I have to admit – I’ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to Madden games. I used to play them religiously, though the last few years I kinda veered offtrack and only gave them a few playthroughs with each yearly release. Skill-wise, I was halfway decent, though mostly a newbie compared to series vets. Still, I decided to take my newbie stature to EA Sports’ playable demo of Madden 13 on the Wii U, and I came away rather shocked with the intelligence of its Gamepad features.
Remember the innovations of VMU playcalling years ago with NFL2K on the Sega Dreamcast? While the admirable addition only showed the names of each play (the VMU had a dinky display), at the time and honestly since, it was one giant leap for football kind. With Madden 13 on the WiiU, a whole new window has been opened to players..Literally. Usual recommended plays and playbooks that would be featured on the television screen are incorporated onto the Gamepad, with touch options to select which play you want. This gives the player a private method of play selection with such clarity and detail, it feels like a natural extension of the game itself. It’s unknown whether or not two Gamepads would offer each player their own window to private playcalling, but I hope it isn’t a feature that will go overlooked, especially since the US will not see a Gamepad sold separately until at least 2013.
Gamepad functionality doesn’t end there; if a player selects a passing play, they can now set their own routes, thanks to the touchscreen. Remember how a hot route in previous Madden titles involved a predetermined direction the player runs, depending on which direction the analog is pressed upon an audible? Now players can simply drag their finger along the touchscreen to a route of their choosing. Want to sprint five yards down-field, spin around twice and then cut left? It’s all within your fingertips. Any eligible receiver can have their routes changed once the pass play is selected and your team sets up formation. While on defense, there’s no need to press a button to manually scroll through each defensive player, as a tap on the Gamepad’s touchscreen on the defensive players number on the formation shown will pinpoint you directly to that player. Out of all the Wii U titles available to demo at this event, Madden 13 presented the most beneficial augmentations and enhancements that really sets the bar quite high for Gamepad functionality.
Until now, I hadn’t played EA Sports latest football title, so I can’t really give a fair visual or control comparison with the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Visually it seemed on par with what I’ve seen on the other consoles in the brief glances I’ve taken. The actual in-game mechanics felt as solid as I remember from years ago, though I did manage to throw two straight pick 6′s to the Cowboys. I more or less blame the fact that I was Mark Sanchez more than my incompetence in reading the defense.
Another launch title with a wealth of promise, Madden 13 takes significant steps forward on the Wii U, thanks to its Gamepad integration. Between this and the highly improved visuals from the new Infinity Engine (which seems to have transitioned over to the WiiU just fine) It’s an addition that could easily sway Madden fans to head over to the Wii U for this years pigskin classic.