Madden 13 preview: A first look at E3

(EA SPORTS)

LOS ANGELES — You can say just about anything about an NFL player, just don’t mess with his “Madden” rating. It’s become a source of pride for players in recent years. Sure Pro Bowl nods are nice, and who wouldn’t like an endorsement for a car. But the “Madden” rating is all important.

Years ago T.J. Houshmandzadeh publicly complained about his speed rating. Maurice Jones-Drew, Nick Barnett and Shawne Merriman are among the notable others. And who can forget about Ethan Albright‘s fake letter to John Madden about his historically low 53 rating? But now instead of fake letters to Madden, if a player has a problem with his rating they have to take it out on one of their own — Clint Oldenburg.

Oldenburg played five years in the NFL, most notably with the Redskins, and now he’s six months into his new gig with EA Sports, helping to bring realism to the venerable sports franchise. Oldenburg is charged with coming up with the linemen’s rankings and it’s a pain-staking process, which takes in many different measurables and goes through countless simulations to get it just right. And even then, he knows some players are not going to be very happy about it.

“I know I’ll be hearing from some of my old teammates for sure,” Oldenburg said.

This attention to detail are just part of what makes Madden 13 something special, and I was able to get a sneak-peak at the Electronic Entertainment Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. EA Sports has added the Infinity Engine which uses real-time physics for balancing and bouncing (it’s weird to see a player in a video game stumble) to make the game more realistic. What that means is like snowflakes, no two tackles on Madden 13 are going to look the same.

And probably the best thing of all, no more leaping linebackers with a vertical that would have put former NBA star David Thompson to shame. That and defenders have to actually be looking at the ball to make an interception. Rejoice!

The precision with the deep ball is a lot better, too. For those of you who have rejoiced in trying to guide the ball in perfectly to receivers running deep, rest assured you can toss the tear drop into your receivers bread basket, just out of the reaches of the beaten defensive back. (And seriously, you won’t have to worry about the linebacker from 20 yards away jumping up to snatch the ball out of the air.)

And there are also new features of the Connected Careers and the Kinect which allows players to call their own plays via voice commands. (I’ll wait for a hologram Mike Shanahan to yank me out of a game, because that would be cool.)

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re like me, you don’t buy a new version of “Madden” every year, as you wait for the technology to improve. But this should be the year you jump back on board. The new playing features are awesome, and you won’t be disappointed.

Follow Adam Rank via Twitter or via Facebook. And be sure to check out his Pick Six: Best sports video games ever. Also be sure to catch the latest “Dave Dameshek Football Program.”

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