I stopped buying Madden yearly a long time ago. Usually I wait and get a new version every 3 years or so. Why? because the game chances so little each year that it always felt that paying just for a roster update.
This year is clearly different. 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.
As far as graphics/animations, 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. In 3 games today, I only had this problem 4 times, so it isn’t a pervasive problem.
On defense, there’s been a major change as well. Ever since the PS1 days, the square (dive) button 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.
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 my slot receiver, who knows?
One of my complaints in the past was that linebackers were invincible. Quick hitting runs, especially FB runs, were money, while outside plays like the stretch runs were pretty much impossible. There was just no stopping the LB persuit, and it didn’t matter how many blockers were out in front. The opposite seemed to apply here. The slower developing runs quickly became my bread and butter plays. I just had to remember to be patient and let my blockers do there job and not just mash the sprint button.
It’s tough to judge the presentation quality on a Demo, since so much of that isn’t included. The announcers were fine, and not annoying, which is a pleasant change from every other sports game ever made. I’ve only played 3 games though, so perhaps my annoyance level will increase once I’ve played a few more.
My one big gripe was the graphics and animations of the fans. They appeared to be PS2 era for a most part, but even looked P1 era-ish when the camera pulled back to the “bimp” shot. 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 after every play. Then again, they were Redskin fans, so maybe it’s accurate.
Overall, I give the Madden Demo high marks, and it only made me more excited for the full game to drop on August 27th.