We were sitting there in Electronic Arts’ swanky deluxe theater a couple of months ago for the company’s Gamers’ Day event in Redwood City, California, eager to see what they had to show off.  They revealed the new Army of Two game, along with an impressive looking build of FIFA 13 for the Wii U, a game that definitely applies some new logic to the way you play soccer – even if it is technical in a sense.  But then it also announced that it was producing a version of Madden NFL 13 for the Wii U, readying it for the holiday season.

 

We can understand that decision.  After all, Madden is one of the company’s biggest sellers, year in and year out, and producing it for Nintendo’s new system with some features that take advantage of the GamePad and additional hardware just makes sense.  However, after hearing the announcement of its developments, some problems have emerged.  Not ones that could derail the project entirely, but certainly the kind that could raise a yellow flag when it comes to plunking down 60 bucks for it.

 

Let’s look at the three main problems that could be a stumbling block for the game upon its release over the next month or so…

 

EA Sports doesn’t have the greatest record when it comes to launching Madden on new consoles.  Let’s be honest, Madden is a very strong franchise – but it’s far from invincible.  Even though the series has made a good transition onto some consoles, like the original Xbox and the PlayStation 2, there have been times where it fumbled the ball instead of running into the end zone.

 

Let’s start with the original PlayStation and Madden NFL ’96.  Technically, there was nothing wrong with that product, but EA couldn’t help but see what Sony was packing in terms of competition with NFL Gameday.  Its sharp visuals and gameplay, for the 1995 standard, that is, really stood out, and the company just felt that releasing Madden against it would be a lost battle.  So they shelved the franchise, giving Sony the win for the year.  (Don’t feel too bad, though – the following year, Madden NFL ’97 whooped Gameday ’97 rather well, and years after that, Sony gave up on the franchise entirely.)

 

Then there are a couple of Nintendo blunders.  EA produced Madden NFL 64 for the Nintendo 64 game system, and while it played a decent amount of football, there was something huge missing at the time – an NFLPA license.  Without that, real player names couldn’t be included.  So you could play as official NFL teams, but the pros, like Joe Montana and John Elway, wouldn’t have their official names.  A technical blunder more than anything, this was still a crushing blow to those who wanted everything out of a football game.  (Later editions of Madden for N64 remedied this problem.)

 

Finally, on the Nintendo 3DS last year, EA Sports rushed Madden NFL Football out the door.  Though the idea of playing football in the third dimension was quite appealing at the time, the game was merely average in terms of gameplay, and came up empty when it came to features.  The publisher resolved the problem with a better game in the following months, but, still, they should’ve just waited and released that one…

 

Though we haven’t seen the Wii U version in action long enough to make a judgment, we can’t help but be a little nervous, especially considering what else is missing.

 

Say bye-bye to the Infinity Engine.  One impressive feature with the other console versions of Madden NFL 13 is the Infinity Engine, which makes the tackling and receiving animations more realistic than ever before.  But don’t expect to see them in the Wii U version of the game.  "We definitely wanted to get the physics into the game," stated producer Yuri Bialoskursky, but "it's just something we weren't able to achieve for this first year on the new hardware."

 

Which leaves us wondering…sure, the game should put on a decent show, but will it really be the kind of show EA wants to provide for the Wii U?  Granted, it’s pumping out some other games that really take advantage of the hardware, and this one will as well, but we can’t help but wonder if users may be shortchanged by the cut corners, instead yearning for what Madden NFL 14 will be next year.  And that’s not all that’s missing…

 

No Online Team Play, and no Ultimate Team.  Two hardcore features that fans have come to appreciate over the last couple of years also won’t make the cut in Madden NFL 13 on Wii U.  Ultimate Team, a trading card game where you can build teams and share with your friends, is taking a time-out, while Online Team Play, a three-on-three supported co-op mode, is also gone.  Said Bialoskursky, “It’s another (feature) that we plan to add as we go.”

 

As we go?  It’s one thing to cut corners on certain modes and upload the patches to fix them later, but to cut entire modes for the sake of getting a game out on time?  They may not be the most reliable features out there, like a Connected Career mode (which is included) but some players will still be bummed that they’re lacking the access they so want – especially from a game that’s the same price as the other versions…

 

 

Despite the shortcomings, we’ll still give Madden NFL 13 a fair and unbiased look when it does release later this year, to see how the gameplay stacks up and how well the Connected Careers perform.  But with these shortcomings and the worry about the “rushed” version of the game landing on the system, and thus repeating history with other lesser ports, you can’t help but wonder if you should wait till next year.  Guess we’ll just have to see where the ball lands on the field…

 

Look for Madden NFL 13 later this year on Wii U, and right now on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, among other systems.