Madden NFL 09 Preview (PS3)
Submitted on: 05/09/2008 by Steve Noah
Ah yes, Madden, the game I was most eager to get my eyes on at EA Sports Vancouver. So no time for intros or idle chit-chat, because this is Madden you guys know the history, so I won’t bore you with those details.
Upon arriving for the Madden festivities Phil Frazier (Senior Producer) and Dale Jackson (Executive Producer) greeted everyone as they walked into the room. The first thing they talked about was the new "Virtual Trainer" mode, where you can play up to 12 different modes in a holographic environment. These modes included the likes of running, passing, rush defense and pass defense drills, and there are three drills within each category to sharpen your Madden skills. Behind the scenes, as you are playing these modes -- and games in general -- there is a system that studies your abilities as a Madden gamer; which leads us to the new Madden IQ.
Madden IQ automatically tunes the game for each gamer. Let's say you are good at passing the football, but not so good at running the ball. Well, this is where Madden IQ steps in and adjusts the game to your skill set. You can still customize sliders to your liking, but this is another route to take, as it adapts to your abilities. To me, it seems as though it will help out the beginners, which leads me to the next feature.
I doubt the typical OS'er will be using this feature that much, but it's there nonetheless. The new feature is called “Backtrack.” This feature gives you, in golf terms, a mulligan. A do-over, if you will. In a way, it gives the non-football gamer a chance to beat even the best Madden gamer. Just threw a pick? Bah, no problem, use the Backtrack and do the play over again, but this time, throw it to the guy that isn't triple teamed. By default, you have three Backtracks; however, you can turn them off, or set them to as many as you like, according to the team. The Backtracks are also situational based, so you can't just use them at any time. Some situations the Backtracks can be used in include when getting sacked and not finding the open receiver; throwing into coverage with an open receiver; after a bad playcall; or after choosing the wrong play for a situation.
Next the team compared the visuals from Madden NFL 08 to Madden NFL 09 and it was easy to see the graphical improvement. In ’09, the shadows were realistic; the fog effects looked very real; even the snow games looked cold. One of the art directors from NBA Street Homecourt helped out with a lot of these graphical improvements, including a blue tint to snow games that adds a unique touch to the game.
They have also updated the presentation with some fireworks and camera flashes before kickoff (which you folks probably noticed in the Patriots/Giants video), which we were told was getting toned down a bit before release. The sidelines are populated very nicely with players, security guards, snow banks, snowplows and the lines on the field have been shoveled. Phil Frazier mentioned he wanted "snowbunnies" in the game, but it didn't make the cut. Yes, he did say "snowbunnies.” We were told the snow will come down hard and heavy, and then lighten up on occasion. Also the snow will slowly fill back in the footprints all over the field. Though we won't see player slides graphically embedded in the snow, we were promised 60 FPS for the 360 and PS3.
Presentation wise, all 32 teams will not only have the interior portions of their stadiums shown, but the exteriors have been added as well. John Madden is the host of the game this year; he is also the first person you see as the game loads up. He will kick it over to Tom Hammond and Chris Collinsworth, after welcoming everyone to the stadium. He'll also chime in at the half with highlights from the game. I only heard bits and pieces of Tom and Chris during our presentation, so I really can't comment on that. I did hear Chris on one particular occasion going in-depth during a highlight package. He talked about what the offense ran, what the defense ran and who the ball should have went to on the particular pass play. The audio was a little behind, but the team is aware of this and will have it fixed before release.
As a “hardcore” gamer, we want to be able to access options on demand, instead of pausing and scrolling. This year, from within the playcall screen, you can do just that. Now within the playcall screen you can now access the instant replay, formation subs, stats, Madden IQ and quite a few other options. The playclock will pause when scrolling through the options, so there is no need to worry about a delay of game penalty. You can make formation subs before a game as well.
A new free downloadable Fantasy Football product will be available for Madden NFL 09 as well. You can import your fantasy football team into Madden and take them up against any NFL team or another fantasy football team. You will pick the key players during the fantasy football draft, but the other players will get filled in automatically. As these are created teams, you will have the ability to edit the uniforms to your liking.
Madden Moments is another new addition for ‘09. This mode allows players to relive the classic moments from last year, including the Phins winning a game. There are quite a few games in this mode that you can take control of, but most were locked. Since I didn’t get hands-on with this portion of the game I’m not sure if the Moments were just locked on the version being displayed, or they’ll actually be locked in the final version and you’ll need to unlock them somehow. Nonetheless, it may be a mode quite a few of us would like to play around with. I also didn't get to see the list of Madden Moments, but I'm quite sure the Ravens almost upsetting the Pats was in there.
The Franchise mode has also undergone a foundation upgrade. Now variables in trade logic, progression, drafting and simulation have been greatly improved to provide more realism. EA said there will be fewer 2,000 yard backs this year as well. Unfortunately for Madden fans, NFL Head Coach 09 will have 70-man rosters, while Madden NFL 09 will again have 53. Speaking of NFL Head Coach 09, you can import plays from that game into Madden NFL 09.
As a side note, you can't use custom playbooks online, but they do give you classic playbooks, including five unique classic playbooks from the older Madden games.
During the course of the event the team mentioned that presentation was #1 on their list of improvements to make, but #2 was online leagues. You and up to 31 of your friends can set up a league, complete with a playoff system and championship game. Fantasy drafts and player-for-player trades (that’s singular) are also included. However, you can only trade for a player that has the same amount of games played. Also flex schedules are in and administrators can control whether they want multiple people to use the same team or not. Stat tracking and a basic messaging service to communicate in the league has also been included. Since online leagues are a major focus this year, they have been tweaking the server side to make it as lag free as possible, no matter where you are located. But there will be no Spectator Mode this year and injuries will not occur in these leagues.
A final nugget of information: Madden NFL 09 comes with an emulator that lets you play the older versions of Madden with the current teams and rosters. I didn’t see the emulator itself so I’m not sure which versions made the cut.
Now for some quick hitters:
- CPU vs. CPU games are in this year.
- They are working on fumble recovery animations.
- They tune the game via All-Pro, and the higher the difficulty the better the pursuit angles.
- They are looking at adding a pursuit angle slider next year.
- Spectacular catches have been toned down. Yes you will see them, but not nearly as often as last year.
- Superstar Mode is about the same, other than a few camera tweaks.
- There will be no custom soundtracks. But they did want it in the game.
- No accelerated clock.
- In-game saves were brought up, but not confirmed. We tried it in the room and it didn't work, so we'll see in the next build.
- More gang tackling animations this year. Todd Zuniga of 1UP pointed out to me the punt and kickoff receiving animations, where they gather themselves before advancing the ball. It’s a small thing, but still very cool.
- The team explained how the catching animation system is a lot better this year because now the receiver can make catches from all sorts of angles and positions. They also mentioned adding a ton of new animations overall.
I did come away a little bummed since I wanted to see more gameplay; but from what I've seen and heard, we could be in for a treat this year with Madden NFL 09. Hopefully I get a beta build fairly soon.