E3 2012: Electronic Arts brings new engine and story-centric career mode to Madden NFL 2013

Electronic Arts’ E3 presentation isn’t a likely fount of revelation. At E3 2012 though, the company promised legitimate change to its most static franchise in Madden NFL 13.

The calendar year begins, winter thaws into spring, a young man’s love turns to fancy, and Electronic Arts promises that the next iteration of Madden NFL will be the most groundbreaking version of the American football video game ever created. It is a perennial lie. Madden NFL does, contrary to popular belief, change each year, but the modifications to the play are granular to the point that no one but the most devoted players can tell. Frames of animation, fractional adjustments to tackling physics, roster updates, and Franchise mode tweaks. Madden NFL doesn’t so much break ground each year as it merely sows and harvests the same crop with marginal differences. Some years are better than others.

Madden 13 at first seems like a change of pace. Electronic Arts announced at E3 2012 that this year’s football is actually built on an entirely new engine. The Infinity Engine doesn’t outwardly appear to alter the visual fidelity of Madden 13. The trailer shown looks much like Madden 12. The tangible differences brought by Infinity are still small and subtle. Physics in tackles for example have been altered significantly. Where a tackle animation would automatically end a play before, a receiver can actually regain balance on the field. EA claims that “no two plays will be the same,” but it’s hard to say whether this will result in a better feeling game.

More significant is “Connected Careers,” a mode that attempts to unify Madden 13’s Franchise and create-a-character modes. Connected Careers lets you play as an individual player, team, or coach in a league of 32 friends, mixing the experience building of past character modes and the micromanagement of the simulation Franchise mode. This is Madden 13’s narrative component as well, with text-based news reports generated around your career.

These changes could amount to real change for the series or it could be another series of myopic changes that don’t broaden EA’s audience. Also, EA’s E3 2012 Madden presentation opened with Ray Lewis talking about building a legacy. And we all know what Ray Lewis’ legacy is.

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