The NFL regular season may be drawing near its end (though, some teams might say it's been over for quite a while now), but that didn't stop EA Sports from releasing a version of Madden 13 for Nintendo's new Wii U video game console. This debut Wii U sports title brings to Nintendo something they haven't had since the N64: a really good pro-football video game.
At it's core, Madden 13 for Wii U plays much like how it does on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game can be played with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, but traditional players will probably prefer playing it with the Wii U Pro Controller or (better yet) the Wii U Gamepad itself. When using the gamepad, not only do the plays themselves appear on the touchscreen, but players can also custom-made on-demand alterations to plays from the line of scrimmage by simply tapping on a player dragging his finger in the desired direction for the custom route. These play alterations work both on offense as well as on defense.
Madden 13 supplies players with a modest selection of play modes. On-demand one-shot play is, of course, the default for those just wanting to jump on in and play a custom matchup of their choosing. For those wanting more, the game's new "Connected Careers" is the way to go. Replacing the long-established Franchise Mode that's been a Madden staple since basically day one, Connected Careers takes Franchise Mode and expands it to allow for not only two different play types (as a coach or as a player), but also playing either offline or online. An offline Connected Career allows for playing isolated from everyone and everything else as Franchise mode had in the past. An online Connected Career opens thins up for interaction with other Madden players via the Internet. Honestly, for Madden purists who remember the series' golden days, the offline Connected Career is the way to go.
Another way to play is via online play -- something that's been quite popular over the last six or more years. Unfortunately, there isn't much support for online play with Madden 13 for Wii U. It's not that EA isn't providing their part of the deal, it's that the players themselves aren't holding up their end of the deal. The minimum number of players noticed on the online play counter was a whopping 48. The maximum? A staggering 52. Because of these extremely low numbers, finding an online match was nigh on impossible. This really is unacceptable for a game promising robust online matches, and it's up to the players themselves to make things better.
A final way to play (which is something unique for Wii U users) is the ability to not only call plays from, but also just simply play using the Wii U Gamepad. The game -- complete with (seemingly) full-quality visuals and audio -- is 100% playable on the gamepad. This is a great feature and it's great to see the Wii U gamepad being used in such a way for this title and others.
Madden 13 looks rather good, yet its visual quality isn't quite up to snuff compared to how the game plays. Player models are great and they look quite similar to their real-life counterparts, but not everything is perfect. First of all, the game's canned animations don't always mesh well with one another. There will be multiple times during games that the ball, for example, will be rotating in one direction only to magically change direction and flip around on its Y-axis to fall neatly into a receiver's hands. Mis-matched animations aren't the only problem with Madden 13's visuals, however.
Non-essential visuals, such as how the stadiums appear, are vastly inferior compared to the rest of the game's graphics. The stadiums appear as they might have in a football game made in 1999: sterile and basic. Crowds don't look all that interesting and aerial shots of stadiums are down-right ugly. Parts of Qualcomm Stadium, for example, looks unfinished with exposed wire-frame segments. Environmental shadows also aren't up to par quality-wise, as they glitch in and out as the camera moves during stadium shots.
Madden 13's audio is just as hit-and-miss as its visuals. The game's soundtrack works well enough in menus and such, as it does during actual football games. On-field sound effects such as the hitting of pads and the quarterback barking out an audible are equally as good. The game's weak spot in this department lies with its commentary.
While Madden 13's broadcast-style play-by-play and color commentary has been a disappointment ever since John Madden retired and left not only television but the video game as well, this year's coupling of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz just don't pull off a Madden-caliber performance. While they know their stuff, they lack the passion and soul that's been lacking since the departure of Madden. Hopefully in the future, EA Sports will turn to better-quality broadcast teams such as Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth from NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' or Mike Tirico and John Gruden of ESPN's 'Monday Night Football'.
All-in-all, while Madden 13 isn't the best Madden game ever made, it is still a rather good play for NFL fans. Sure, there are imperfections in its visual presentation and the commentary leaves much to be desired, it's overall gameplay and simple pro-football fun makes up for many of the game's deficiencies. Hopefully, once Christmas has passed and gamers receive the game as a gift, there will be more players online for the Wii U version of the game.
Final Game Guys grade: B+
(This game was privately obtained.)