For me as a sports video gamer, I seek realism as a key part of my gaming experience. For NFL football titles, I want to feel like I'm really watching (and playing in) a real NFL game. I think EA Sports has again taken sports video games to a whole new level of realism with the release of Madden NFL 13.
The game experience starts before the players even take the field. Real NFL broadcasters Jim Nantz and Phil Simms appear in their virtual forms, in a virtual broadcast booth, placed accurately on the field, depending on the virtual stadium where the game is taking place. The pregame videos are amazing, just like a real NFL broadcast with exciting graphics and music, highlighting the marquee players who will be featured in the upcoming game. Madden NFL 13 even includes special pregame presentations for Monday and Thursday night games, postseason games and of course, the Super Bowl. The sound, music and HD graphics make the whole experience like sitting down to watch a game on TV.
The realism of Madden NFL 13 was driven home to me when, while playing the game, a friend walked into the room and said, "I didn't know there was a game on." Only when I told him it was Madden did he realize he wasn't watching an actual NFL broadcast, the graphics are that good.
The game-play experience is immersive, it assaults your senses with the sights and sounds of a real NFL broadcast, putting me right where I want to be, in the center of the action. I like how the variable level of control allows new players to get right in there and start playing, while offering experienced gamers an incredibly deep level of player and play control. Passing and all movement is all very realistic due to the game's extensive AI (artificial intelligence) features.
The "receiver awareness system" means receivers can only catch the ball when they are ready and looking for it, the same AI applies to defenders, who can only participate in plays when they are close by or looking at the ball or player with the ball. It all adds up to a truly incredible level of realistic interaction between the players, and when you combine that with the deep level of control, you really do get an amazingly realistic NFL experience at home.
On the Xbox 360 with Kinect, players can call out audible commands like a real QB. I'm looking forward to when you can physically mimic hiking and throwing the ball using the Kinect sensor instead of the controller, but hopefully that's coming in Madden NFL 14.
Through the brand new Connected Careers mode, EA Sports really has blazed a trail by creating the first realistic sports RPG. It's a fascinating combination of video gaming, fantasy football league statistics and role-playing fun. I think it's a smart feature and widens the audience of the title to RPG and fantasy football fans, not just sports gamers. Madden NFL 2013 also offers the full range of online connectivity and multi-player capability including game-play recording. The online and multi-player features require a Sony PlayStation Network account and a Origin Account (EA) from Electronic Arts.
Madden NFL 13 sets the bar at a new high for the gaming environment, bringing gamers inside a virtual football stadium identical to its real world counterpart. The sights and sounds of an NFL game are all there (provided by NFL Films) and I found it all works seamlessly together to offer the ultimate sports gaming experience. The field degrades as the game progresses, like a real stadium field. The lighting changes with the movement of the sun and the players tire and weaken as the game goes on. It looks so good, I liked watching some computer-controlled games just to check out the graphics and sounds without even playing the game. I also really liked the authentic QB cadences and voices for some of the league's biggest stars. Guys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo all lent their real voices to the game, which again makes it like watching a game on TV.
The game is great, but my biggest complaint is the lack of a printed manual. I'm finding this a disturbing trend among video game companies, with them opting for an online or in-game manual. I appreciate this feature but one of my favorite things to do with a new title is to read and study the printed manual when I'm offline and not playing the game, to learn more about how to play. This offline interaction with the game is completely eliminated by the lack of a printed manual. As someone relatively new to Madden, I do have some trouble with the learning curve and then being forced to learn only while I'm online with the game. I also found a very few times when the game seemed to almost be too powerful for my PS3 console, with some infrequent jerky movements by the players.
Freddy Sherman is an old-school gamer who began his gaming in the 1980s with a Colecovision system and has been playing ever since. He's currently an Xbox 360 user and fan. Aside from playing the games, he enjoys the technology and business side of video gaming. You can follow him on Twitter - @thefredsherman.
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