NFL coaches often talk of getting “back to fundamentals” and focusing on “blocking and tackling.” While the Madden NFL 13 franchise has incorporated massive changes to console versions, its debut on the Vita has eschewed many of those in favor of bringing the basic features every Madden gamer expects to Sony’s handheld. The result is a game that, while enjoyable, doesn’t achieve the lofty potential the platform provides.
Madden is strongest on the field, looking good in motion as you execute plays on either side of the ball. You’ll have no real trouble hitting receivers or finding holes to run through, and it never seems to chug even as it processes 22 players running in all directions. However, visual problems kick in before and after the play, as the introductory scenes and sideline vignettes get a bit choppy. Even rougher is the brutal-looking crowd that appears behind players during their post-play close-ups. None of these take away from the action on the field, but they’re definitely distracting.
Madden’s base controls are instantly familiar. A nice bonus is the smart, subtle use of the front and rear touch pad; examples include executing a juke when running for daylight with a double-tap on the back and sending a receiver in motion by tapping him on the front then sliding your finger in the desired direction. None of it feels forced, and over time this motion began to feel natural.
You can choose from Franchise, Superstar, Madden Moments, and Online Play. Superstar, which features the bite-sized experience of training your player in practice then running him through his paces in compacted games, lends itself beautifully to the Vita. When you couple that with the fact that the NFL has a bunch of compelling stories this season with players like Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning (to name a few), the mode is a stand-out in this year’s game.
The real problem, honestly, is what’s not in Madden NFL 13. There are no cross-play or save capabilities between the PS3 and Vita versions, which instantly reduces its appeal to owners of both systems. There are also less of the Connected Careers features that shone so brightly in the console versions of the game. While cool options like rookie scouting and practice mode in Franchise were able to make it in, much more didn’t. For example, the media frenzy and RPG-style leveling up Connected Careers offers is absent here.
This is not simply last year’s Madden ported to the Vita, though. Much of the new presentation has made it, including the commentary team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, as well as the cleaner, TV-style audio and visual presentation. Gone are the days of the bombastic rock/rap EA Trax mess, in favor of a professional orchestral set. This is most welcome.
Ultimately, Madden NFL 13 on the Vita is like a top draft pick that makes the team but doesn’t put up Pro Bowl numbers. It provides a healthy portion of the traditional Madden experience, but lacks the niftiest new parts of Connected Careers as well as the ability to use cross-play with the PS3. Because of that, it’s a reminder of years past when it could’ve been cutting-edge.
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