It’s that time of year again. As we head through summer and into fall we all know it’s nearly time for football, and with football comes the next iteration of Madden. This year Madden makes the leap to Playstation Vita, making this an excellent football year for folks like myself that want to take their franchise mode addiction on the road. You can imagine my excitement when I saw the demo for Madden 13 in the PS Store this morning on my Vita. The demo allows you to play an exhibition game, so this preview will cover only the gameplay and presentation aspects of Madden 13.
The first thing that stood out to me was the lack of touch screen integration in the game’s menus. While that isn’t a bad thing necessarily, it is a weird thing, and it hinted at the possibility that this game might not be the most polished PS Vita experience ever. From there, the menus all look like typical Madden menus: everything is nicely set out and easy to navigate, though the font seems a touch smaller than it really should be (call that a minor gripe).
Once I got into a game, I noticed the visuals were less impressive than I had hoped. Don’t get me wrong – they aren’t bad by any stretch, but this isn’t going to wow you quite like some other Vita titles. Coupled with the “good not, great” visuals are the all too frequent slowdowns. The game can get a bit chuggy from time to time, and this occurs while executing or even choosing plays.
Navigating the playbook is particularly tricky because, when selecting a formation, there’s a delay between the time you press a direction and when the game reacts to that action. This first caused me to think the game didn’t register my actions, causing me to press the same direction again and eventually overshooting my chosen formation after the delayed response. That’s not a deal breaker, but plenty annoying. The game itself runs smooth enough that it never caused me to make a stupid play, nor did it hinder my gameplay. The slowdowns do exist, though, and you will notice them.
As for Vita-specific controls, there isn’t much to say. You can swipe around on the back-touch pad to move the quarterback around in the pocket to avoid a sack. I tried this and it didn’t feel natural so I stopped. You can also use the touchscreen to draw a hot route for a receiver at the line of scrimmage. This is very similar to the Wii versions back in the day and I am pleased to report that this function works very well. You can send your wideout running in all sorts of stupid loops with relative ease. The only other notable Vita-specific control addition is in the kicking/punting game. You are now forced to use the Vita’s accelerometer to aim your kicks. I can hear your thoughts now, and relax – it works just fine.
I am also pleased to report that the presentation tweaks from last years console version appear to be largely in place. Each game truly feels like a real game you might watch on TV, apart from the weird slowdowns. The announcers are fairly fluid and the commentary is varied enough to avoid getting tiresome to soon.
There is one last thing I feel the need to mention in regards to the commentary, and generally the audio: the demo suffers from an odd glitch in which anytime the game got loud, say after a big play, an awful scratching sound is produced and the announcers become twice as loud. The result is an unsettling, demonic-sounding commentary that continues for 5-10 seconds before righting itself.
If the game were to ship as it is, it would be a game that football fans should definitely look at if they want their Madden to go, because it’s the only way to do so. However, I am withholding hope that the myriad of bugs can get ironed out before the game’s release on August 28th.