Jun 12, 2013

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Hands-On Preview: Madden 25 on Xbox One

Hands-On Preview: Madden 25 on Xbox One

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I’ve pretty much given up on the Madden NFL series a few years ago. Not only because of the “changes” in each iteration seemed to get smaller and smaller, but really because other sports games got much better and closer to the real life sport. With EA Sports’ new ignite engine featured in every one of their next gen console games, they hope to make Madden 25 the most realistic game ever.

Football is not an easy sport to simulate on a video game. I was fine with what we had in early iterations, but as sports titles got better this generation I expected more and more from the only company that could make a football simulation game. Because of this I was left disappointed every year but one.

Going into Madden NFL 25 on next-gen consoles I was obviously skeptical and after my short time with the demo, I’m still not completely sold on the game.  I was able to play a practice session with Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, and you could only select running plays. That might not sound too exciting, but it gave me a chance to see the new technology being introduced to player movement and the O-Line/D-Line improvements. I will note that I was playing using an Xbox One controller although I’m not entirely sure it was running on an Xbox One and not a dev unit.

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The battle between the D-Line and O-Line is pretty much the key to the success of a team. In the “gen 4″ version of Madden players in the game attempt to react as close to real life as possible. They anticipate situations, maneuver with instincts and awareness instead of moving based on the play called. For instance when I would call a toss play the blockers weren’t just blocking the person in front of them, they would anticipate where the defender would be trying to go to and would try to meet them at that spot to block.

That didn’t mean I could run for a touchdown every time, although with AP its not too hard to pull off. Defenders seemed to disengage much better than before and would realize what the play was earlier allowing them to take a better route when chasing down the running back.

The demo featured circles and lines on each player so you could see in real-time who the AI was trying to block on any play. A few times they did block the wrong person or run into their own player, something that might happen in real life but seems to happen much more often in Madden. That said the O-Line blocking seemed to be much improved. The AI can now gang block, which you could never do before; however interesting enough as a D-Lineman you can’t try to occupy two O-lineman. That doesn’t seem like a huge oversight as of yet, but we could end up seeing the offensive side of the ball be more powerful this year and next year see the defense receive a boost (which is EA Tiburon’s style).

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I did notice that the defense did an adequate job stopping run plays, although because of the improved blocking and ball carrier movement, I was able to slip through a few holes in the line to break open big runs. Not to mention breaking tackles seems once again random and a little unrealistic. Hopefully this aspect will change by release time. The new “Step Player Motion System” created fluid and more realistic movements. You can cut faster, start and stop much better, it was easier to be patient while running the ball so I can give my blockers time to setup their blocks. The running game overall looked much more realistic than previous years. Aesthetically it looked really good too, with a few bugs that might be a carry over from the previous iteration’s physics engine.

The EA Sports reps also showed off some more intricate passing plays along with how the new blocking mechanics allow for the player to step-up in the pocket much easier than before. While this was impressive, both visually and technically, I am still not sure the next-gen Madden title can offer the type of simulation game I’m used to with other sports titles. I enjoyed playing just the running plays, but I can’t help but be concerned that the defensive side of the ball will be lacking. I was assured that they have been improved just as much as the offense has with being able to avoid blockers and the inclusion of 3x the defensive moves. But I’m still skeptical and hopefully EA Tiburon can prove me wrong cause I would love nothing more than to get back into playing Madden.