Madden NFL 13 Demo Impressions

Posted August 16th, 2012 at 9:30 am

Ever since the announcement of the “Infinity Engine” physics for Madden NFL 13 the demo took on greater importance than usual. A consumer base that has grown skeptical of EA Sports and their touting of new features would need not just to see it in action but feel its presence for themselves to make judgment on. There is a lot more in the way of improvements to Madden 13 but that would be the big one in swaying perception. My initial feeling on the implementation was quite positive and it has only solidified since.

Much of what to follow is just a rundown of things noted in the demo as most of the impressions from playing the game at E3 carry over and don’t need to be repeated.

When it comes to the physics it’s important to trust the outcome. There are going to be moments that look bizarre but as long as they are limited and are not affecting the result of a play the benefits of the physics far outweigh them. It’s important to actually play Madden 13 rather than just watch videos and make any determination as the physics really prove greatly beneficial even though visually collisions may not always look appropriate.

EA Sports made a tactical decision to provide a rich demo and it has paid off. If an odd moment due to the physics arose early in play, particularly with a short quarter demo, that would stick in the mind of that person who witnessed it. By having longer quarters and more options any abnormalities are more easily overlooked due to the ratio of positive results to those that may stand out for the wrong reasons. FIFA 12’s implementation of physics was much more wonky – and oftentimes actually affected results adversely – and yet that game was still applauded for for taking that technical plunge. Madden has been able to limit the problems to an admirable degree and for the most part those generally happen post-play anyway.

The lead-in packages to games will quickly get tiring. The thing is to remember that they are there in place of static load screens. In that sense they are welcome. Presentation wise the replays aren’t broadcast style but more akin to what is found in the NCAA Football series and that is a downgrade. There is also a lack of drama particularly after big plays and touchdowns. Replays are even inconsistently shown and often don’t trigger for them. Players walking right through stadium walls – especially when shown again on replays – impacts immersion too.

Commentary has been a pleasant surprise. The flow is much improved compared to previous years with relevant discussion taking place. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms bring a gravity to games that other announcers have failed to do. It’s better than what I anticipated just hearing bits and pieces at E3. What really needs to be tuned is how Nantz calls out all the pre-play adjustments. Within one game I was already tired of Nantz noting my press coverage on nearly every play. There are also some inaccuracies. For example Russell Wilson is continually talked about as being a veteran and Marshawn Lynch, who’s 26, is discussed as though he was past his prime and since has resurrected his career.

Audio in general is much better with the crowd factoring in more than in the past. One issue encountered though was with challenges where the crowd did not react to the result. In one situation the home team caught a TD pass and it was reviewed and upheld but the crowd stayed silent. In another the home team was ruled out of bounds on a catch in the end zone but it was reversed again met by silence. Speaking of challenges….has anyone seen reviews after turnovers? The booth should be reviewing every turnover now the same way every TD is reviewed.

Basic gameplay improvements such as working play-action and new pass trajectories are evident and very welcome. Special teams is also much better with at least now the possibility to return kicks and punts as the blocking actually opens some holes. Personnel used on special teams isn’t always proper though. Kellen Winslow really shouldn’t be on the kick coverage team. Had a few instances where fair catches were called on punts and the returner didn’t catch it or actually moved out of the way and let it bounce only to run it down and then try to gain yardage. The CPU plays pretty competently but there are some serious concerns about their handling of clock management. Too many cases of inexcusable decision making late in the 2nd and 4th quarters.

•A new addition is the ability to send a tweet to Twitter or post to Facebook with the results at the end of a completed game. That’s a nice feature but the wording is currently messed up and no @ symbol is in front of the username within the tweet.

•For the most part I like the change from a soundtrack to themes composed in-house.

•Posted my earlier initial thoughts on Kinect for Xbox 360 here.

•The full depth charts are even available in the demo meaning full player ratings for the Seahawks, Redskins, Giants, and 49ers can be checked out. For those who’d like to see the Seahawks ratings the majority were pulled and posted here.

The time spent with the Madden NFL 13 demo has been the most enjoyable of any in recent memory. Much of that is due to the rhythm that can be built with the fantastic structure provided – full five minute quarter games with two matchups and some adjustable settings – but the freshness of the game is immediately apparent. Hopefully that feeling will transfer over to the retail version where scrutiny will obviously be increased but so will the amount of content available.