Madden 13 Review - Part 1: Graphics And Gameplay

After a very long wait, this year’s installment of Madden NFL football is finally here. By this point, you’re either already playing it, sitting at work waiting until you can go home and play it, or you could care less about Madden, but then you probably didn’t click on the link to this article so I doubt you’re actually reading these words.

If you’re none of the above, then you’re probably a fan of the franchise and you’re wondering if you should spend the coin to update to the newest version. The answer is yes. And this is coming from someone who usually buys a new version every 3 years because the game chances so little each year that it always felt that I was just paying for a roster update. This year, its an entirely new game.

I’m breaking up this review into 2 parts. This first one will focus on graphics and gameplay, and part 2 will cover the other game modes and anything else I feel like talking about. Expect part 2 tomorrow, once I’ve had enough time to get into each mode long enough that I feel comfortable writing about it.


EA Tiberon has invested in an all new game engine with real physics, and it shows. This is the biggest upgrade in the history of the franchise that didn’t include launching a new generation of hardware. Clearly I was impressed.

The graphics for the players were excellent. All the movement animations were solid. Some players had a slightly bow-legged unathletic running style, which seemed out of place, but it didn’t detract from the gameplay.

Where you can really tell there’s a difference is in the tackling. There’s no more canned animations. Bodies move like they should during a tackle on almost every play. It’s also possible to break a tackle and keep going, which was never possible in older versions of the game.

Occasionally, when the ball carrier takes a big hit, especially if another defender is also involved, the ball carrier will go flying and appear to have no control of their limbs. The resulting rag-doll effect is completely comical, though I sure it isn’t intended. It isn’t a pervasive problem, happening just over once per game on average.

My one big gripe was the graphics and animations of the fans. They appeared to be PS2 era for a most part.  At least the PS1 era graphics form the  “bimp” shot that were in the demo seem to be gone. I know it doesn’t really matter since the on-field look is so good, but then stop showing the cardboard cutouts replacements for fans so often.


This is where the game engine changes I mentioned above really matter. If the game simply looked different, but felt like I was playing the same old game I’ve been playing for almost 2o years, then it wouldn’t really matter, at least not to me.

On defense is where the biggest change can be felt. Ever since the PS1 days, the dive button (square) was all you needed in order to tackle. Just dive into a player to start a tackling animation, and you were set. Now, that’s no longer the case. Going for the hit like that often results in missed tackles when the ball carrier bounces off and keeps going.

Instead, now you have to actually wrap up the ball carrier, which is a big improvement. I found myself having to choose between taking out a players legs like a CB might do, or moving in for the sure tackle while giving up an extra yard or 2. Playing defense feel much more apart of the game than it used to.

The field felt narrower than I remember. Passes to the outside seemed more difficult, while passes to the center of the field were easier to complete. Perhaps that was because Doug Baldwin was usually my slot receiver, but I doubt it. The passing windows on the sidelines were simply smaller than over the middle.

One of my complaints in the past was that linebackers were invincible against the run. Quick hitting runs, especially FB runs, were money, while outside plays like the stretch runs and sweeps were pretty much impossible on the higher difficulty levels. There was just no stopping the LB persuit, and it didn’t matter how many blockers there were out in front.

The opposite seemed to apply this year. DTs seemed to eat the FB runs and HB dive plays for lunch. The slower developing runs quickly became my bread and butter plays. I just had to remember to be patient and let my blockers do their job and not just mash the sprint button. It’s a solid change for the franchise, and it shows that the players are reading and reacting much closer to how a real player might.

Defensive players still don’t bite on misdirection plays often enough to make them worthwhile, though that doesn’t apply to play action. PA passes, especially to TEs, can be an easy way to move the ball down the field at times. Luckily, the AI adjusts and takes it away from you if you use it too often.

Speaking of the AI, it remains solid yet unspectacular. It will adjust to take away certain plays if you call them too much, but that opens up other plays if you know how to take advantage of it.  Overall, it’s still the best out there in sports games, but I still think it could be better.

Check back later (or tomorrow) for part 2.


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Tags: Madden Madden 13

  • Hanley H. Bonynge

    Were you an NFL 2k player before EA and the NFL crushed it?

    • 12thMan_Rising

      I always prefered Madden of the 2, but 2K has it’s strong points. For me, the real advantage was that the 2 competing franchises pushed each other to be better. Once EA bought the exclusive rights contract, it just stopped trying. This is the first time in over a decade that the franchise has truly been upgraded.

      • Hanley H. Bonynge

        I was the opposite. I strongly preferred 2K’s version to EA’s. But now, I’ve basically stopped playing since, as you put it, EA just stopped trying. Viva Ron Mexico!

  • Michael Bernazzani

    I liked 2K as well, but I’m really excited to play w/ the Seahawks on the new Madden. Thanks Keith

  • john doe

    are you serious???gameplay wise is the worst….DB and safties get burned on all deep passes…the game feel like a arcade blitz …they made it a real pass happy league on the game

    • Mitchell Larsen

      I completely agree with this, when I first started playing I couldn’t help but think it felt like an arcade game…It has some real feeling to it, but it just looks horrible to me. I am not a big fan at all so far of the game, I am disappointed that I bought this over NCAA 13 this year.

      • 12thMan_Rising

        I suggest getting this years version of NCAA then, as the infinity engine is expected to make it’s debut on that franchise next year.

    • 12thMan_Rising

      I play on the high difficulty levels and I haven’t seen this at all. Either by my team or against me. Perhaps it’s because I play a lot of defenses that leave both safeties deep.

      • john doe

        i dont care wat diffculties you play on.i play online. i play man 2 man wit da safties deep..even the all zone coverage i dont blitz at all. deep pass the corners and safities dont react…trust me if you play online you or your oppent is guarntee 30+ points atless you learn how to tweak your defense( i will not speak about).hopefully the updates clear this up