Madden 25 – The Hype Train Is Leaving The Station

Now that we are getting ready to start football season in the minds of most NFL fans with the coming NFL Draft this Thursday there are a few things we can start sorting out when it comes to what Madden 25 will be pushing from the marketing end of the annual title.

The first thing we can plan on is the inclusion of some sort of ‘interview interface’ when it comes to CCM.  This is primarily due to the fact that NHL 13 is taking up where NBA 2K has been for a couple years now.  The idea of interacting with the media and having a simulation experience

It has been twenty-five years since John Madden demanded a true simulation football game. We are still waiting on EA Sports to provide us with one.

isn’t really new but EA is starting to take more of 2K’s features to heart.  My personal hopes are that Madden’s CCM (which is still going to be in the next iteration) will feature an interaction for people that prefer to be a ‘coach’ rather than a single player.  This will add depth to a mode that was off to a decent start last year.

Better physics and refined tackling are something that people have been clamoring for ever since the 360/PS3 released.  Last year we got the Infinity Engine and got to see some interesting animations play out (a lot of Gumby motions, especially).  Regardless, we can be almost certain that Madden 25 will have more refined player physics and tackling animations assuming they keep working with the same engine.  This leads us into one of the more intensely discussed topics on hardcore Madden forums – OL/DL interaction and blocking in general.

While it is highly unlikely that we will ever see a true end to ‘suction blocking’ it has been mentioned for NCAA 14 that there has been serious work put in towards improving blocking decisions and interactions.  This has been highlighted in discussing the inclusion of a deeper CPU intelligence that focuses on second-level blocking.  What is ‘Second Level Blocking’?  Second level blocking is basically any blocking that occurs after an initial block has been made.  So, if the Right Tackle blocks the defensive end and then starts running up the field – they will actually look for the next opponent to block rather than running blindly past a defender that will be looking to bring down the ball carrier.  Sounds like something that should have been in the game for years, right?  EA Sports isn’t exactly on top of things to pay attention to what seems like fundamentals sometimes.  Hopefully they will make good on the improvements in blocking for Madden 25 as this will be a positive direction for the direction of the gameplay in general.

 

Madden 13 – The Midnight Release Review

Looking for some last minute advice to help you make that release day or midnight launch decision for Madden 13?

Here it is –

You should buy this game if:

  1. You are a Madden fan
  2. You liked NFL Head Coach
  3. You want deep online leagues
  4. You want deeper offline career modes

You shouldn’t buy this game if:

  1. You prefer open player editing for career modes
  2. You prefer fantasy drafts
  3. You prefer to have Franchise Mode with people on the same console
  4. You don’t believe in performance on the field being a factor in progression or building XP

The Midnight Release Review – (yes, we have multiple reviews – more feedback and evolving reviews are better than one you read in a crappy magazine or website that doesn’t look at the game over an extended period of time)

The current grades for Madden 13 in terms of scholastic levels would be a B- or in the typical (just as subjective) ‘number’ grade it would be around an 8.3 out of 10.

The justifications for a review and score start with what was deducted and why.

Gameplay – The Infinity Engine

The Infinity Engine makes the game ‘look’ better in terms of players on the field having a wider range of motion and trying to trick your eye into not seeing the canned animations that are still there, but are more hidden due to the ‘rag doll’ effects of the new engine.  You will see players flopping and falling all over the place at times and on occasion it will make you laugh (at one point Eli Manning took a knee to end the half against my Browns and as my defense pushed through the line – the kneeling Manning looked like he got hit by a truck… no penalty was called.)

It still plays like Madden 12 if you discount the flailing.  As we stated in our earlier review of the game, it seems at times like players are running at eachother with numb arms at their sides and jumping into opposing players (and sometimes their own teammates).  If you try and picture the players up close drooling with lazy eyes it will make the game a bit more entertaining – at least for a few seconds.  (If you are saying or thinking “You’re wrong for that.”  I might be, but you can’t say I’m not honest.)

Customization – No Editing Players for Career Mode

This has been one of the most commented topics here on NTTV.  It is a fact that Madden 13 is extremely limited on editing players and rosters for career modes.  While EA has stated that they are considering the option of maybe patching this into the game, you shouldn’t hold your breath or grasp for hope and change when it comes to this – the bottom line is that EA Tiburon pushed this game in a new direction and had to leave some things behind to do that.  Customization is one of the things that I would think could be more of an on/off option but apparently they don’t see it that way and maybe my assumption is over-simplified.  (Programming isn’t often a matter of ‘turning something on or off‘.)  You can still edit players in exhibition mode but it won’t carry over to CCM (for now).

To go along with customization, you also won’t have the ability to run a fantasy draft for your connected careers.  It is unfortunate and somewhat confusing if you consider the fact that it doesn’t involve editing players and you can trade and pick up free agents in CCM.  My best guess is that it would screw up a lot of the commentary, storylines and twitter feeds if someone suddenly had a team with Peyton Manning, Trent Richardson and Ray Lewis.

Playing CCM With Friends On the Same Console

Perhaps the second most infuriating issue with our readers is the fact that you can’t have a league where you are competing with a friend, sibling or roommate on the same console.  This is one of the most confusing issues I have come across.  It really doesn’t make a lot of sense if you consider the fact that people have had this ability for years.  It follows the same lines of logic as player editing, but really – this is flat out ridiculous.  If you consider the release date of Madden you will see that it often coincides with the start of college classes and students returning to campus.  This is where most of my sports league gaming with friends happened back in the day and now it is gone.  To this, all I can say is that I hope you held on to Madden 12.

The Reasons You Should Buy This Game Today

Now that we have given you the reasons why this game had the deductions, we will further enlighten you with the reasons why this is one of the best Madden games ever released.  We have already given a couple reasons why this game is awesome.  If you want a few more reasons to buy Madden – here you go.

The Deepest Career Mode Ever

Madden has had a tough time over the past few years trying to push a better franchise mode.  Madden 12 was decent but it lacked logical CPU teams and it also lacked intelligent contractual negotiations.  This year they have gone above and beyond what they had in the past and that is the primary reason I chose to get this game with the Season Ticket… I had to see Connected Careers with my own eyes.

You will see storylines from college recruits that have had violations, injuries and even breakout seasons.  They will climb and fall on the draft boards and you will feel the pressure to find the diamonds in the rough and avoid the potential busts.  The scouting in this game will make you think more than Madden 12 did with simply picking a player and getting information given to you.  You will have to pay for information and if you want more specific scores you will have to pay more.

Players will want to negotiate extensions of their contracts through the year and you will have to make decent offers when you are given the chance, otherwise they will stop negotiating and test free agency.  It is yet another small detail that makes it stand far above Maddens of the past.  To go along with this new contract approach you will have to start determining how you want to build your team.  If you are creating a new coach and want to change the schemes and mindset of your team it will take time for you to find the right players and personnel that fit what you want to do.

If you decide to be a player you will have other things to worry about – namely, your player’s storyline and how he will progress throughout his career.  You will have to earn XP and put it into the right areas if you want to become a superstar in terms of OVR ratings and such.  The bottom line is that your performance will dictate almost everything.  If you come in and stink it up, it might be a quick career for your version of JaMarcus Russell.

Progression Is Based On Performance and Development Ability

Making your players better whether it is as a coach or as a single player will depend on two things.  You have to perform well on the practice field and in game situations when you get the chance.  Some people are obnoxiously pissed about this for some reason, thinking that ‘potential’ should be the sole factor in how a player progresses.  This is a common misconception that people make when they want to determine whether a game is being realistic (hopefully you can see the irony there).  If someone works a job and busts their hump to make their quotas and they go above and beyond whether they have good potential doesn’t matter.  The same goes for people or players (see JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young, Todd Marinovich, Vernon Gholston, the list goes on and on) that have all the talent and potential in the world and it goes to a waste due to laziness, purple drank or factors beyond their control).  This is why the development rating is so important.

Development will determine how much and how fast a player can gain XP.  If you want to increase this trait you will have to pay for it with, you guessed it – XP.  It isn’t like running for 500 yards every game on Rookie Difficulty will make it easier to get a player to some sort of inflated rating.  Well, in that extreme case – it might.  Either way, it will cost you 50,000 XP just to take someone from the ‘Quick’ Development Trait to ‘Superstar’.  If you consider the fact that it could take you an entire season (or two) to get that many points it suddenly becomes clear that some players might only progress to the mid-80s for an OVR, but the best part is that you will have groomed them on your own (if you want).  If you prefer the hands-off approach you can also set player progression to automatic and let them grow as the CPU sees fit.

The Infinity Engine

Yes, this was one of our downsides, but the fact of the matter is that this game looks so much better with players that move due to reaction to other people and objects.  That is after-all what physics pretty much revolves around.  You will see players moving in a slightly more realistic fashion (especially if you play with game speed set to slow or very slow).  You will also notice that momentum is a bit more prevalent in this game and you won’t be able to stop and move on a dime.  It will be more like stopping and moving on a… quarter.

That said – the game still plays like Madden.  You can move players without some sort of strange delay like on 2K football or something like that, so don’t get scared off when people talk about momentum and real time physics.  Also, you will notice that the big hits in Madden 13 look and feel bigger than any Madden during this console generation.  A lot of this has to do with the infinity engine and how the players react to different speeds of play and how they are positioned.

We will have more coverage of Madden 13 over the next days, weeks and months.  Hopefully this more detailed review will help you decide whether or not to go out and spend the $60 on Madden today or this week.

As always – Happy Gaming!

Our Next Generation Console Demands – Part 1

Hoping for advances in technology is like hoping that tomorrow will come.  While it is a 99% certainty that it will happen, we really don’t know how it will turn out.  We usually hope for tomorrow to be amazing.  It is human nature to desire more and better for the future.  As we get closer to the next generation of gaming, we will be talking about some of our favorite parts of this generation’s games and what we hope to see in the future.

In Game Graphics Vs. Screenshot Graphics

If you have read any of our coverage of Madden 13 and real time physics you will see that it is one of the more important parts of gaming at this point. Players and characters have ‘looked like’ their real-life counterparts for a couple years now. While EA Sports has taken awhile to get more face scans, it is something that will indeed improve for the next generation. However, physics and processing power are going to be more important than something just looking pretty.

Take Battlefield 3 for instance – not only do you see guns and enemies, but you see buildings and vehicles that can easily explode and remind you that some things look cool but they just aren’t ‘super real’ just yet. That is where the physics and actual graphical ‘processing’ are going to be more important than some sort of glorified screenshot that we see even this generation.

PC games aren’t necessarily held back like console games in this way. Well, they aren’t held back ‘as much’… and it is something that PC gamers are always happy to point out to console gamers. Console gamers shouldn’t expect ‘real life’ realism yet. If you take a look at the game from id Games that made everyone see just a glimpse of the graphical future of games – Rage certainly amazed gamers on PC and consoles alike. Even with a bunch of driver problems on PC it is still a great benchmark graphically. The issue XBox 360 users got to see as they opened the game for the first time was the fact that it came on 3 discs. While PS3 owners got to snicker and laugh because they have Blu Ray playback, XBox 360 gamers simply had to enjoy Rage with a couple swaps of the disc.

Other gamers might even recall having to switch discs on their 360 while playing Rockstar’s L.A. Noire. This game, while running on the same engine as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption pushed a new era of facial structure and movement in games. Never before have you had to interpret whether someone was lying to you based on their facial expressions, but in this case it made the game incredibly innovative even if it was quickly disregarded as a must have title. L.A. Noire still ranks as one of my favorite titles that came out during this generation of consoles because while it was in development for what seems like forever (nearly 7 years) it was still incredibly innovative and risk taking from a graphical and gameplay perspective when it game to interrogating suspects. There is still something to be said for games that take a chance to amaze you and that will never go away.

Even with these amazing achievements in graphics, there is still something to be desired. The PS3 was marketed almost solely on ‘The Cell Processor’ and its amazing 7-Cores. Yes, it was and is an amazing processor, but the funny part of this really goes back to the fact that many developers actually stated that games were easier to develop for the XBox 360 (which had issues with their own processor – RROD). Metal Gear Solid 4 was delayed on numerous occasions and if you pay close attention to Solid Snake during a cinematic scene you will notice that his hair still moves around in little chunks. While details like a character’s hair are something that some people might scoff at, take a look at some of the things people are getting caught up about with Madden Football. (wrong facemasks, helmets and shoestrings, etc.)

Real Time Physics (aka – The Sports Gamer’s Pipe Dream)

Perhaps one of the most famous hits in NFL history is the one that Lawerence Taylor put on Joe Theismann. While this is an extremely gruesome hit (please don’t watch this video if you get queesy) – it is a fine example of something that isn’t in Madden NFL football – real time physics with real time injuries.

Perhaps one of the most desired and denied wishes of gamers is realistic ‘real-time’ physics. This basically means that if a character is moving at a high rate of speed and tackles someone going a different direction you should see a collision that makes you go “oooohhh!”. What we have been seeing instead are animations that are ‘canned’ and play out in an expected fashion almost every time.

Even if you don’t play sports games it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a fighting game or an action game that had better real-time physics. Games like Assassins Creed or Mortal Kombat could become some of the most amazingly technologically advanced console games ever made (from the standpoint of physics). However, where many people want to see this drive improvement is in sports games.

The current generation of consoles has been pushed to the limit with physics processing. Many games look good in this fashion (All Pro Football 2K8) and others look simply ‘overblown’ (Backbreaker). What we are really hoping for is something in-between that will give us true physics in regards to player size, speed and strength (with other such variables). It is our hope that someday we will be able to play a game of Madden, MLB, NHL or NBA 2K and see hits, throws, catches, shots, passes, interactions and injuries that genuinely make us feel like we are watching/playing a real game of football.

 

Madden 13 Infinity Engine – “No Two Tackles Are Alike” and Other Remarks For a Hopeful Public

EA Sports’ Victor Lugo was recently interviewed by ESPN.  While this interview gives a lot of interesting details, it does leave us to wonder whether or not Madden 13 is going to be nearly as amazing as the developers are pushing us to believe it will or should be.

We are still of the opinion that real-time physics without real-time injuries is a lackluster feature.  What is your take?

No two tackles look alike? Sounds like a time to place bets.

Check message boards, tweets or sports gamer chatter from around the Web and all you’ll hear are the same complaints: “Madden” is nothing but a roster update every year, and “NFL 2K5” is still better.

“Everyone loves the underdog, and I think that’s where a lot of it comes from,” “Madden 13” producer Victor Lugo says when confronted with the complaints, admitting that the design team is all too familiar with them (especially the comparisons to “2K”).

But to Lugo, everything is about to change once gamers see the new real-time physics engine he helped develop. In “Madden 13,” no two tackles look alike, and the physics affect everything on the field, from the ability of running backs to roll off of a downed tackler and keep running to the way a receiver gets hit midair and helicopters his way back down to the turf.

“To not have an element that another game has gives people the right to complain, but I think at this point we have a lot of stuff that our competitors have had, and right now, we’re just concentrating on expanding ‘Madden’ and making the best simulation football we can,” Lugo adds. “It doesn’t really bother me too much what other people say, because we have brought a lot of the community guys in, guys who have been notoriously hard on our game for years, and they were really, really enjoying the game and how the Infinity Engine turned out.”
ESPN Playbook: Only a select few have gotten their hands on “Madden 13” so far, so for people reading this article, how would you explain the Infinity Engine and how it completely changes the game from “Madden 12” to “Madden 13”?

Lugo: “Madden 12” used a pretty interesting system. The collision system was more of your old-school collision volume around the character, and when the collision volumes intersected, an animation played out. Now, because of the Infinity Engine, you see a lot of variety in our hits because it’s not based around one collision box around a character, it’s based on individual limbs and individual muscle strengths and tensions throughout the whole character. Because of that, you see a lot more variety, and you see a lot more impact. It’s so different from last year’s game that now, when you’re playing, you can no longer recognize the outcome before it happens. The variety of interaction is what people want.

The way tacklers bounce off of running backs like Frank Gore, and the ability to spin receivers in the air with a vicious hit is pretty sweet. What else can gamers expect to see?

Because we factor in momentum and weight and we also factor in tensions based on what they’re doing, you’re going to see so much variety. You’ll see Frank Gore run over a lot of people this year. By the way, we went to college at the exact same time at The U, so I use him all the time to run people over and he’s featured in all of our videos. You’ll also see a lot of great stuff when receivers are up in the air. We set the tensions up so you don’t have a leg to stand on when you’re in the air, so that leads to all of the spins. There are all these immersive interactions that you just wouldn’t see in the past. You may be going to the ground, fall on somebody else and regain your balance and keep going. I can’t even anticipate for people what is going to happen because there is so much going on. It looks awesome, especially when you’re up in the air.

What’s your favorite sequence that you’ve seen in “Madden 13” so far that you’ve never seen in “Madden” before?

My favorite sequence so far was a short goal-line play from about 3 yards out. I ran up the middle, but I get hit and it looks like I’m stopped right at the goal line. But the guy hit me in the direction of the end zone and I end up rolling on an opposing teammate’s helmet, and I roll right into the end zone for the touchdown. In the past, I would’ve just hit the ground and that would’ve been the end of it, but I just rolled right off of this dude’s head to score. It was fantastic.

How about the Kinect controls in “Madden”? I know a lot of time, the hard-core community hears about Kinect being added to a game and they immediately start rolling their eyes. How have you guys made the voice commands an essential part of playing the game this year?
We had a couple of different goals in mind when it came to “Madden” and Kinect, and none of them involved forcing something cheesy or inappropriate to “Madden” in the game. We want to emulate what you see in real life, and that chatter is a big part of football on the field. A lot of our team has played football. I played football growing up and in high school, and chatter is a big part of playing, so we wanted to give people the ability to talk to their team and call out the audibles like you would in an NFL game. As a second goal, we want to make it easy for beginners to use it, so we put UI (user interface) on the screen to guide you toward what you can do and puts you in appropriate situations in context of the play. For hard-core people, we give you the ability to use both the controller and your voice in order to get that extra command in. A lot of the real hard-core players, and a lot of our really good players are taking advantage of the Kinect in order to do some of the commands that in the past have taken a lot of button commands or have been tough to get through before the ball is snapped, especially on defense. Trying to call man coverage on a specific receiver, for instance, takes a lot of steps, and with the buttons, you’re not going to get more than one of those before the ball is snapped. But with the voice commands, they’re able to get a couple of these commands in as well as adjust the line with the controller. People have been really enjoying it, and we’ve had some people who didn’t think they were going to like it at all now telling us they have to go buy a Kinect, so that’s great to hear.

How do the Kinect controls work with two players or with other people in the room? Can I just start shouting out player names and routes to throw my buddy off?

[Laughs.] Yeah, you’re going to need to tell your little brother to shut up, especially if he’s in the background. This year, we support the Kinect with single player, and with head-to-head online. What we decided to do with online is, you can talk and have a conversation all throughout the play and through play call, but then once you line up we mute you out for that 20 seconds before you snap the ball so you don’t hear what the other person is saying, and it also defends against you yelling hike through and having it get picked up through their surround sound speakers. We eliminate all of the trolling that way, but like I said there’s nothing you can do to defend against your brother. You’ll just need to find a way to shut him up.

People talk about the greatest “Madden” games of all time, and “Madden 2004” with Vick and all the offense and “Madden 2005” with the addition of the Hit Stick always seem to come up. With the addition of the Infinity Engine, where do you think “Madden 13” will go down on that list?

I think this is a revolutionary year for “Madden” both in gameplay and on the career side. In both cases, we’ve added something that is going to make the game bigger than it has ever been. With the physics, the Infinity Engine is something that we’re going to use moving forward forever. This is a fundamental change to gameplay that you will see forever, so this is a monumental year. This will go down in history, alongside some of those other games like 2004, because it’s a game that is bringing fundamental changes. You’re not going to forget “Madden 13.”