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Madden NFL 13!

Incredibly the 14th installment in the acclaimed and older than dirt franchise, gamers will once again enjoy high definition football action and ask themselves the eternal question of whether or not this years addition of Madden has improved enough to warrant a purchase.

First Impressions: Whenever possible, we try to give our loyal website viewers the most video footage and most in depth unbiased reviews imaginable. Part of that development is our "initial impressions" where we offer up our first impressions of the title that we are playing.

This gives our website visitors more of clear understanding of what to first expect out of the game when they initially pop it into their consoles.

If you scroll to the bottom of the page in the Rent vs. Buy section of the review and do not see the "final impressions" assessment then it's safe to say that you are reading our initial impression of the game. Once the final impression is up, there will be no further video or review done to that particular title.

Final Impressions: The final impression is just that, our completed breakdown and overall thoughts on the game based off of our entire game playing time.

You can locate the final impressions assessment in the "Rent vs. Buy" section of the review (always located at the very end of all of our reviews). Here you will be able to read our final thoughts on the title and also see any potential grade changes that were made to the game as well (higher or lower). Should a grading change occur, it will be clearly noted with the previous grade, the new grade, and why the change occurred.

Although this approach is more time consuming and requires many more man hours, our entire goal has always been to provide the best and completely unbiased reviews possible and we feel that the inclusion of the Initial Impressions and Final Impressions sections will give you a better view of what to expect from a new game.

All that we ask in return is for you to continue to support Krakrabbit.com by visiting the site and letting others know about our cause. Together we can supply our fellow gamers with the most impartial information so they can make an informed decision on whether to buy or rent this particular title.

Now Presenting: The presentation of Madden 13 is one of the first things that you will notice right off the bat. The game revolves around a comprehensive, detailed, smooth presentation that plays out much like televised football games on the best of networks. As a whole there are many small additions to the presentation that help to immerse you into the experience and even small things like a running coin flip at the start of the game (rather than a slow paced menu system) can bring out those "ah that's cool" moments.

This year we see the return of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to anchor the commentary team, and shockingly enough the commentary is actually decent. Many lines were recorded by Nantz and Simms and for once, you will not be subjected to hearing the same repetitive commentary over and over throughout each and every game.

They accurately call the game and offer the occasional insight into what went wrong on botched plays, and there is no question that the lack of limited, canned responses to the plays is a welcome change to the series.

The overall presentation is aided by a graphical overhaul that sees Madden 13 display some of the best graphics the series has offered thus far. That being said, while everything looks clear, sharp and detailed, the character models leave a bit to be desired.

I Need A Doctor To Bring Me Back To Life: Oddly enough, there is little consistency when it comes to which people look accurate to their true-to-life counterparts. Starting with the commentary team, the first individuals you will see in the game, Jim Nantz looks acceptable but Phil Simms boasts an oddly lumpy, slightly misshapen face.

But things get worse when you get down on the field, as some of the players and coaches just look downright awful. While Andy Reid, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, also suffers from a misshapen body, some of the players such as Matthew Stafford make you wonder if the EA stuff even knew what they actually looked like.

Stafford is a glaring showcase of poor modeling by the EA staff, as the starting quarterback of the Detroit Lions is remarkably misshapen and just downright ugly! Looking like his face was molded with clay, and that clay was then beaten with a sock full of batteries, the horror of Stafford's face can even occasionally be seen through his helmet.

What makes this all the more strange is that the majority of the players and coaches look fine - quite good actually - but when you see the black sheep or odd man out, as it were, the unsightly result is all the more noticeable.

Smooth As Silk: In terms of gameplay, Madden 13 is one of the smoothest and most enjoyable games in the franchises history. There is very little to add to the core dynamics of the game considering it revolves entirely around passing or running the ball, but there are several additions that make this title a cut above earlier installments.

For starters, the animations on both offense and defense as clearly overhauled and improved upon. Ball carriers can be slowed down, knocked over or even tripped up by anyone on the field, including teammates. Gone are the days where you can run at full speed shoulder to shoulder with everyone else on the field, as you will now be forced to have a clear, unopposed path to run on if you expect to generate full momentum.

As well as the movement animations, even catching and throwing the ball has seen some additions. There are countless more catching animations for receivers and there is much more of a dynamic fight for the ball when the pigskin is up in the air.

Not only can defenders knock the ball out of the air, but defenders and receivers will actively fight to try to beat each other for the best position on the incoming ball. Balance plays a factor here as well, as the defenders will occasionally be thrown off balance and be in poor position to tackle somebody who managed to secure the ball.

Tackling as a whole has seen a buff with ball carriers being forced to fight through different forms of tackles, both high and low, in addition to being dragged down by multiple players.

It is difficult to have a "breakaway" play, particularly more so during a run play, but the animations, balance system and general smoothness of the running game once again opens up that aspect of the game as a very viable yard-attaining strategy. Infamously in previous years running was so difficult that many players simply chose to forgo it in favor of the more consistent passing game.

Worst. Coach. Ever: Not everything is sunshine and rainbows though, as the AI in Madden 13, in spite of being promised to be improved is quite mediocre at the lower difficulties. The "Rookie" difficulty is laughably easy with a number of breakaway plays and turnovers in your favor occurring, but even at the "Pro" difficulty you will find that your non-human opponents tend to make some serious tactical mistakes.

For instance, in a winnable game with a closely contested score, your opponents will oftentimes make the dire mistake of punting the ball away or choosing run plays even in the fourth quarter, trailing on the scoreboard.

As a prime example, the flawed AI will often punt the ball away on anything but "4th and inches", even if they are in need of a score and find themselves in the fourth quarter of the game. At the higher difficulties though, the balance tends to be upset yet again as your opponents show the capability of being utterly super human.

Anything but perfect throws will see you throw countless interceptions, and the offense of your buffed up opponents is so incredibly effective that as a whole sometimes you feel like youre playing the All-Star version of a given team.

In addition, for some strange reason the teams that you play in practice (filled with players such as "QB", "HB" and "WR") actually play smarter and more aggressively than they do in a real match. Put in a similar situation in the fourth quarter, they will persist to gain a first down and take every opportunity they can to gain extra yards.

Red Strings: Gone is the Franchise and Superstar mode of the past and being introduced now is the "Connected Careers" mode. Funnily enough, the "addition" of Connected Career is little more than a rebranding of the previous modes, as you can choose to play as a coach (the Franchise mode) or you can choose to play as an individual player (Superstar mode).

The mechanics of playing as a coach for a franchise or a single specific player are barely changed from earlier years, with a superior navigation system and presentation rearing its head. As a coach you will sign, resign, cut and trade players and generally manage the ins and outs of the roster and practice, and by far the biggest (and quite honestly one of the only notable) addition is the introduction of "XP Points".

Every week before a game you will run through practice scenarios, of which there are a fair amount ranging in difficulty and length, but the practice scenarios can be a bit drawn out and take a surprising amount of time. Skipping out on them or picking the quickest, easiest ones will net you smaller amounts of "XP" but this ultimately becomes detrimental to you, as "XP" is the currency used to improve your players and personal, coaching specific abilities.

You can earn upwards of 1800 experience points for the most difficult scenarios (down by three touchdowns in the 3rd quarter), but more often than not you will find yourself completing mid-level scenarios worth around 500-1000 XP points.

The upgrades for players and your specific coaching abilities such as improving your chances of signing a free agent, cost thousands of XP points so as a whole the system isn't actually put into use very often. As well, some players are bound to become exasperated with the fact that many of the practice scenarios force you to play at least two quarters of the game and some of them require a full four quarter practice session!

As an individual player in the Connected Careers mode, you will be in control of very little on the field and essentially rely on your own selfish play calling in order to secure your player time with the pigskin.

Your skill progression and padding of your stats in order to eventually enter the Hall of Fame are the biggest focuses for those who opted to enjoy the experience of playing as a single player on the team. You have no say in roster movements, pre or post season backroom dealings or even your position on the depth chart and quite honestly this mode doesn't have a lot to offer in the long run.

The gameplay is solid and seeing your player improve and become increasingly more popular is nice, but this aspect of Connected Careers felt a bit shallow and lacking longevity.

Rent vs. Buy: There is no question that this year's installment of Madden is the best the series has to offer thus far, and I was actually pretty impressed with the majority of the title. The knockoff of the Superstar mode was mediocre compared to the rest of the game but the improved presentation and slicker gameplay made for a very enjoyable experience.

There is some debate as to whether or not owner of Madden NFL 12 should spend the cash to pick up this year's installment, but I honestly believe it is a wise decision to purchase this title no matter what. The price has rapidly dropped and, as always, the franchise portion of Connected Careers will give this title plenty of replayability, not to mention the generally unchanged but enjoyable multiplayer action.

Report Card

There is some debate as to whether or not owner of Madden NFL 12 should spend the cash to pick up this year's installment, but I honestly believe it is a wise decision to purchase this title no matter what. (Krakrabbit.com)

A-


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