After a very long wait, this year’s installment of Madden NFL football is finally here. By this point, you’re either already playing it, sitting at work waiting until you can go home and play it, or you could care less about Madden, but then you probably didn’t click on the link to this article so I doubt you’re actually reading these words.
If you’re none of the above, then you’re probably a fan of the franchise and you’re wondering if you should spend the coin to update to the newest version. The answer is yes. And this is coming from someone who usually buys a new version every 3 years because the game chances so little each year that it always felt that I was just paying for a roster update. This year, its an entirely new game.
I’m breaking up this review into 2 parts. This first one will focus on graphics and gameplay, and part 2 will cover the other game modes and anything else I feel like talking about. Expect part 2 tomorrow, once I’ve had enough time to get into each mode long enough that I feel comfortable writing about it.
EA Tiberon has invested in an all new game engine with real physics, and it shows. This is the biggest upgrade in the history of the franchise that didn’t include launching a new generation of hardware. Clearly I was impressed.
The graphics for the players were excellent. All the movement animations were solid. Some players had a slightly bow-legged unathletic running style, which seemed out of place, but it didn’t detract from the gameplay.
Where you can really tell there’s a difference is in the tackling. There’s no more canned animations. Bodies move like they should during a tackle on almost every play. It’s also possible to break a tackle and keep going, which was never possible in older versions of the game.
Occasionally, when the ball carrier takes a big hit, especially if another defender is also involved, the ball carrier will go flying and appear to have no control of their limbs. The resulting rag-doll effect is completely comical, though I sure it isn’t intended. It isn’t a pervasive problem, happening just over once per game on average.
My one big gripe was the graphics and animations of the fans. They appeared to be PS2 era for a most part. At least the PS1 era graphics form the “bimp” shot that were in the demo seem to be gone. I know it doesn’t really matter since the on-field look is so good, but then stop showing the cardboard cutouts replacements for fans so often.
This is where the game engine changes I mentioned above really matter. If the game simply looked different, but felt like I was playing the same old game I’ve been playing for almost 2o years, then it wouldn’t really matter, at least not to me.
On defense is where the biggest change can be felt. Ever since the PS1 days, the dive button (square) was all you needed in order to tackle. Just dive into a player to start a tackling animation, and you were set. Now, that’s no longer the case. Going for the hit like that often results in missed tackles when the ball carrier bounces off and keeps going.
Instead, now you have to actually wrap up the ball carrier, which is a big improvement. I found myself having to choose between taking out a players legs like a CB might do, or moving in for the sure tackle while giving up an extra yard or 2. Playing defense feel much more apart of the game than it used to.
The field felt narrower than I remember. Passes to the outside seemed more difficult, while passes to the center of the field were easier to complete. Perhaps that was because Doug Baldwin was usually my slot receiver, but I doubt it. The passing windows on the sidelines were simply smaller than over the middle.
One of my complaints in the past was that linebackers were invincible against the run. Quick hitting runs, especially FB runs, were money, while outside plays like the stretch runs and sweeps were pretty much impossible on the higher difficulty levels. There was just no stopping the LB persuit, and it didn’t matter how many blockers there were out in front.
The opposite seemed to apply this year. DTs seemed to eat the FB runs and HB dive plays for lunch. The slower developing runs quickly became my bread and butter plays. I just had to remember to be patient and let my blockers do their job and not just mash the sprint button. It’s a solid change for the franchise, and it shows that the players are reading and reacting much closer to how a real player might.
Defensive players still don’t bite on misdirection plays often enough to make them worthwhile, though that doesn’t apply to play action. PA passes, especially to TEs, can be an easy way to move the ball down the field at times. Luckily, the AI adjusts and takes it away from you if you use it too often.
Speaking of the AI, it remains solid yet unspectacular. It will adjust to take away certain plays if you call them too much, but that opens up other plays if you know how to take advantage of it. Overall, it’s still the best out there in sports games, but I still think it could be better.
Check back later (or tomorrow) for part 2.