- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2012

My days of passively watching televised football games might be over.

The latest innovations to a venerable gaming franchise make the big difference in Madden NFL 13 (EA Sports and Tiburon, reviewed with Xbox 360, rated Everyone, $59.99).

Why feel helpless by my favorite team’s on-the-field exploits when I can take total control of players and manipulate their success and failure in an amazing sports presentation that now, more than ever in the history of Madden, truly mirrors any real broadcast.

It’s not like EA Sports had to stretch the boundaries, As the only video game in pigskin town to boast the NFL license, and with plenty of fans already lined up to buy the latest game, the lack of competition could have been a simple cash collecting, “rest on your laurels” approach in 2012.

Instead, developers did not play a prevent defense. The new Infinity Engine ties physics-based collisions to every player’s action on the field as the program factors in mass, speed and body type with calculations down to muscle and joint tension.

That translates into nearly the most realistic games possible as I command my beloved Chicago Bears and challenge all of the mighty of the NFL.

Running back Matt Forte’s neck and body twists as opponents grab at him, my huge lineman stumble over defensive ends as legs flop out from under them, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher fights off multiple blocks (bodies crumpling in the process) to sack the Washington Redskins’ RG III (in my first full game no less) and stars like wide receiver Devon Hester jump, bump and fall over safeties as he fluidly fights for an opening.

Do I really take notice at the authentic quarterback cadences from some of the NFL’s stars, the 82 hours of recorded material from commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, the new collections of drop back animations, the eye-popping amount of replay footage incorporated in games and ridiculous variations of uniforms and gear?

Not outwardly, but my brain and eyes absorb this level of constant and subtle, lifelike detail during every play from scrimmage to make Madden NFL 13 stand out as a visual and aural smorgasbord.

Of all of the new features, I admit to not being in love with the new passing system. I was happy with three choices (bullet, regular and lob) and now I can control more than 25 potential pass trajectories using the right analog stick.

Thankfully, I can just stick to the old method. I did welcome receivers that can now signal the quarterback (watch grayed out versus lit icons) in anticipation of potentially catching a ball. That made my job much easier.

Another welcomed innovation for Xbox 360 owners incorporates the functionally of the Kinect sensor system. The often touted but seldom truly utilized marvel allows an armchair quarterback or middle linebacker to shout out signals that teams react to in the actual game.

Screaming “time out” at the television screen means calling time out on the field. In all, more than 6,000 recognized phrases extends a field general’s arsenal as he can just as easily call “spike,” “hike” and the daunting “d-line shift right.”

For those committed to playing more than just the occasional matchup with online friends or computer-controlled teams, two levels of satisfyingly time-sucking modes are available.

First, the vaulted Connected Careers brings a role-playing appeal to Madden as it melds the Franchise and Superstars modes of the past.

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