When Electronic Arts announced shortly after E3 2012 that it had unannounced Wii U titles in development, it didn’t take a team of NASA scientists to deduce that one of them was sure to be Madden NFL 13. Year in, year out, Madden NFL is one of the most popular, profitable titles in the industry, and the crown jewel in EA’s stable of annualized releases.
At its 2012 Summer Showcase, EA Sports officially took the wraps off its Wii U lineup and, as expected, Madden NFL 13 was announced, alongside the other pillar of EA’s sports game empire, FIFA 13. Both titles are slated for the system’s launch, though they’ll be available much sooner on current-gen hardware: Madden on August 28th, FIFA on September 25th. That’s the good news. The bad? Madden NFL 13 on Wii U lacks both technology and gameplay features that will be available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 — but why?
When it arrives on PS3 and Xbox 360, Madden NFL 13 will be packing improved presentation and big animation changes, thanks to the addition of the Infinity Engine. The Infinity Engine handles Madden’s animation and physics, and according to EA Sports, its “true player impact and authentic momentum transfer ensure that no two plays ever look or feel the same.” No question about it, the Infinity Engine makes a huge difference to the on-field action. Check out the trailer below to see the proof.
By comparison, the animation and physics in Madden NFL 2012 look positively stone-aged. Unfortunately, it is Madden 12’s dated physics model — not the Infinity Engine — that will power Madden NFL 13 on Wii U. Equally discouraging is that Madden Ultimate Team (“a free-to-play game mode that perfectly combines Madden NFL Football, fantasy football, and player trading cards,” says EA Sports) and Online Team Play have also been left out of Madden NFL 13 for Wii U. Speaking with ESPN, Madden NFL 13 producer Yuri Bialoskursky discusses the Wii U version’s shortcomings and selling points.
“We definitely wanted to get the physics into the game. The Infinity Engine is something that is a point of interest for ‘Madden’ fans, it’s just something we weren’t able to achieve for this first year on the new hardware. A lot of times, new hardware comes with new challenges. But we were able to add things to ‘Madden’ on a lot of different levels, like being able to draw your own hot routes and being able to change your plays on the fly and create your own plays, giving you the ability to do whatever you want to do pre-play.”
As for Madden Ultimate Team, Bialoskursky notes that, “It’s another one that we plan to add in as we go,” though whether he is speaking of adding the feature as DLC, or as part of next year’s Wii U Madden game, isn’t specified. On the subject of Online Team Play, Bialoskursky confirms the mode’s absence, adding semi-cryptically, “It’s a different monster.”
Debate has raged for months now about the comparative power of the Wii U hardware — debate the system’s alleged tech-specs have done nothing to quiet. Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli reckons the Wii U is “as powerful as Xbox 360.” If that’s true — and I expect that it is — then why couldn’t EA Sports get the Infinity Engine working on Wii U? Simply put, if the Wii U is powerful enough to handle the Infinity Engine, then it should be in game. If, on the other hand, the system honestly doesn’t have the power run the Infinity Engine, that does not bode well for Wii U’s long-term viability.
Bialoskursky mentioned the “challenges” that come along with new hardware, and in the Wii U’s case, those challenges must center on the GamePad. The Wii U, remember, must serve video to both a user’s television and the GamePad simultaneously — add a second GamePad, and the framerate of the TV feed gets cut in half. Could the system’s multiple video feeds be the reason EA Sports didn’t/couldn’t make use of the Infinity Engine for Madden NFL 13 Wii U, or is the game simply a victim of rushed development? What do you think?
Madden NFL 13 releases August 28, 2012, for Xbox 360, PS3, Vita and Wii, and at launch for Wii U.
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