Where gaming and football intersect we get EA Sport's Madden NFL. In recent years the experience has felt wholly underwhelming, as each iteration felt more and more like a new coat of paint on an increasingly aging chassis. So much so that the standard that each of the last two year's versions were little more than a roster update with a $60 price tag.
Good news first– Madden 13 breaks the mold. This is the first time in the current console generation where it legitimately feels like work has been put in. Sure, EA throwing around terms like the 'Infinity engine' sounds good, but it's nothing without performance. Like all physics engines it can get a little janky sometimes, but overall this really feels like football for the first time, in a long time. It's easy to extol the virtues, but I'll let you head over to Polygon, our sister gaming site,for their review in far more detail than I can offer here.
I'm here to tell you how this year's version of Madden plays specifically for Carolina Panthers fans, and let me tell you it's a beautiful thing.
More after the jump
1. The Madden Gods smiled on the defense
If you played last year's game you know how awful the defense played. There was simply no way to stop the run, and the result was near endless cursing and frustration as a friend of mine (who happens to be a Chiefs fan) ran all over me with Jamaal Charles. You wont hear me complaining too much, but the defense... well... they're overrated.
Carolina's linebackers are so good that they more than make up for the mediocre defensive line. By default the backers are Davis, Beason and Anderson– but by matching the depth chart and subbing in Kuechly you sacrifice some pass rushing to turn the linebacking corps into a wall.
In the secondary Captain Munnerlyn received a 74 rating– not great, but more than enough when paired with Chris Gamble (91). The safeties are mediocre, but again, with the linebackers so good a lot of problems fall by the wayside.
2. Playbook = fun
I'm still delving into several teams, but so far the Panthers playbook looks to be the most varied and interesting. Lacking a large amount of play action passes, the Carolina playbook makes up for it with option plays, QB runs, and a host of draw plays; and yes, the Panthers have the triple option.
One area that I'm a little disappointed in is how few plays there are for Mike Tolbert. Granted, it's been our assumption that the Panthers will have a cadre of looks for their new offensive weapon without truly knowing it's the case, but unfortunately it looks like the same old vanilla FB plays you've seen before.
3. So... much.... speed
Whether it's Cam Newton under center, Steve Smith running routes at a breakneck pace, or Joe Adams dancing in the backfield, the Panthers are a supremely fast team. There's speed at a lot of positions, and it shows. I've broken huge returns with Pilares, and Olsen is a nasty match-up for opposing linebackers.
This is the best Madden I've ever played, and with the Panther playing so well it's clear this season on the consoles will be a pleasure.