Well what is there to say about a game that has more versions than Macbeth has reimaginings? No it's not just a money-making gimmick, a recycled, repackaged Madden 12 and no AusGamers is not getting paid to say that, unless Madden is advertised on the site, then technically they're getting paid, but not to say that. If they were getting paid they would probably hate for people to say that the player career mode is inconsistent and at times head-scratching, with additions that look great in a press release but hold water like an incontinent camel (or in the NFL spirit, runs an offense like JaMarcus Russell). It's probably not ideal to point out that coaches mode should just be called 'classic' mode because it's the old-style career mode, either.
It seems cliched to talk about the tackling animations, as "improved" is the moniker of choice for every Madden iteration regardless of the reality. With Madden 13, however, the proof is in the player getting bashed from multiple directions by defenders; legs and torso contorted based on points of impact. It’s not just players flying around from impact that impresses though, a head-on tackle by the defender can stand the runner up and after a brief, seemingly herculean struggle bend them backwards. The tackles seem to carry weight and in an instance where a runner and defender fight for that six inches of real estate the excitement of the game is tremendously enhanced.
With the animations finally reaching a higher end of technical achievement it's easy to get sucked into the depth of Madden's player career mode. For the first time you can add your own face to your future icon and entertainer and the dearth of player information really does give you the chance to adjust your player to a style of play. Each player position available has a number of choices: QB (west coast, pocket, strong arm), RB (one-cut, receiving, speed), WR (possession, deep threat) and TE (pass-catcher, balanced). Keep in mind that list is far from exhaustive.
In addition you can alter all your measurables and choose to be a high or mid draft pick or to go undrafted. Basically there is enough info that you can actually imagine Mike Mayock's pre-draft assessment: "I've watched a lot of tape on this kid and he's a gym rat, with the intangibles to plug him in as a starter from day one. His teammates at Michigan call him Butters because he's always able to escape pressure."
This all of course depends on where you choose to be drafted. The story of Marty Mcfly from Michigan is hardly Rod Smith-esque. Undrafted out of college he backs up Doug Martin and LeGarette Blount in Tampa Bay. He averages seven yards per carry in the preseason and converts a number of fourth downs but gets less than 10 offensive snaps all season. Yes, 10. The rest of his time is spent pressing the ‘sim to next human controlled play’. Quickest. Season. Ever.
The problem that arises with the player career mode is that there is no measuring stick for how you fare against other players. A series of drills, like those that have been in previous Madden versions could create a competition angle. Instead you earn XP that you can use to boost stats. Yet there is no consistency with how XP is awarded for practice. How can simply participating in a practice and winning overall be worth 1000XP while coming back in the 4th quarter, categorised as very hard, be worth less? What is actually going on? Is Matt Millen running things at EA Tiburon?
All things considered Madden 13 does bring a new level of excitement to gameplay through its much improved animation trees. It still plays very much the same however, with many rough edges around the career modes. The menus don't really do much either, news updates and Twitter feeds seem squeezed onto the screen and navigating through your career feels cumbersome rather than intuitive. The biggest difficulty is that there is no player ID for your save file so if you have several, identifying which one it is becomes an annoying lucky dip. If you want to shove Madden on the TV and jump through the right hoops Madden is an excellent game. Amazingly addictive in fact. But, if you want to test out how addictive all those options are it’s left rather wanting. Sure that doesn't break the game, it just funnels you towards what it does well, which is playing quarterback or as the 'coach', which is enough for some but from a critical perspective, is a bridge too far.