There are a few things certain in the game world. Call of Duty will never stop making new games every 8 months, there will probably be an Assassin’s Creed each year (seeing these new trends) and most certainly, EA will most definitely release a slew of sports games, headlined most notably by it’s Madden franchise. I tune in and out of sports games, because you know, they come out every year, but this time around (after a year absence from the gridiron) I decided to give this sim a shot, or at least a demo to see if I’d be interested in lacing up for the digital space this year.
First thing that jumps at you right away is how focused EA is on the presentation aspect of the franchise. The opening loading screen is reminiscent of the CBS graphics long before you hit start and it doesn’t stop there. The game opens in a studio like setting with two digitized commentators ready to call the shots. Similarly, the game does not shy away from frequent close ups and instant replays, which can be both good and bad. The player models are well done, with facial resemblance for most stars, but too often did I notice the awkward stone animations when not in play. Other times, player models look flat out uncanny, but in many cases the replays looked spectacular, even if they occurred a bit too often.
The player models look good, and while there is still certain uncanny animations while sprinting, everything else looks spectacular, powered by the new Infinity engine. The collisions look great and no one animation looked the same as I pushed the ball down field. Everything seemed to move fluidly, height, weight and strength of players taken into consideration and reactive engine quickly showing you the goods. Sure, there are still some regular Madden issues like high jumper LBs who take interceptions from everywhere, and certain plays getting bulldozed too fast, but overall the engine and the graphics make this a memorable and engaging experience. Too bad I can’t say that for the turf, visually. In a few close ups I got to see the surface looked more like a flat sheet than anything else, all too noticeable a midst the improved visuals.
The commentary was on point and there seems to be less recycled material than there was last year, but then again, playing a sports game for any length of time (a full version) will always recycle audio from previous ones, telling you the same anecdotes and treating this as your first time playing the game. The action on the field carries real weight to it and the deafening noise of the crowd (in surround sound) really raises the stakes up a notch when the game is close.
All in all the demo is a very pleasant, albeit all too brief experience with this game. It allows you to really get a good feel for where EA is headed this year, and it’s a good place. Sports games really only do make a significant leap every 2-3 years in their cycles, other titles are more of filler small-improvements noticed only by the real fans. I have a feeling that with the new Infinity engine and improved emphasis on the presentation this might just be the next great Madden game to make the leap for the franchise. Or it could strike out… Woooops, wrong sport.