Madden NFL 13 had the tallest of orders coming into August: dramatically improve one of the oldest franchises in video games enough to get hardcore fans AND casual players to notice the difference. Those two groups typically are impressed by different things and getting enough polish, presentation and accessibility (for the casual gamer) and enough controllable simulation elements (for the hardcore football head) into one game requires one hell of a balancing act. The key this time was to come up with one or two major feature changes or upgrades that would appeal to both. By the way, the accusations of each year's edition of Madden NFL --or any sports sim for that matter-- being nothing more than a roster update is absolute nonsense. Player movement in the NFL is a very real driver in fans getting excited and to act like Niner fans WON'T want to see how Randy Moss fits in with that vicious San Francisco defense and control all of the action is ridiculous.
The new physics and artificial intelligence systems in Madden 13 make a huge difference in how the game plays. However, seemingly smaller tweaks like the new passing trajectories that allow QBs to throw over the middle of the field with confidence end up making the biggest impact. You no longer have to avoid entire chunks of whatever playbook you run on offense because you're afraid of throwing picks to superhuman linebackers. In fact, the changes to defensive A.I. where defenders have to at least see the ball before they can make a play on the ball is the other, less celebrated, enhancement that has a huge influence on Madden 13's growth. Really that's it. Madden 13's passing trajectories and realistic AI on both offense and defense where players have to see a ball to make a play and aren't superhuman make all the difference in the world.
You're going to hear a lot about Connected Careers in Madden 13 as well. This is a feature that takes the single player "campaign" mode concept in a whole new direction. You're given a ton of options to choose from in terms of starting a career as a coach, player or legendary player/coach but this comes at the expense of customization. Being able to run a league with 31 of your buddies where all of your stories and players and stats are tracked and reported through real Twitter and fake Twitter within the game is a great sim experience. However, no option for a fantasy draft before starting that season with 31 buddies is a real bummer. Building a custom team was a very popular feature for many hardcore Madden players. Not being able to customize a coach's style (going from a 3-4 to a 4-3) for example is another customization tidbit that we've had available to us for years in Madden and that's now missing. Overall the Connected Career mode is barely a net positive for Madden 13.
Get this game if: you want to see how Tim Tebow can fit in the Jets offense; you want to force Tim Tebow to fit into the Jets offense; you've played the last four Madden NFL's and you want to keep up; you're in a friendly/competitive/cutthroat online league; you play in tournaments for money; you're a Patriots, Raiders, Eagles or Ravens fans because those teams are loaded in this game; you want a video game that will teach you about the NFL or if you want a video game that serves as a great compliment to the real NFL.
Don't get this game if: you're a Rams, Browns or Jaguars fan because there's very little hope in this video game either; you're expecting it to be a reinvention of the game of football; you haven't played at least one of the last two editions of Madden NFL; if you loved the Fantasy draft option for online leagues or if you don't like football video games.
Star Rating (out of 4): 3 Stars