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All Around the World - Madden NFL 25 NG Review

Posted 12-15-2013 at 08:22 PM by LBzrule

Coming into this year I knew I would be getting a next gen console because I'm always there on launch day. As I thought about getting a new console it took me back to the turn of the century. I remember walking into CompUSA and seeing linebackers creeping to the line of scrimmage, talking trash to the quarterback and then blitzing on the snap. I remember saying to myself I have to have this. It was the first NFL2k and it was the Sega Dreamcast. But that was not all. I remember picking up Electronic Gaming Monthly, showcasing the new Sony Machine, the Playstation 2. Low and behold they were showcasing EA Sports Madden NFL 2001. And of course I picked that up too. When the Xbox finally came out I picked up NFL Fever.

Fast forward to November 2005 and I can remember all the pre-rendered footage of Madden 06 and all the hype surrounding the game until the images from Burger King were released. The enormous debacle that was Madden 05 on NG consoles stole all the thunder of purchasing a new console for a football game. There is no more, "I have to have it." Likewise, there is also no more linebackers creeping toward the line of scrimmage and talking trash in the process.

So coming into this new generation of consoles I approached it very stoically; stayed away from most conversations on the board; always remained in a wait and see approach. I already knew I did not really like the 360/PS3 Madden. I tried not to expect too much from the Xbox One/PS4 launch title but EA has a great marketing department that knows how to sell points, even if they are nothing more than "absent presences." With that in mind let's talk about absent presences.

What do I mean by an absent presence. In this case I'm referring to what is presented through language and what is actually a part of the thing in a inconsequential way. So with that in mind let's look at Madden 25 NG.

There is nothing really to report graphically. The game remained pretty much the same and perhaps this is part of the silence of EA over the MNF videos. Even given that EA presented things to the public through language that created a picture that the game does not live up to. Let's look at those things.

1) True Step Locomotion - the last nine years has shown us that foundation of a football game is movement/locomotion. EA has had their battle with this since 2005 and an entire generation has seen the pitfalls of having bad locomotion. Enter the Ignite Engine and True Step locomotion, which EA purports to handle the steps that a player takes on the field. So the idea is that the same steps that a real player takes to stop, juke, cut, and then return to stride are also applicable here in Madden NFL 25. This plays out in game play by "connecting the player" with the athlete. So there is a presence here in the game. And you can actually see it. That said, I'm still saying it is inconsequential because only the user has to abide by these rules. Maybe it was a time issue, at least I hope it was. Not sure the logic of making player X on the field be strapped by these rules of physics and momentum and not everyone else.

One thing that can be said is that the locomotion makes running feel different. However, because everyone on the field does not fall under the rules of locomotion, the system is pretty inconsequential. While the user cannot zig zag his/her way to success, I'm struggling to see how significant this is. I think it would be more significant if everyone on the field had to abide by the rules. So in the grand scheme of things True step is an absent present that needs to explicitly asserted in the next game.

2) Player Sense Player sense claims that players can make 50X more calculations given the context of a situation. The primary areas that EA highlights where this can be seen is contextual awareness and player avoidance. On player avoidance I've definitely seen the tip toeing on the sideline. What I have not seen to this point is the auto hurdle. That could be a good thing and maybe it will appear soon; maybe I haven't been in a context that triggers it. Or maybe I'm giving too much credit. Who knows. We'll see as I keep playing. One area where I don't see a great deal of player avoidance is when defenders are rushing the passer. When it comes to dealing with their teammates, it is better than current gen, but they still touch one another. An extra animation was added where one player will put his hands on the other player and go around him. My issue with this is why not just go around him without touching him? The animation only slows the rusher down. Why not just loop around? There are times when this animation is appropriate as you see it in real football, but there are also times where guys should just loop around without impeding their speed. Also, why the emphasis simply on defenders avoiding their teammates? Why no emphasis on defenders actually trying to avoid blockers as they rush the passer, ie, defensive backs blitzing off the edge and rather than getting cut off by the HB from the other side, why not attempt to avoid the block? Even if they do not get the QB it definitely forces the QB up into the pocket.

The second area is contextual awareness. The key here is to prevent players from bumping into each other and the player can check for certain parameters and move accordingly. While this is the way it is presented in language, what we get is a game where players are still not very aware of each other. There are counter plays where the FB bumps into the QB and knocks him off track forcing the QB to keep the football rather than handing it off to the HB. So at least in two formations that three fold run scheme I have of middle, left, and right is not going to be effective because I cannot run the weak side counter. I have that clip up on Skydrive where this actually happens.

Finally, the language of players performing 50x the calculations is very deceiving. Nobody ever asked what calculations players did previously, and what would 50x that look like. I'm certainly not seeing players play any different than the current gen game. The curl route still bakes man coverage. The out still is automatic against any corner in man coverage. Screens work against the things they should not be as effective against. The run defense is still not principle based. So what exactly are the players calculating? It is one thing for a cornerback to first calculate that while the call in the huddle is cover 2 sink, it is an outside run play, so I am the force player. I gotta crash the run and play force. And I cannot walk in there soft, I gotta crash with fierceness (for an article on this see: http://www.bigcatcountry.com/2013/6/...e-run-stopping ). I'll say more on this below.

Ultimately, player sense is another thing presented in language as something special, but is pretty inconsequential when it comes to the game.

3) War in the Trenches There is a great deal to say here so I will try to stay organized. Let me structure it around combo blocking, identifying the Mike, and the pass rush/pass rush animations. When I first heard about combo blocking being added to Madden I said finally. I was some what satisfied concerning the announcement. The linemen do combo and pass defenders to other linemen at times. However, I get the sense that this is half-baked. The line can face the same front with the same rushers and on one play they will combo the defensive line but on the next ten plays facing the same rush (I have three man rush in mind here) they will not combo at all. Why is this? Not only is the line sporadic when they do this, but it is a hard sell for me to believe that when two offensive linemen are actually combo blocking one defender that that defender is going to get through that block in three seconds. But in this game it can and does happen. On the plays where the line is not combo blocking it is exactly like current gen. The linemen basically just get in the way for a second or so and then get beat without any effort, any rhyme or reason (just like current gen). Ultimately, when the line does decide to combo block it does a pretty good job.

Let's talk about identifying the Mike. Identifying the Mike is all about setting the line protection. This is definitely an absent present. Nobody knows how this works and if it is automatic then why even talk about it? I actually have some ideas for this. Again, this is something else that is inconsequential.

Pass Rush animations - now some of these are very beautiful to look at. I have one recorded and uploaded of Elvis Dumerville rushing around the edge but gets knocked down. While some of these are beautiful again, I argue that they are inconsequential and my reasoning is that the user cannot control how the line rushes. It happens randomly. I have watched the replays that I can watch and from what I have counted in at least three games where I've watched the replays, between my team and my opponents team, the edge rush animations only happened five times total. If, as a user, I can tell my ends to rush up the field, that would make that/those animation(s) more consequential. So in the end all we see are flashes rather than substantial game play improvements.

One other item worth mentioning although it was not on EA's big board for this game. Ball physics are just a must for this game. They might as well break down and do it. Users still cannot place the football where they want. If a WR has a step on the CB why is the QB underthrowing the football for an interception?

Is the game playable? Yes
Is it fun? It certainly feels a little different.

While it is better than the current gen game, many of its improvements are inconsequential making the game feeling like a glorified port. But of course, this is launch software.

In closing, EA does have voice commands in this game, which I thought was interesting. Tune in for another blog post on how I think EA can actually revolutionize the game in a short period of time.

My final score: 2.5/5
Total Comments 2


trey31's Avatar
"My final score: 2.5/5"
This is actually a higher score than I expected. I've been listening to the EA lip service for about 8 years now, since Madden 05 which was a phenomenal game compared to the Madden 01 PS2 launch title, and it's just more of the same every year. I knew this was coming too. The lack of any real non-EA sanctioned content of Madden 25 being shown on PS4/X1 even weeks from launch was a major red flag to me. Skipped the whole "next gen" thing this time around too. If "next gen" is 1080p/30hz on most titles, and even "upscaled 720p" on CoD:Ghosts for XBox One, I'll stick with buying cheap games on Steam.

Anywho, I don't want to go on a rant. I am very glad you wrote this piece. It was well written and a lot more eye opening than "argh its just more of the same as ps3! what a rip! this sucks totes magotes!" What is intriguing is that when I look back at Madden 01 to Madden 03, it was a huge leap forward (but still not as refined as 05). "Last Gen" took way longer. Madden 06 to Madden 08 were equally bad. 09 fixed some things but broke others, and ever since then its like every other year was nothing but a worse version than before until Madden 12. I'd like to see what 15 plays like, but I don't expect a "great" product until Madden 16 at the earliest, and that's looking less and less likely at this point. I'd hate to have to wait until Madden 2020 to see the best version of Madden on "next gen". Unfortunately for gamers who remember Madden 05 on PS2/Xbox, "next gen" looks like more of the same. Sad times.
Posted 12-16-2013 at 02:19 AM by trey31 trey31 is offline
trey31's Avatar
Just thought I wouldshare this... Looks like Madden on 360 will be able to be modded, and possibly on Xbox 1 and PS4 at some point as well.

Which means its likely possible to make tweaks to gameplay parameters that aren't quite up to par...
Posted 12-21-2013 at 12:12 PM by trey31 trey31 is offline

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