The Madden franchise doesn't change drastically from one season to the next, but it's possible to overlook this stagnation if there are some improvements to the well-worn formula. Unfortunately, Madden NFL 13 for the Vita ignores this delicate relationship. Essentially a handheld version of , the lone NFL game for Sony's powerful portable features almost none of the tweaks that have been implemented in this year's console releases. Because the core mechanics are solid, it's still a decent way to simulate a real NFL season while on the go, but it's impossible to shake the feeling that you've played this exact game before. And when you factor in plentiful performance issues, Madden NFL 13 for the Vita can't even live up to the standard set by the year-old game it's trying to emulate.
No one circles the wagons like the, um, Indianapolis Colts.
First, the good news: while this game cribs from 2012's console game, that game's lame commentary from Cris Collinsworth and Gus Johnson has been replaced. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms of CBS take over the play-calling duties. They have a tendency to repeat favorite phrases and clam up for interminably long stretches, but they are much better than the team that made you reach for the mute button last year. Hearing Nantz open each game with his welcoming "Hello, friends" line makes it feel like it's Sunday afternoon, and there's nice back-and-forth discussion at times. Commentating still has a long way to go to replicate the real sport, especially when it comes to how instant replays are handled, but this is a step in the right direction.
Sadly, just about every other aspect of Madden NFL 13 is a direct copy of Madden 12. In some ways, this is a good thing. The core mechanics make for an enjoyable game of football, and that holds true on the Vita. Beating the left tackle to sack the quarterback on a key third down is incredibly rewarding, as is fooling the defense with a well-executed draw when they're expecting a pass. With dozens of plays to choose from, competitive contests become intricate chess matches where outsmarting your opponents is just as important as outplaying them. If you know your friend loves to roll right on long passes, a cornerback blitz can shake things up; just cross your fingers that he didn't guess your move.
As much fun as it can be to pull off a last-second victory, the Vita version is plagued with serious performance issues. The game jerks when moving from replays back to live action, and that disruption happens with such frequency that it can be nauseating. This choppiness isn't limited to noninteractive moments, either. The action may freeze for a split second right when you're looking to unload the ball or deliver a crushing hit, and that hiccup could be the difference between a huge gain and a crushing turnover. Menus also suffer from lag. Just navigating to different modes or trying to substitute players mid-game wears your patience thin because there's a brief delay between your press and the game's response.