As fall slowly comes into view, football fans can count on both the return of real football on Sunday afternoons and the release of Madden NFL 13 to pop into their consoles and handhelds.
And as usual, the team at EA Sports has been busy the past year bringing their A-game to provide the best football experience possible. Whether making new advances, or improving upon ones made in Madden NFL 12, there's a plethora of tweaks to enjoy from your couch.
Two changes are immediately apparent on the front of the game box. The minor change is the new cover player, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The bigger change is the banner touting Kinect support for Xbox 360.
Kinect will now allow voice control when running the offense and defense. With a powerful vocabulary pre-programmed into the game, you just tell it what to do. Your audibles are actually audible as you really become the QB calling for "zig route", "motion left", or "hurry up!" If you think the refs screwed you out of a first down, you can even say "challenge." And the defense has just as large a set of commands to hastily reassign players to match offensive changes.
On the offensive side of the ball, the biggest changes have been made to the passing game as the developers continue their quest to make it realistic, not too easy, but not punishingly difficult, either. A host of new trajectories and ball speeds will help thread the needle to get over linebackers, under safeties, and into receivers' arms.
Another new twist is the timing on passing routes. Icons for receivers will now be grayed-out when a receiver is not expecting a pass; you can still throw their direction, but the chance of a completion will be much reduced.
Tack on new ways to avoid pass rushers while in the pocket and improved pump fakes, and passing is better than ever this year.
The defense gets its own improvements to help counterbalance all the offensive upgrades. At the suggestion of many defensive minds around the NFL—including Jets defensive coordinator and CB West alum Mike Pettine, Jr.—alignments have been given a complete overhaul.
The new alignment system will prevent mismatches at the line of scrimmage, making some of those cheap 'money plays' for offenses a thing of the past. Additionally, disguising zone and man formations is better, with the offense sending a man in motion no longer giving a 'tell' as to what scheme the defenders are using.
You can also expect the tweaks made to NCAA 13 to carry over, so the 'psychic DBs' that were eliminated there are also gone here.
Special teams have been given a revamp in the punting department. In collaboration with free agent Clint Oldenburg, wedges have an extra player to give the return man the extra bit of time to try to find a hole. Formations that weren't quite true to reality have also been fixed.
The overall presentation is greatly improved as well. The most noticeable change is in the announcing.
Love him or hate him, Cris Collinsworth and relative nobody Gus Johnson have been tossed in the trash for the CBS primary team of Phil Simms and Jim Nantz. There's now 82 hours of dialogue and just shy of 10,000 individual spoken lines, giving the most variety yet to your immersive gameday experience.
Stadium and field lighting, which was already improved last year to shift after each quarter based on time of day, will now shift ever so subtly after each play.
Crowd noise is also more realistic, with all new audio samples taken using 24 microphones versus just 4 previously. Adding in new sound bytes from NFL Films, even tackles and huddle chatter are more realistic than ever.
And for those worried about the most important upgrade of all, yes, "Tebowing" is in there as well.
The best news of all is you've only got to wait three weeks to experience all these features. Once again, EA Sports has really proved that "if it's in the game, it's in the game."
Madden NFL 13 is scheduled for release from EA Sports on August 28 for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and Vita (it will also release later as a launch title for the Wii U). Rated E for Everybody.