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Madden NFL 13

Hands On With Madden 13 & More On Connected Careers

We already told you the great news that Madden NFL 13 is bolstering its entire Franchise structure (online, offline, Superstar Mode) by combining them into one mode filled with improvements and exciting new content called Connected Careers. Today I got another look at it, and have even more news to share.

Connected Careers doesn't just shuffle the deck for the game's offline Franchise, online Franchise, and Superstar modes, it changes the whole concept of what it means to have an NFL career in the game. I personally like that you can switch between being a coach (which is basically like playing the old Franchise mode – only better) and a single player (Superstar mode) at any time, and therefore get to experience both modes (you play the game the same way on the field as you always have BTW). I also can't wait to dive into the RPG-like XP/upgrade system, and am excited that finally online franchise players get the same experience as offline players always have.

Without further ado, here is an assortment of new info I found out about Connected Careers.

XP & UPGRADES: The more you play the game and knockdown objectives big and small, the more XP you get that can be spent on upgrade packages. For players, this means you spend XP on upgrading whatever specific attribute you want. The exact XP price varies on your age and the existing rating of that attribute – the higher you go the more it costs. Similarly, it can cost more if it's an attribute out of your player's normal competency.

For coaches, the packages you buy are related to a variety of bigger-picture, team-related things. For instance, you could buy an upgrade package that gives you an overall XP discount for future packages that you buy. Others might help you sign free agents or scout players. Some I saw were specifically related to bettering your chances in contract negotiations with a particular position like left tackle. There were also those that boosted the XP earning power of your QBs as a unit, while another helped if you wanted to talk a player out of retirement.

Coaches can also spend the XP of players. If you don't want to do this, the computer will spend players' XP by itself. You can set the progression interval to occur weekly, every four weeks, or at the end of the season when you initially set up the franchise.

Where else can you get points besides playing games and knocking down career milestones and accruing stats? On the practice field. Now, before you playback the immortal words of Allen Iverson in your head, practicing in Madden is different from what it's been in the past. Instead of running random, meaningless plays, you can pick from a variety of different practice situations of differing difficulty and XP rewards that mimic a real game. So, you can get XP for working on your two-minute offense, protecting a lead, coming from behind, and many other situations you might want to practice. During practice, the opposite squad uses the actual playbook of your next opponent, so you can go up ageist their 3-4 defense or crazy spread offense formation.

SCOUTING & FREE AGENTS: When you scout a player, although some basic information about them will be available to you, you pick the individual attribute you want to know about. The first time you spend XP to scout a player you'll get a letter grade for that attribute, the second and final time (which naturally costs more XP) you'll get an actual number. You can also scout a player multiple times in a single week provided you have enough XP in the bank.

Sometimes when you scout a player, the game will generate a random event that affects him. For instance, you might see a story in Madden's news feed that changes that player and the attributes you may have scouted. Although won't have to re-scout them if, for instance, they are injured during the combine, you might have to recheck your scouting for that player to see how their attributes may have changed because of it.

Free agency happens in the offseason, but during the season some players will want to talk about resigning so they can get that security instead of hitting the market. Coaches will get notices from these players during the week. If you decide not to start negotiations, some players may get mad and decide to break off talks. Good luck re-signing these guys once the offseason hits.

PLAYERS AND PLAYCALLING: Old Superstar mode players are going to love this. If you play as a single-player in Connected Careers, you now get to call the plays even if you aren't the QB or middle linebacker! Connected Careers guru at developer EA Tiburon Josh Looman, said they know that it's not realistic, but that they decided to do it this way because it's simply more fun. We agree.

HANDS-ON: The changes the development team have made to the passing game are noticeable. Because of the new passing trajectories and improved ball placement mechanics, I definitely felt like I could put the ball in more areas all around the field. If there was an interception I knew it was my fault, and I didn't see any of the super-jumping by the linebackers. QB dropbacks felt nice and tight, and play action was not detrimental like it was in past games.

As for the new Impact physics engine, I noticed it in a number of situations as multiple players struck a ball carrier; creating moments like we haven't seen in previous Maddens. However, there were also some times when players would get tackled a little awkwardly. I wonder if it'll be like the first year of FIFA and NHL's contact system where there were some funky falls. It's an early build, though, so there's plenty of time to tweak things. 

For more on Connected Careers and the Impact engine go here, and to read about other gameplay changes, check out this preview. Kinect fans can also read about Madden 13's use of the peripheral's voice commands.

Madden NFL 13 comes out for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Vita on August 28.

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