Are you ready for some football?

After a few shaky seasons, 'Madden' turns the corner

Matthew Kato / Game Informer Magazine /

Published Sep 7, 2012 at 05:00AM

They say football is a game of inches, and this is true for “Madden NFL 13.” Fans judge the series by so many details that it's hard to point to any one in particular that makes or breaks the game. This year's title attempts to cover a lot of ground for the franchise, and the outcome is akin to a QB throwing for 400 yards and still not winning the game. A lot went right even if it wasn't a resounding victory. In the case of “Madden 13,” there is such a thing as a moral victory.

Connected Careers is a brilliant mode that in one fell swoop makes the online franchise feature set the same as the normal offline one, introduces XP to upgrade players and coaches, bolsters the stagnant Superstar mode (including being able to call your own plays), and injects year-round drama into your franchise.

The XP system is great because it lets you progress your players in the areas of your choosing (the CPU also does a decent job if you auto-upgrade), while also incorporating natural player progress/regression and rewarding great performances and hard work at practices. It's a well-done system that invests you in your team in a way that makes sense. My criticism of the XP upgrades is that they could do a better job of letting coaches influence their team.

EA Tiburon also overhauled scouting and free agency, with the former vastly improved from last year. I like being able to choose which attributes and traits to scout, and with the scouting upgrade (a must-buy) the draft actually functions. The entire draft process is fun because of the little surprises that pop up during scouting and Trey Wingo's draft-day audio profiles on draftees. Maybe a potential draft pick goes back to college or drops due to character concerns. Stories like these and many more (in one playthrough, Kurt Warner came out of retirement) surface in a news hub that's augmented by media tweets, and they add a texture to each season that has been missing in past franchise modes.

As much as I like Connected Careers, some things are missing or unnecessarily frustrating. The lack of an overarching calendar makes it hard to know how many scouting periods are left before the draft and how many times you can bid on players in free agency. Furthermore, you can't see all of a player's info when you try to sign or trade them, and other useful info is needlessly buried (although there is a SNAFU in the Team Needs screen that lets you see the actual overall ratings for some potential draft picks). Restricted free agents, variable contract structures, practice squads and other franchise features are still absent. For some reason EA even removed the Combine and pro days.

If there's one glaring mistake that brings “Madden 13” down, it's the new Infinity physics engine. It sometimes makes good on its intent to bring more realistic physics, varied hits, and multiple contact points on the body, but the effects of player collision are inconsistent. You never know if you're going to unexpectedly trip during inside runs.

Both “Madden 12” and “Madden 13” are incomplete experiences, but in different ways. The former wasn't a good game, whereas this year's title introduces several aspects that need to be improved instead of scrapped. We haven't seen the best “Madden” has to offer, but it's a lot easier to rebuild when you have the right pieces in place.

'Madden NFL 13'

8.25 (out of 10)

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

EA Sports, EA Tiburon

ESRB rating: E for Everyone

Top 10

ACROSS THE BOARD

The editors of Game Informer Magazine rank the top games for September:

1. “Borderlands 2” (PS3, X360, PC)

2. “Darksiders II” (PS3, X360)

3. “Sound Shapes” (Vita)

4. “Transformers: Fall of Cybertron” (PS3, X360)

5. “Dust: An Elysian Tail” (X360)

6. “Persona 4: Arena” (PS3, X360)

7. “Madden NFL 13” (PS3, X360)

8. “Deadlight” (X360)

9. “New Super Mario Bros. 2” (3DS)

10. “Orcs Must Die 2” (PC)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Gaming news

'LittleBigPlanet PS VITA' gives

creators new tools

“LittleBigPlanet” has warmed hearts and frustrated platform gaming fans since 2008, and the franchise's latest jaunt to the Sony PlayStation Vita handheld proves no different. The Vita adaptation of the popular side-scrolling puzzle game is now in beta testing. Like the PlayStation 3 version, the levels in “LittleBigPlanet PS Vita” are slick and gorgeous, while providing all the tools creative types crave to build their own courses. The full game is expected to debut Sept. 25.

“LittleBigPlanet PS Vita” brings a host of special tools to the Vita platform, and it's obvious that game developers Double Eleven and Tarsier intend to demonstrate all the hand-held console is capable of. Out of the gate, you'll note that the entire toolset from the Vita iteration's big brothers (and the PlayStation Portable release) have returned. If you've ever resized an image on a smartphone or tapped to zoom in on small website text on a tablet computer, selecting and repositioning in-game props and items in “LittleBigPlanet PS Vita” will feel as natural as ever, thanks to the Vita's touch capabilities.

If you're looking for what could possibly become the next portable system killer app, “LittleBigPlanet PS Vita” has the makings of a classic.

— Brittany Vincent, Gamerlive.tv

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