Madden is a franchise that’s been around for a long time. Though the traditional formula works really well, fans have complained, for good reason, that the franchise never really gets enough improvements each year to truly justify an annual purchase. The PlayStation Vita has faced a similar outlook from fans, since the game selection hasn’t been up to par, in the eyes of the fan base. However, EA has done something, accidentally or otherwise, with the PS Vita release of Madden 13, and it’s the best thing to happen to both the Madden franchise and Sony’s new handheld.
Every other year, the kick controls change from using the joystick to pressing the X button. Every year, the engine gets improved to find new ways to make linebackers magically able to find new ways to ball hock. Every other year up to this point has been a minimal effort to make the experience of Madden better and better, but it never crosses that point where fans say, “Oh yeah! I’ll definitely put da team on my back now, doue!” For me, the only big change, apart from the harold Infinity Engine, was the fact that Madden ’13 is on the PlayStation Vita. So, I jumped on it in my traditional fashion: start the download before I go to bed, and then play it in the morning. No sense in going to bed with lowered expectations, since I’ve seen it before plenty of times with the franchise. When I woke up that next morning, I was in for a very compelling surprise: Madden ’13 on the PS Vita really gives the player the drawing board.
The main menu showed off what was to come in the official retail release of the game, which includes many things that fans will experience in the PlayStation 3 version: Madden Moments Live, Franchise Mode, Superstar Mode, and Online Mode. Surely, nothing too spectacular yet. Unfortunately, like every other Madden demo, the only thing I could do was play a default game between two selected teams; in this case, the teams who appeared in the last Super Bowl, being the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. The game loaded, the kick-off was as expected, and the first set of plays came up for my offense. After I chose a deep pass out of shotgun, the tips started rolling in before each play. The first one told me about hot routes. I could create routes for each player through the normal button scheme native to the Madden series. I could also draw them. Literally, the PS Vita version of Madden ’13 allows players to select receivers and draw routes for them to run using the front touchscreen.
Madden ’13 doesn’t stop here with the control enhancements. Receivers can also be sent in motion across the field in pre-play preparation with a quick swipe, and the rear touchscreen is used by the quarterback in order to avoid incoming defensive backs. These enhancements aren’t solely on one side of the ball either; the defense reaps the most, in my opinion, to the PS Vita hardware. Players can be clicked on instead of spamming the circle button to get the right player. Press and hold the player, and then drag on the screen to change defensive schemes for each player. With this mechanic, defenses can easily double team high-profile receivers, send specific players on blitzes, and even drop individuals into zone coverage. What’s even greater about this is that it’s become savvy for new players as well. In defensive mode, pressing the L button freezes the game, and it allows you to look at the offense, assess your defense in response by changing coverages and schemes, and then bring all of these changes into the play at hand.
The potential for this portable version is incredibly strong, and comparing it to other versions of the game gives console versions a run for their money, even if the Kinect version for the Xbox 360 has similar functionalities. The ability to control every single player may feel like a likeness only for elite players, but this control also gives new players the chance to truly look at offenses to help speed up the learning process. Again, though Kinect brings these similar functions to Madden '13, the PS Vita truly brings the game into the players' hands, allowing users to control the entire field in comparison to having to call out verbally in response to the opposing side of the ball. Instead of fighting with defenses that disguise their linebackers like magicians and dealing with offenses that throw the pants off of you, Madden ’13 on the PlayStation Vita allows all users, new and conditioned, the ability to truly see the game the way that the true pros see it: on a drawing board.