At one point in time the Madden NFL franchise held all the cards in gaming. Its involvement with a system could make or break the hardware, lending a system credence as a legit gaming device or relegating it to obscurity. That cache no longer exists for the franchise but it is still without a doubt one of the biggest titles in gaming and its appearance on the Wii U is a boon to gamers, even if it comes two-thirds of the way through the current NFL season.
Earlier this year we reviewed Madden NFL 13 on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and found it to be quite the stellar football game enhanced over past iterations through the thoughtfully designed Connected Careers mode and the celebrated physics adjustments of the Infinity Engine. Madden NFL 13 on the Wii U comes to players sans the new physics adjustments but unless one has already played this year’s version on a different platform, you won’t miss what you’ve never had.
But while the Infinity Engine may be missing from this version of the title, the Wii U gamepad brings something no other version has as well. Much like with Call of Duty: Black Ops II, playing Madden NFL 13 with the gamepad feels quite natural but unlike Black Ops II, the gamepad offers a functional gameplay use outside of just pushing video to the screen. The ability to pick plays on the gamepad is great, especially when playing against someone locally, which allows the player with the gamepad to hide what plays they are looking at. Unfortunately due to the Wii U only supporting one gamepad, this can end up with gamepad users having a somewhat unfair advantage in picking plays, especially on defense. While play selection on the gamepad is hidden from your opponent, their play options are not hidden from you. Even the most sportsmanlike players will find it difficult to resist taking a little peak at what might be run next.
Aside from playcalling, the gamepad adds in additional gameplay functionality and information, such as the ability to direct players on hot routes and allowing for an easy playbook style view at what you are about to run. The former is nice to be able to do without having to press buttons and gives players a little more direct control, while the latter mostly eliminates the need to bring up the receiver button assignments before a play. None of it is groundbreaking or make this the best version to pick up, but they are nice additions that enhance the overall experience.
Unfortunately much like Black Ops II, Madden NFL 13 suffers from a low user base*, making some of the online functionality, including Connected Careers, less appealing than its counterparts on other systems. But unlike Call of Duty, Madden isn’t mostly reliant on playing with other people and the core package here is well worth it if you haven’t already jumped into Madden on another system already.
*Note: During our review period the max online user-player base that we saw was 42.