Madden NFL 13 Wii U review: rookie potential

Although the Wii U version of Madden NFL 13 has long since missed the opening kickoff, it offers football fans an interesting option for those that have yet to play it on Xbox 360 and PS3. While lacking polish, this incarnation of Madden utilizes Nintendo's GamePad in interesting ways, making it an exciting prospect.


For example, the playbook has been moved to the Game Pad screen, freeing up precious real estate on the TV screen. The Game Pad offers three offensive/defensive plays, as well as a number of sub-menus that feature the rest of the playbook, as well as recently called plays that worked in the past. Navigating these screens with the Game Pad can be enthralling for football fans--sometimes a little too much, as I got nailed with a delay of game penalty more than once.

A particularly cool feature allows players to redirect receiver routes and re-assign defensive coverage using the touch screen. This is very useful if you see the potential to catch a napping defender, as you can simply tap on a receiver and draw a whole new route for them. This is where the AI can become exposed, as they often fail to compensate for these audibles. This led to a number of blowout games, taking some of the competitive fun away. This feature is a lot more fun to use online, as my opponent and I engaged in a mental chess match with one another using the playbook and frequent Game Pad audibles.

Using the GamePad did lead to an unexpected consequence. With the controller providing a robust playbook and a chance to direct players, I had to constantly remind myself that the action was on the TV. After calling a play, I'd expect the play to unfold on the Game Pad screen, only to find the opponent had already snapped the ball on the TV. There were definite moments of split focus, something that will fix itself after playing enough games. The game also allows for the option of forgoing the Game Pad entirely in favor of a Wii Remote and Nunchuk or a Pro controller for a more traditional Madden experience.

Madden for Wii U also suffers from one glaring omission--the missing Infinity Engine, which brought many improvements to the tackling physics and collision detection. While the bone-crushing hits are fun to watch in all their glory on other consoles, the Wii U version of Madden runs on the physics engine from Madden NFL 12. The difference is clear to anyone that has played more than a couple of games. Defensive players can send receivers flying at awkward angles, while slow-motion replays are filled with clipping issues and unrefined animations. Anyone that has been spoiled by the Infinity Engine will find the Wii U's Madden to be a step back in that department.

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While the Wii U Madden makes compromises in some areas, it retains one of the series' most important features--online play. The online interface is every bit as intuitive as its other console counterparts, making online matches a breeze and keeping me up to date with updated rosters. Madden Moments are also here, featuring scenarios that date all the way back to the first week of the season.

There's no doubt that Madden NFL 13 on the Wii U has some shortcomings. On top of an outdated physics engine and some AI issues, getting into the main menu is a painfully long process. Every time I start the game, I'm bombarded with mindless minutiae--including about a dozen separate "Connecting…" prompts and EA's Privacy Policy, which comes up after every fresh boot. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Madden are akin to Patriots QB Tom Brady, a perennial championship contender that sees his team upgraded every year. The Wii U's incarnation of the annual football series, with its well thought-out Game Pad implementation, is more like Robert Griffin III--an exciting rookie with the potential to become something great as quickly as next year.

This Madden NFL 13 Wii U review was based on a retail version of the game provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.