Dead Space 3 to instantly grow necromorph arms and stab the ball out of mid-air
        64-68. – Various uses of the rodents Chip & Dale.
        69. Align the balls mouth with your dirty-bits and vice versa.
        70. Place hands firmly on football

      • George_Liquor says:

        71. Hold the door for it. Compliment its appearance when you meet. Remember, chivalry’s not dead.
        72. Be spontaneous! Surprise the ball at work with its favorite candy or flower. Heck, just try ordering something new off the menu at your favorite restaurant.
        73. Double dates are a great way to get to know the ball better in a breezy social situation, but make sure you pick an activity everyone enjoys.
        74. Be open with your feelings towards the ball, but don’t scare it off by being too forward too soon.

    • evanwaters says:

      24. The overturned moss covered three-legged family credunza
      25. Armbar

  6. Staggering Stew Bum says:

    I am the proud owner of Madden 2005 for Playstation 2. It’s a funny story, many years ago I was dragged to a Kmart in one of those horrible shopping centres way out in the suburbs and saw it for sale for the bargain price of $29.84!! It was sitting there almost glowing on the shelf, as if basking in a sunbeam sent from the heavens! (Also, NBA Live 05 was there for the same fantastic price, and when I purchased it they accidentally gave me the brand new NBA Live 07 disc and booklet, but that’s a story for another time. Oh what a day that was.)
    Despite not watching NFL for many years or having any interest whatsoever in playing an NFL game, I ignored that whiney sensible part of my brain as I snatched the box and rushed up to the counter, shoving pensioners and small children out of my way, half in shock that this was really happening! So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time, and forked over my hard earned cash.

    Went home, eventually got around to playing it for about 10 minutes, hated it, and never played it again. EA = +$29.84, Me = -$29.84. One day, when civilisation has been destroyed and small tribes eventually rise from the ashes, I am banking on being able to emerge from my vault and trade my shiny mint condition copy of Madden 2005 to a clueless tribal chief in exchange for riches beyond my imagination and a parcel of land the size of Manhattan. This is the only reason it is still sitting there on my shelf, stinking up the Stew Bum residence along with other hardly played PS2 games such as Hitman Contracts and the first Killzone, and that copy of Ulysses that I have no intention of ever reading but holy shit does it make me look like an intellectual having that thing sitting there for visitors to see.
    Anyway, I imagine that the current iteration of Madden is the same shit as 2005, but prettier (apart from those two replicants pictured above). As I am several years older and wiser now, I will wait until it drops below the $28.84 mark before pouncing on another shrewd investment for the Stew Bum family reitrement fund. 

    • bulletinyourhead says:

      That’s not really a funny story at all.  Comedy is subjective though.

      • Staggering Stew Bum says:

        We have lower standards for humour here at Gameological. On a completely unrelated note, your avatar is hilarious.

        Seriously though, thanks for stopping by to contribute.

  7. SisterMaryFrancis says:

    Christ, they put Phil Simms, Jim Nantz, Trey Wingo, AND Skip Bayless in the same mode? It’s like they want people to not play career mode at all.

    • Barnitosupreme says:

      They’re gonna add Joe Buck next year just to fuck with you.

      • Tim L says:

        “The Joe Buck Fabulous Fashion Announcer Sim” and it’ll be all about recruiter the most deliciously strapping former players and putting them in the best suits to show off their fantastic pecs and mouth-watering asses, just like the real Joe Buck dreams of doing.

  8. Captain Internet says:

    “Either way, the experience is heightened by Game Face, the service on the EA Sports website that generates an in-game avatar using your front and profile head shots. This is the first Madden game to use it, and the results are hilarious. And, as funny as the player renderings can be, the auto-aging of your in-game likeness as coach is sobering enough to make you quit smoking and lay off the bacon.” 

    Care to provide us with evidence? You can’t make claims like that without posting pictures.

  9. Zach Adams says:

    First sports RPG? Wouldn’t that be Namco’s two utterly insane Turbo games, WORLD COURT TENNIS and FINAL LAP TWIN, in which you travel between standard JRPG towns challenging local champs and shit?

    • duwease says:

      I was going to counter with Base Wars, but Wikipedia says that WCT was 2 years earlier.  But wait, Base Wars was on NES, and WCT was Turbografx-16… my internal timeline is in a disarray!

      • Asinus says:

        Turbographix did come out in ’87, if that helps your timeline at all. Just don’t do something crazy like kill your grandmother while you’re screwing around in there. 

  10. duwease says:

    By the way, the ending metaphor there with the star protection.. that’s a winner.  You should submit that for Emmy consideration.

  11. Effigy_Power says:

    And despite all that, I hope that EA snatches up the MLB license 2KSports dropped like a warm turd after making nothing but buggy mediocrity with it for years…
    I guess I am a sucker for punishment.

    • GaryX says:

      Or you should start playing MLB XX: The Show series now like an adult.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         But why is a PS3 exclusive? That’s literally the only PS3 game that makes me desire to own one.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        From seeing and playing it a few times, I’d have to say that The Show is under no circumstances better than MLB2K, the presentation is just showier. A lot of people have claimed it to be soooo much better, but all I see is a somewhat shinier veneer on the same lousy mechanics and way too much interface that’s not even game-related.
        And I don’t own a PS3, so that sort of settles that.

  12. I only have one question – have they fixed juking? For all the talk about “ultra-high-hyper-realism,” juking is still like some kinda of magic insta-dodge for tackles, easily doable with a click of a button (instead of being a specific moment that’s possible when you stop completely and force your momentum in an entire new direction, which is only doable by, like, Chris Johnson). If that’s still in there, fuck this game.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       Screw that, I want juking to become a QTE.

    • Jon Shaw says:

      the juking is terrible they completely downgraded.Jukes are now back to ski jump side hops like back in madden01 when you hit L1 or R1.Completely sucks because if i see a hole i want to cut into i cant because he just hops to the side and by the time i go to run again im tackled. There are no open field moves its basically just running into defenders and constant breaking tackles animations.Look at videos notice you never see any real jukes in spaces its all rolling off of defenders.This by itself is preventing me from getting madden. not mention the rag doll effects of the “infinity engine” and not allowing me to choose which hot route i want to run,now its limited depending on what side of the field your on.

    • No, they didn’t fix juking. And no, they didn’t fix the broken physics model or the canned animations, just added more of them. And no, Madden is not a worthwhile way to spend your money.

  13. GaryX says:

    Haven’t they had the RPG mode before though? I seem to remember that pretty much being the career mode several years ago where you create a character and run him through the draft or free agency, do all the boring ass training shit, then start playing games, and rise-repeat–all while increasing your guy’s stats. 

    Sounds like a lot of marketing/branding talk over a feature they’ve had. Though, I guess that’s the Madden series in a nutshell.

    • SisterMaryFrancis says:

      The difference in this is that you’re earning exp in each thing you do to pay for the stat boosts and new abilities that you choose.

      i don’t understand why they don’t do something like FIFA’s Accomplishment system. I like the way that works because it helps build the character into your play style.

  14. Citric says:

    Can’t sleep, Phil Simms will eat me.

  15. Asinus says:

    With all of the dating-sim tie-ins to recent sports games, it seems like it would be a great time for someone to swoop in and release a crazy, fun, unrealistic, cartoonish football or other sports game. Too bad EA owns Mutant League, or I’d name that one in an instant… though basing it off of a new madden engine could be crazy fun… even the off the field stuff could be great (if you had to promise a troll X number of children to eat or something). Maybe I’m in a small niche here, but the more realistic a game is, the less fun and more pointless it seems to me. Also, using the screen grab here as an example, the more “real” the more ugly. 

    • Effigy_Power says:

      -deletes inappropriate Penn State joke after reading “dating-sim tie-ins” and is a bit ashamed of herself-

  16. edkedz says:

    Argh! The “positive anymore”! One of my chief online grammatical pet peeves, right up there with “then/than confusion”!

    (If you’re going to call me a hypocrite by quibbling with my punctuation, I use the British system of quotation mark placement because it’s superior and more logical.)

  17. roukouko says:

    And, yet again, no PC version. Guess I’d have to buy an inferior game system if I wanted to play that crappy product.

  18. woca397 says: