Initial Impressions of Madden NFL 13 on Wii U

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Posted November 19th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Madden NFL 13 is one of the three primary sports titles that accompany the release of the Nintendo Wii U. The tablet controller has proven to be more worthwhile than anticipated but poor framerate hampers what otherwise could have been an excellent launch offering.

Feature wise the Wii U version of Madden 13 is fairly similar to the 360 and PS3 version. It includes many of the same gameplay enhancements, the Connected Careers mode (offline and online and as a Coach or Player), head-to-head online play, and even Madden Moments Live. While it is missing some significant elements with the “Infinity Engine” physics and Ultimate Team mode it’s likely that anyone heavily invested in the inclusion of a physics engine or a team-building collection driven mode will already have Madden on another system.

There are multiple ways to play depending on how the tablet controller is used or by going with the “Pro” controller which is essentially a 360 controller mapped differently for Nintendo. The tablet has what is known as “attached” or “detached” modes. Going “attached” means it will be the second screen device that generally would be envisioned for the system. The screen is used to select plays (with GameFlow or by digging into the full playbook) and make hot routes. There’s also an option given to put the play-calling on the TV screen and just use the tablet screen for pre-play adjustments. Changing the purpose of the tablet dramatically happens by switching to “detached” which allows for the entire game to be played whether the TV is on or not by displaying everything on the tablet in the traditional manner people are accustomed to playing. It actually looks and performs great on the smaller screen.

The tablet has been accurate with touch commands and valuable in what it offers during gameplay. It is much easier to tap on a player and draw their route or audible than it is to cycle through players on a standard controller, pull up a series of options, and sort through them to make a change. I’ve been able to alter the assignment for several defensive players before the CPU snaps which is something difficult to achieve through the otherwise typical route of doing so. Drawing routes on screen works well and they can be anything desired no matter how ridiculous…those just won’t be especially effective! It does seem to translate them into traditional routes when what is drawn is at least close to one but the players will also run all sorts of zig-zags or swirls if directed to do so. Choosing plays on the screen also allows the presentation to play out on the TV without having to skip past it all.

The controls will take a while to get accustomed to particularly for those who have been playing on the other systems. Because the tablet controller is so large (but surprisingly light on a side note) the separation between hands is much greater. The right stick is placed above and to the right of the buttons rather than below and to the left. Those buttons are also ordered differently with A (the primary advance button) being on the right and B (the primary back button) being on the bottom. Y is on the left and X up top. The control scheme is unfortunately not customizable though functions were otherwise mapped similarly to the layout of other controllers. For example X is the catch button and A is the spin. There is also designated sprint and turbo buttons for those who have liked being able to have that under manual control in the past.

Graphically the Wii U version is comparable to the 360 and PS3 in cut scenes and replays – check out a comparison shot here – however there is a notable step back during actual gameplay. The players, surrounding settings, and on-screen text are not nearly as crisp. Considering that, one might expect the game to run smooth with fewer resources being used, but that simply isn’t the case. The jittery framerate was at first so off-putting that it made me question whether I could play it for an extended period of time.

That first reaction to the poor framerate dissipated somewhat but it clearly is the main deficiency when compared to the other HD consoles. It was expected that the lack of the physics engine would have that designation but its absence has actually been less impactful than what the framerate does to damage the overall experience.

One concern going into release was the extent to which the game would be supported by EA. While there is no word on whether patches will be coming down the line it was a relief to find that not only will roster updates be offered but the latest one from Friday is available now. It appears that when the updates get pushed out weekly the Wii U will be receiving them alongside the 360 and PS3.¬†Online play includes only standard head-to-head (no Online Team Play) and there is no “Online Pass”. Evaluation of online performance will come later this week.

Madden NFL 13 is an example of both the good and the bad that will be associated with the Wii U. The system is able to offer a similar overall experience with games being ported over from the 360/PS3 but either lacks the power to run that software at full strength or the developers may not have had the time to translate it perfectly. That or they may not have felt it necessary to invest the proper resources after evaluating sales potential and the market being targeted.

The tablet controller offers up some valuable functionality that meshes really well with the rest of the game and is fun to use in that capacity. It would be especially fantastic accompanying a management game along the lines of an NFL Head Coach – though that will never happen.

Madden NFL 13 on the Wii U would make a good option for anyone who doesn’t already own the game on the other systems. It has the content to justify a purchase and took sufficient care with the integration of the tablet controller features. However despite the great use of the controller it can’t be recommended over those other versions due to the technological hangups and various omissions.