Every year EA Sports steps up to dominate the gridiron, even if it’s technically the only player on the field with its Madden NFL series. There are little changes to the game each year to satisfy the fans, and while a minority complain about how these changes don’t make much difference, the game continues to sell well. Madden NFL 13 is just around the corner and the company is making some interesting strides that could make a noticeable difference in how the game plays. We looked under the hood of the upcoming follow-up, which is set to release August 28.

First up: the passing game. Historically, Madden games have been about simply highlighting a receiver and waiting for them to get open. This time around, players can adjust their throwing trajectory and target the receiver's back shoulder, out to the sideline or wherever. Not only does this help connect with the receiver, but it also throws off defenders and reduces the chance of an interception. The use of pump fakes becomes more necessary and avoiding the pass rush is even more integral.

There are also changes to play-action, including a better timing windows on receiver routes in case they “close up” with a defending man or someone is threatening to sack the quarterback. These actions also unravel much faster, making each situation more crucial when it comes to completing the play. Hardcore fans will certainly notice the difference.

Defense has also gone through some changes. The AI is much more canny now, as receivers and defensive backs will not react to a ball unless it’s being throw in their direction. Different coverage techniques are also available; defenses can run man or zone coverage and try to disguise those coverages to possibly throw off someone during the play and open up the opportunity for an interception or fumble. Play calling will also be improved for particular situations like the last two-minutes of a half, goal line formations, clock draining and red zone opportunities, adding to the realism.

Aside from that, most of the features you’ve come to know and love in the Madden series will remain completely intact, so you can play your favorite team and see how they fare. We’re curious to pit the Tebow-led Jets (complete with his “Tebow-ing” animation intact) against Peyton Manning, the new QB of the Denver Broncos just to see who can pull off the win in a “put up or shut up” situation. Honestly, though, my money’s on Manning (and that’s not entirely because I’m from Denver).

In addition to gameplay changes, Madden NFL 13 will also incorporate some new presentation touch-ups. Over 450 new receiver animations are being added to the game, heightening the realism when it comes to pass situations. New cut scenes will also be introduced to help each match-up feel more complete, including ceremonies before games and TV presentation style set-ups. So it’s more like the presentation of the modern NFL, though you can skip through them if you just want to get down to the field. Dynamic day changes also occur on the field, so as the sun sets you'll see effects like stadium lights turning on and such.

And for those of you who weren’t crazy about the somewhat flat commentary by Gus Johnson (who chose this guy again?), EA Sports has heard you. For Madden NFL 13, the developers turned to CBS’ NFL crew, Phil Simms and Jim Nantz, to provide play-by-play (with 82 hours’ worth of dialogue recorded – wow). We’ve heard these guys in action and they’re definitely a far better choice, reading each situation accurately and responding accordingly; we’re especially fond of how they react to a surprise interception. They’ll also appear digitally within Madden NFL 13, so you can see them talking about the game on hand.

Other new features for Madden NFL 13 include Kinect integration with the Xbox 360 version and possibly Move support for the PlayStation 3 edition. EA Sports also promises plenty of new online features that have yet to be finalized, but will include better league support for hardcore players. We’d love to see something Fantasy Football related just to help make it the ultimate NFL product.

So yeah, there’s a lot of territory that’s being covered with Madden NFL 13 and for the first time in quite a while, it appears that EA Sports is making fundamental changes that will make it feel like a better football product all around. We’ll have a hands-on report in a few weeks time when the game is presented at E3, so check back for updates.

The new season can’t get here soon enough!