|System: Xbox 360, PS3*, Wii, PS Vita|
|Dev: EA Sports|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: August 28, 2012|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Matt Walker
I'm going to go ahead and get something out of the way right now: I do not play yearly sports games every year. To put it more simply, I do not rush out to buy the latest new franchise title to compare how many hairs Aaron Rodgers has on his chin from year to year. This doesn't mean, however, that I don't want to play each and every yearly incarnation in the many sports titles I love.
The thing about yearly sports titles is that everyone wants them. They are like a collective trading card game; whenever a new set comes out, even if the new feature is only something small and trivial, people have to have it. Like a gambling obsession, the Madden series always has something up its sleeve to make you want more. Hell, without Madden, I doubt so many people would be into the Fantasy Football league. After all, Madden gives you an opportunity to craft your fantasies of football like no one else.
With this year's entry, there's something new and revolutionary for the franchise, and to the sports game formula in general. I am talking about the Connected Career, or, as I have dubbed it, Madden: The Gathering.
It's your lovable career mode as you know it, except now it comes with a depth that rivals the formula of yesterday's RPGs. With Connected Career, you will play through the career of chosen created player or coach, or you can take over the life of a current NFL player or coach, or, my personal favorite, some of the league's most legendary players and coaches (Jerry Rice and Vince Lombardi, to name a couple).
The leagues you will be able to play in are user-created, with up to 32 people online and offline participating in your own football empire. I can't get into everything about the captivating Connected Career, but I can say this: It made the decision clear that this is the Madden for me.
What would an RPG-styled game be without XP? Well Madden has is in spades! No matter what you choose (created player or coach, existing or legendary) each has a number of goals that reward you with XP to advance your character to becoming the best in the league. Of course, there are lifetime goals (like pass yards), but there are also various other things for which you are rewarded XP. Like practices, for example. These practice sessions allow you to play out a scenario such as the score being tied at the half and you having to come out on top by the end of the game (or practice session).
If you are the coach, utilizing the XP points becomes a delicate thing. Instead of just advancing all of your favorites, you can use the XP to scout and fill out your rosters, talk retiring players out of retiring, and give you an extra advantage on signing free agents. The XP can even assist in getting the inside track info about draft picks before anyone else. The layers of the XP utilization make this aspect of the game ten times more interesting to someone like myself, and that's saying something since I never even liked it before.