Review: Madden NFL 13 (Vita)
The PlayStation Vita has a lot of promise for the future of handhelds. Most notably for sport franchises as seen with MLB 12: The Show. The ability to save your franchise or your career and then upload that save file onto the PlayStation 3 in order to continue where you left off; this is just the start of something that could be utilized by other franchises. Madden NFL 13 tries its best to provide a good game of football on the go. However, it seems they sent out a third string quarterback to the field then an actual starter.
As Ray Lewis provides the official intro to Madden NFL 13, which isn’t the complete version compared to the console, the game boots up to a simple and clean menu structure. With a random football team logo on the side, players are given a small slate of modes to play from including Franchise and Be a Superstar. There is no Ultimate Team and there’s no Connected Careers. Most likely due to this subtraction on the Vita, save transfers (as seen on MLB 12: The Show) are absent. Players who were looking forward to EA Sports adding this neat feature for the games Vita version will be disappointed. Furthermore, when you start franchise, players will notice when they are picking their team that the teams season record from 2011 is actually the record from 2010. Not sure how anyone at EA Sports missed this but it was something worth mentioning as I thought it was a bit odd.
With Connected Careers and Ultimate Team not in the game, you could probably guess that the franchises new Infinity Engine also didn’t make its way to the Vita build (in which case you’re right). While the game does work even without the new engine, it plays exactly like Madden NFL 12 on the consoles. The controls are well placed and it does utilize the Vita’s touchscreen capabilities in some areas like being able to touch a receiver and changing their route without pressing an actual button. You even aim field goal kicks and kick-offs with the gyroscope on the Vita. However, the kicking game does have its issues with the tiny right analog stick. Kicks aren’t placed where you want them and more times than not, you’ll miss your mark whether on a punt or field goal try.
Running backs still rule the game for the most part and quarterbacks do have a hard time passing at receivers on specific routes. Tight ends are still the best receivers to pass to and interceptions aren’t as frequent. I still found a handful of plays to be the “go-to” plays that give you the most yardage on every possession and the AI didn’t adjust itself much to stop those same plays from continually giving me 1st down after 1st down.
The biggest issue with the game is its overall performance on the Vita. Pre-snaps, using audibles, even the presentation is faulted by major frame rate issues. There wasn’t a time that any part of this game went by smoothly at all. If you’re the type of player who calls plays quickly and on-the-go, you are going to make mistakes a plenty as the game just has a hard time dealing with everything at once. You have to actually take your time, and I mean take your time, when adjusting plays on the fly.
These glitches and slowdowns aren’t just affected on the field sadly. They are affected within the commentary, simulating weeks in franchise, and cut scenes within the game (as mentioned in the last paragraph). When introducing quarterbacks, you’ll hear them talk and show him running onto the field only to stop and cut off to a different scene. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms do make up the commentary team for Madden 13 (thank god) and they sound good when the game is working properly. They are a great commentating team but I found a few instances where you just wouldn’t hear them anymore. For two quarters they are talking about the game, and the final two quarters they are just gone. As if they went on a long coffee break or just said “we quit” and left.
The Vitas OLED screen helps make this game look pretty good though it is a major downgrade compared to the console version, which is expected and fine. Players for the most part look like their real-life counterparts except they have really smooth and shiny skin, as if they were made out of wax. The crowd is very 2-D’ish but they do get nice and loud throughout the game to provide a nice football atmosphere. Stadiums look good and the grass looks like, well grass.
While I hate comparing newly released games with its previous iteration, it really is hard to say that Madden 13 is actually Madden 13 on the Vita because in actuality, this is Madden 12. Aside the commentary, the modes and gameplay are all from Madden 12. EA Sports took last year’s game and put it on the Vita only to change the number from 2012 to 2013. When the game works, it’s a good game of football on the go. That’s when it works though. The frame rate issues really make this game struggle and for a fast paced game like football, it makes you wonder why the developers at EA Sports didn’t just wait another year to have an actual team to fully develop a handheld version.