Madden 13 Gameplay Blog (Operation Sports)

OS’ man-in-charge Steve Noah was able to get some hands-on time with Madden 13. Here are his initial impressions on the gameplay inforamtion released today:

Madden NFL 13 will feature a total control passing mechanic, where you lead receivers with the “L” stick. So, for example, you have a receiver split out wide, running a go-route against a cover 2. Just after the chuck, there is a small window of opportunity for you to throw a pass to the outside shoulder on the sidelines. You do this by timing it right, holding the “L” stick and pointing it towards the sidelines.

No longer will we see rainbow screen passes or bullet passes to someone 3 feet in front of you. This year there are 20 new passing trajectories. Throw it high or low, loft medium-range passes, in the middle of the field over defenders (with no super human linebackers), and get the type of throws you want. The popular back shoulder fades that Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees can throw, will finally be in your arsenal. These types of passes are determined by how long you press the button.

There are 20-plus new QB drop backs, with varying 1-3-5-7 step drop backs. There are also shotgun drops, where the QB will take one step from the shotgun position and fire out a quick pass (think Brady). QB’s will actually turn into their throws, as well. For screen passes, instead of feeling like you need to sprint backwards, to get away from the pressure to throw the screen pass, there are screen drop backs, now the QB will auto drop and take five quick steps and a few drift steps and drop in a nice screen.

There are auto pump fake drops, where the QB will pump fake one way, then throw to the other side, as seen in the popular backdoor Sluggo seam routes. It is recommended to let the AI handle the drop backs, instead of the user holding down on the control pad, to move the QB after the snap. This allows the QB to drop back on their own, into the correct dropback for timing purposes with receivers. It will also allow users to scan the field and anticipate where they will go with the football.

New pass animations have been added. You will see the arm cock back deeper and shoulders dip down for deep passes, but it will be much quicker. You won’t see the long drawn out Hail Mary animation, unless you are heaving one at the end of the game. It will allow for more realism, without fear of getting sacked.

If you are on the run, there is a new throw on the run animation. You no longer have to set your feet and setup a throw, when on the run. There are risks for throwing back across your body, since you don’t have the power to throw it that way. Shovel passes have been added for quick throws to get out of trouble. Instead of bullet passes to a receiver that is 3 yards in front of you, a shovel pass animation kicks in, that looks more realistic. They actually captured a Brett Favre animation, where he was running in the snow and flips it before falling down, as seen here.

Madden NFL 13 throws out all the old slow pump fakes and replaced them with new quicker ones. Instead of the long pump fakes that you have to wait for the animation to finish on, the quick jab pump fakes allow you to be ready to throw right away. On the run pump fakes can happen whether you are inside or outside of the pocket. Pump faking to specific receivers is still in and there is a pump fake “window of opportunity” where if you pump fake in that window, there is a better chance of defender biting on it.

There are eight brand new QB avoidance moves, which helps when trying to avoid pass rushers. It triggers with the right stick, when hitting it at the right time. QB’s will setup quickly after avoidance, so you are ready to throw right away. In Madden NFL 12 the QB was at 78 percent of his max speed when he was in the pocket without holding the sprint button. This year, they slowed down that movement considerably.

Let’s talk about the play-sack-action … oops, play-action. Improvements have been made! Play-action animations have been sped up. QB’s will also get out from behind the center a lot quicker. They have added more block and release routes for the halfbacks and tight ends, as players will look to see if there is a blitz. If the blitz is coming, he will help block, if not, he will release into a pattern. You will see a lot of defenders go after the fake, chasing and sometimes tackling the ball carrier without the ball. The biggest change in play-action is the ability to abort it all together. To break out of play-action, you hit the right trigger and the QB will abort and the RB will immediately look to block an on-coming pass rusher.

There are over 430 new catch animations for throws that are high, low, to the left or right, behind a receiver or placed on the back shoulder. Even if you throw into space, receivers will make adjustments. Not to be outdone, the new catching system also includes new sidelines catches, standing catches, pitch catches and many more. There are also new realistic swat animations, if they are backpedaling, you can see players swatting while off balance and falling on their back. The goal is to have 100% catch coverage and have the ability to make catches in every scenario.

The ability to user catch will be a little more user friendly. They have slowed down the control of the receiver. Receivers will now continue on the right path and not turn so abruptly, when taking over. This will make it easier for users that aren’t as familiar with user catching and understand how it all works. User catching helps the average guy, but doesn’t hurt the experts. It’s simply an assist for the less experienced user catchers out there, that want to learn.

Timing now matters. Icons at the snap are dimmed out, until the receiver is expecting a pass or when he would look for a pass, in a realistic time frame. There are some routes where the receiver is looking for the ball much quicker, than with the longer drawn out routes. On deeper routes, the icons won’t light up until the right time, which is just before a receiver makes their cut. This will help users with their timing. There are also hot reads, so if a corner over the outside WR blitzes, icons light up for that particular receiver right away. As players pass through zones, the icon will light up. When the icons light up, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are open, so you still have to make the right read, before throwing the ball. If the receiver icon isn’t lit up and you throw to him, you have to manually user catch; otherwise the receiver will not be looking for the ball.


In the new read-and-react defensive system, “Psychic DB” is gone. If you can’t see the ball, you can’t make a play on the ball. Defenders will not mirror WR cuts, defenders actually have to see the receiver make a cut in front of them, before making their decision. We will no longer see the LB jump to swat down a ball he never saw.

Madden NFL 13 introduces a new defensive alignment system. This year it’s best on best. Let’s say for example, Larry Fitzgerald is in the slot, a corner will cover him, not a LB. If a FB splits out wide, a LB will cover him, not a corner. This will help out on the defensive side of the ball, tremendously.

Player positioning is very important, players will play an off-man technique in various coverages, instead of 4 or 5 yards back, defenders are now 7 or 8 yards back, so the defense can read and react to player routes accordingly. They have also added trail techniques, so in bump-and-run two-man under plays, they stay on the inside hip of receivers, because they know they have safety help over the top. The defense is smart!

For guys that like to go up for the ball, like Calvin Johnson and Fitzgerald, some new catch tackle animations have been added for jump ball situations. This will give defenders a chance to try knocking down, swatting and stripping balls away from the receivers.

Disguising coverages is a must for Madden. This year defenses will zone adjust, so if you put a man in motion, the defender over you will follow, but once the ball is snapped, the defenders involved will swap zone coverages.

Special teams have finally been shown some love. We will finally see improvement in punt coverage and punt return formations. This year, gunners are actually being covered, while one drops back to help in wedge blocking. In punt coverage, players are more properly aligned and will play a little deeper and more inside. New punt coverage lanes and logic has been implemented, so we’ll no longer see everyone clump together. Players now have assigned lanes and you will see lanes open up, in the return game.

Play calling has been improved, including play calling in the red zone and 2-minute drill. For example, the Saints are more likely to throw on 1st and goal at the 1, they might even bring out 4 wide in shotgun formation. You won’t see a play action fake from a goalline formation called when it’s 3rd and goal from the 5-yard line. In the 2-minute drill, you will no longer see 4 vert called on every play. Instead, you will see more sideline corner strikes, passing to the flats and hitting receivers near the sidelines.

The AI also has a new conserve time strategy. If you are down 17 points, you will see the defense go into prevent, bend but don’t break, giving up the underneath stuff. Defenses will play soft zones, and won’t blitz nearly as often, to avoid the risk of giving up a quick score. Offensively, the AI will no longer go deep every play. Instead, they will call underneath plays and the offense will take what the defense gives them with high percentage completion plays.

While they worked on the user catching for the offense, they are also working on the defensive side of the ball, so hopefully there will be some real battles when two humans go at it and they are good at user catching.

Control alignment will match NCAA Football 13. All controls will be the same, for both games. Pump fakes, throw aways, pitching … every button combo will be an exact match, no more confusion when swapping games.

While I’d love to talk more about the gameplay, I can’t release anything else until June 4, when more information revealed.

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