Connected Careers mode supports up to 32 players online (and features a dedicated website that allows you to spend XP and manage your roster if you're coaching), so many of the AI issues can be avoided by simply replacing the AI with a real person. But those who prefer to play offline or by themselves online are going to have to live with many of these problems.
Beyond the AI quirks there are a number of things seemingly omitted from the Connected Careers mode altogether. First, there is no way to edit players in Connected Careers, so those of you who liked to mirror the real NFL within your Franchise mode are out of luck. Just as puzzling is the lack of a transaction wire to keep up with the moves made by other teams in your league -- the only way you know what's going on is by reading the virtual tweets and scrolling through the handful of top stories in the news center.
On the presentation side, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms take over the commentary duties and the results are mixed. Simms, especially, got on my nerves with his constant negative comments that often failed to take into consideration the context of the play. New graphic overlays and camera angles during replays give the game a broadcast feel, while the improved lighting helps make this the most visually impressive "Madden" to date.
While it's far from a perfect game, "Madden NFL 13" certainly dispels the notion that it's simply "still 'Madden.'" The Infinity Engine makes this the best-playing "Madden" game to date and despite some blemishes, it's clear that Connected Careers mode is poised to become the future of sports gaming. But like a team in rebuilding mode, "Madden 13" can both wow you with flashes of its full potential and frustrate you with its flaws.
If the current-gen edition of "Madden 13" is focused on taking the franchise into the future, the PlayStation Vita edition is squarely rooted in delivering an experience that feels more like what gamers have grown accustomed to playing on their consoles in previous seasons.
The Vita version of "Madden 13" is lacking such notable features as Connected Careers and the Infinity Engine, but does include many of the presentation upgrades its console cousin received this year, including commentary from Nantz and Simms. "Madden 13" on the Vita retains both the Franchise and Superstar modes from previous console editions, plus gives gamers the opportunity to experience the Super Bowl-style presentation with their favorite teams in exhibition games.
Graphically, "Madden 13" on the Vita looks amazing considering we're talking about a handheld system. Everything from the stadiums and player models to the cutscenes appear to be ripped straight from the console version. The tradeoff, however, is a slight hit in the frame rate but I only really noticed an occasional hiccup when flipping through the menu screens.
I suppose my biggest gripe with "Madden 13" on Vita is the lack of cross-platform play. This is one of the untapped strengths of Sony's fledgling device and sports gamers have already been treated to this console/handheld interaction in "MLB: The Show." I would have loved the ability to save my Connected Career to the cloud, access it from my Vita and tinker with my lineup, then send it back to the cloud and have it waiting on me when I returned to my PS3. Hopefully this is something EA can rectify with "Madden 14."
Even though it doesn't have the same bells and whistles as the console version, "Madden 13" on the Vita is still the best football game ever to grace a portable console.
"Madden NFL 13"
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($59.99); PlayStation Vita ($39.99)
Rating: E for everyone
Score: 8.2/10 (current gen); 7.8/10 (Vita)