It’s almost here.  A game that football fans everywhere celebrate on a yearly basis is about to hit us again with its latest edition.  EA Sports is primed and ready to launch Madden NFL 13 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 tomorrow, and fans everywhere definitely have something to look forward to, as we’ve been playing the game steadily since last week.

You might be saying to yourself, “C’mon.  EA Sports does the same thing year in and year out with their football.  Nothing really changes.”  And true, the general nature of football remains intact, whether you’re into a passing game with Peyton Manning or rushing up the field with the Chicago Bears.  But technically, EA Tiburon has poured a lot into this year’s edition, so that it doesn’t entirely feel like the same ol’-same ol’ that you played a while back.  There is something of substance here, something football fans will definitely appreciate.

To kind of help break down what’s included in Madden NFL 13 that’s changed for the better, we’re going to talk about five specifics that really excel this year’s product.  After you read it, don’t be surprised if you find yourself tempted to, at the very least, check out the demo.  It might just grow on you.

Gameplay Features, Including Passing and Xbox 360’s Kinect

One thing that makes a football game stand out above all others is gameplay.  After all, if you don’t have the ability to create a killer pass play or go for defensive sacks, what’s the point, right?  With Madden NFL 13, EA Tiburon has made a number of improvements.

First off, passing feels a bit more natural this time around.  It’s not entirely accurate, as sometimes a receiver just won’t “be there” or may set up the opportunity to inadvertently be picked off.  But for the most part, setting up and executing plays is even more seamless than ever, though it doesn’t hurt to have a power player behind the ball, like RG III, Andrew Luck or even ol’ Manning, who still has some gunpowder in his cannon.

In addition, defensive ends don’t “psychically” read receivers as they used to.  They have to actually look behind them now to see a ball in motion, rather than reading exactly where it’s going to end up.  True, they can still nail someone a little too closely after the catch, which is something EA Tiburon needs to tweak, but at least your passes stand a better chance of being caught – again, depending on the receiver.

Finally, if you’re getting the Xbox 360 version of the game, you have the ability to call your plays using the Kinect device, shouting out to your receivers instead of hitting buttons on your controller.  While it’s not entirely perfect, it does use the device in a rather clever manner, and makes you feel like you’re more involved with the game.

Connected Careers- More Than a Technical Term 

One key feature that has kept players coming back is the franchise mode, where you can lead your team either as a coach or a player and become the champion you were born to be.  With Connected Careers, EA Sports has integrated the experience into something more involving, with a social, online-connected set-up where you can interact with friends, track your progress through tweets and news pieces, and keep track of your scouting moves as you try and build a better team.  So, hey, if you feel like dropping Terrell Owens, have at it.  And the game supports up to 32 players in league action, so don’t be afraid to call your friends.  (Unless, of course, you WANT to be stomped on.)

Infinity Engine- A Change For the Better

Though the Wii U and portable versions of the game don’t utilize it (that’s probably happening this time next year), the Infinity Engine is bound to be very beneficiary to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 users.  With the improvement in animations and interaction with fellow players, it’s remarkable how much better the game appears.  There are some odd animations that pop up here and there, but overall the plays come across with more energy and passion, whether it’s nailing a receiver on a catch or making a dive for the end zone over a pile-up.  This is an Engine that we can definitely get used to seeing in future installments of the game.

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms Won’t (Completely) Annoy You

Last year’s Madden NFL 12 left us cold in the commentary department, as neither Cris Collinsworth nor Gus Johnson (more like Ugh Johnson) could deliver the necessary information for the game.  However, Madden NFL 13 marks a significant improvement, with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms of CBS Sports handling the duties.

Nantz and Simms sound a lot more natural, as EA Sports let them ad-lib situations however they see fit.  Obviously next year’s game will continue to show a bit of improvement, but we’re happy with this new team and how they come across.  Here’s an example from the demo…

Madden Ultimate Team Returns- And How

Finally, there’s the mode that many football fans will immediately embrace, as they’ve done in previous years – Madden Ultimate Team.  Here, they’ll be able to earn additional player cards and other feats, while also interacting with a universe similar to that of fantasy football.  They can even use mobile devices to make changes to their game, without any additional fees to endure. 

But this year will introduce a number of new NFL Legends to the roster, including Warren Moon, “Mean” Joe Greene, Shannon Sharpe, Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and Joe Montana, amongst others.  You’ll also gain access to some great coaches, including Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.

Honestly, if these features don’t thrill football fans, we’re not sure what will.

You can get Madden NFL 13 tomorrow on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and mobile platforms.  A Wii U release will follow later in the year.