Nintendo's next-gen console is here, but how does Madden NFL 13 on the system stack up to those on the current platforms?

The fact that the Wii U released with games that were already released is a good and a bad thing. It's good that the system is supported out of the gate with marquee titles like Madden NFL 13, Mass Effect 3, and Batman: Arkham City. However, that's little solace if you've already played these titles.

The Wii U version of Madden 13 does has some exclusive features, but also drops some of those in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 editions. Nintendo console owners finally get a full fledged football game that doesn't use finicky motion controls, but this game doesn't stack up to those versions on the other systems.

THE GAMEPAD

Selecting plays on the GamePad is attractive, but it isn't any more beneficial than the normal method. Its biggest – and perhaps only – advantage is the hot route creator, which lets you draw in routes on the GamePad for receivers while you're at the line of scrimmage. In my experience, the routes transfered pretty well into the game, with receivers following – for good or bad – what I had drawn. On defense, this translates into being able to set up specific coverages for your players, such as blitzing or dropping back into coverage.

Other than designing custom hot routes on the fly, the GamePad features three GameFlow suggestions, the option to call a timeout (you can also call one by hitting the select button), all the plays you've set up in your gameplan, and a full playbook. The GamePad only offers three GameFlow plays, while the other console editions let you cycle through more. Perusing through the full playbook or making substitutions can drain the play clock quickly, and a slight lag can slow you down even further, so beware taking a delay of game penalty. If you are always pressed for time, perhaps the best option is to go into the settings and select the conventional playcall style in the game options menu. This disables GameFlow and drops you right into the formation menu when calling plays.

Other GamePad particulars include the ability to call audibles and SuperSim plays from the screen. Formation, coverage, and line shifts must still be done with the traditional onscreen menu.  I wish that EA Tiburon used the larger GamePad screen to present relevant info about the GameFlow plays other than just the play names, such as which formation they're from.

You can put the GamePad into Detached Mode, which allows you to play the full game just on the GamePad, but this must be done before a game starts. Madden NFL 13 supports the use of only one GamePad, although you can play head-to-head online with another person using a GamePad. The non-GamePad players in a local multiplayer session have to make due with using either a Pro Controller or the traditional Wii motion controller/nunchuk setup. This latter configuration does not use motion controls.

WHAT'S MISSING?

Many gamers might find the GamePad alluring, but don't forget that this version of the game is also missing some key features. Immediately noticeable is that the gameplay does not utilize EA Tiburon's Infinity physics engine, which is included in the PS3 and Xbox 360 editions. Although the engine on those platforms still needs work, the fact it isn't here means that the title on Wii U feels like Madden NFL 12. The Ultimate Team and Online Team Play features are also missing, although Connected Careers and online franchises remain.

When playing the game, you'll also notice that the graphics are decent, but they lack the high sheen of the other systems. Unfortunately, the frame rate is simply bad.

Finally, various online amenities such as text chat and the ability to send game invites to friends who aren't playing the game at that exact moment are missing. These omissions put the system behind the competition in Wii U's already lagging online feature set.