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6 Ways To Improve 'Madden NFL 13'

6 Ways To Improve 'Madden NFL 13'

After an epic victory in Super Bowl XLVI by the New York Giants, another NFL season has come and gone. However, even elated Giants fans and dejected Patriots fans will eventually turn their attention to the 2012 season, and for gamers, this means that yet another edition of Madden NFL will put on the pads come the month of August.

Last year, we gave Madden 12 a 3.5 out of 5 — offline franchise depth and gameplay tweaks combined for a serviceable NFL experience — but a lot of room existed for improvement. Game Rant has compiled a list of six such improvements we think EA Sports would do well to include in Madden 13, ranging from presentation and gameplay to the title's competitive online world.

So, without further pregame banter, let’s tee this one up and kickoff! We can only hope to be as foreboding as Madden’s Super Bowl simulations, which have now nailed seven out of their last nine predictions.

More Support For Online Franchise

Madden 12’s offline franchise mode went through the car wash last year and came out a fully accessorized machine. Online franchise still had window cranks.

Online franchise will always be an addiction for a certain segment of hardcore fans who want to compete in a fully staffed league of 32 players. But in order to embrace the growing population of online gamers, it needs all the nuts and bolts of anything else EA decides to develop. This includes everything from salary caps and free agent bidding to more in-depth trading that includes draft picks. EA can also add unique features like flex scheduling and custom divisions to further optimize user control.

Madden’s online franchise has been neglected for almost three years now. The mode has all the makings of a major selling point for the series, and it should be the development team’s first round pick heading into Madden 13.

Better Commentary

How can an announcer famous for uttering sounds once thought exclusive to the Sub-Saharan mating season be so… uninspiring? It’s the curious case of Gus Johnson in Madden 12 (and 11), and it’s one that EA needs to address.

In addition to his vocabulary lacking several key player names (Tim Tebow is “Number Fifteen”), Gus is often behind the curb on the game’s action and can never seem to find the raw, natural energy that’s made him a YouTube sensation. Franchise players can also attest to how disconnected Gus and his partner Chris Collinsworth are from the current landscape of the league, failing to tie in dynamic storylines like what happened the last time your team was attempting a game-winning, last-minute drive.

All Madden needs to do is take note from the stellar commentariat in games like NBA 2K12. But much like its repetitive lines recycled every four quarters, it seems content with leaving our mute buttons on.

End Zone Excitement

It’s still surprising that with year after year of presentation tweaks, EA has never really addressed the atmosphere surrounding one of the game’s main objectives - scoring a touchdown. The act itself lights up a few reward centers in the brain, but to an impartial observer the celebration is still pretty mild.

That’s not to say we need more choreographed dance routines or end zone props — EA doesn’t want Bob Costas breathing fire down their necks. But if NCAA Football can have the Texas cannon, it’s time to call in the Patriots’ minutemen; shoot off a firework or two and liven up the fans to cheer more than they would for a first down or opposing holding penalty. EA made strides here last year with some NFL Films inspired cinematography, but even this needs to go a step forward with more authentic player interactions and some spry emotion on the sidelines.

Dynamic Player Performance That’s Actually Noticeable

Sports aren't played in a vacuum. The game of football has a multitude of factors both environmentally and physically that can rattle a player's cage or spurn a game-winning play. Madden 12 explored this substantially with Dynamic Player Performance, where blowing up a receiver over the middle in the first quarter could lead to a game deciding drop in the fourth. The only problem is that the system was more confusing than the new NFL overtime rules.

Message boards lit up after Madden 12’s release as gamers wondered just how and when the ratings of a player would change “dynamically” — many even thought it was broken. Because it was barely discernible on the field, the only way to check if a player’s attributes had changed during a game was to hit the pause button and see their names displayed above vague descriptions like “Forces Passes — Aggressive.” After an impactful event, it was anyone’s guess as to whether the AI really had a mind of its own, or if that amazing catch was just dumb luck. If Madden truly wants to invest in the new feature, DPP needs to resonate with players during the game instead of feeling like a shady gimmick.

Improved Practice Mode

A popular Vince Lombardi-ism is that “practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” To play Madden’s practice mode, though, one might think that the NFL’s championship trophy is named after Allen Iverson.

Instead of giving players a pressure free bubble to improve their game against Madden’s cutthroat online competition, practice has been a stripped-down, tedious affair. Players need the ability to choose from a wide variety of game-specific situations like two-minute drills and goal-line stands, not just a rinse-and-repeat setup on the 35-yard line. There also needs to be more customization with creating schemes — and even plays — for the AI to toss at you.

To top things off, Madden needs to take a more robust practice mode and open it up with online connectivity. This would give two players the chance to “lab” like they would in an online game without having to worry about a turnover on downs.

Lifelike Animations (Volume 13)

The only thing more certain than another Madden release is that a posse of pessimists will be on hand to chastise it as “more of the same.” A large number of these arguments can be traced back to the fact that Madden’s gameplay looks like the same game from last year (and the year before that) — and these comparisons are not too farfetched.

Instead of deriving its animations from a real-time physics-based engine (a la Natural Motion’s Backbreaker), Madden runs on a pre-designed set of motions for every situation. Try as EA might by adding in hundreds or even thousands of new moves every year, the outcome of most on-field interactions becomes familiar and predictable by the fourth or fifth game. Unfortunately, EA likely won’t bother with a new physics engine at a time when the current console generation is at its proverbial two-minute warning, so it’s likely we won’t be seeing a major animation facelift until Madden 15 or 16.

Conclusion

Madden fans often argue over whether or not EA Sports’ total lack of competition encourages the developers to slack off each year. The franchise has certainly had its ups and downs, and this generation still hasn’t given us an NFL title that’s definitively raised the bar over its previous iteration.

That said, Madden has come a long way since setbacks like '06 buried it on the sports gaming depth chart. All the right pieces are in place, and we’re rooting for EA to take the game to the next level.

What do you want to see in Madden 13? Did we miss a feature that is on your wish list?

Follow me on Twitter @Brian_Sipple

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