Clemson Tigers running down the Hill
Early Madden 10 Preview
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On Monday I wrote about NCAA Football 10 coming out of the EA Sports Season Preview Event. While that game showcased features, Madden NFL 10 instead put technical improvements on display.
By now everyone has read about the Pro-Tak technology that allows for up to nine man gang tackles, “fight for the fumble”, pushing the ball carrier, and the formation of a real pocket. Pro-Tak is providing far more than just a small improvement to the tackling animations. It really has a huge affect on everything that will happen on the field and how immersive an experience the game will provide.
In the demonstration lead designer Ian Cummings attempted to show off much of what the technology has allowed for this year. In what could be a good sign it took numerous attempts to see things like a fumble pile-up or large gang tackle. The build was of the Super Bowl rematch and maybe a back like Brandon Jacobs would’ve been more appropriate for some of these animations. Willie Parker dragging defenders isn’t all that realistic or as likely to pull that off in the game. Still it was great to see the players jump on and attempt to affect the play.
It is another benefit of the procedural awareness as well. You’d get offensive players on one side and the defensive players pushing back. Depending on strength and numbers the running back could be sent back (even could result in a whistle to end the play without ever going down) or the pile may push forward gaining crucial yards. You can even go up and hit stick the pile. Interesting factoid: Ben Roethlisberger is the only QB in the game who will attempt to push a pile.
When the ball is loose and multiple players are around it they may jump on the ball which starts the “fight for the fumble” cut scene. This becomes a button mashing game, however instead of just being one button they switch it up throughout the “fight”. After some time the ref comes in, pulls the players off, and signals who has possession. It is an intense cut scene to watch. One thing I tried to make clear is the frustration that would be had if a fumble is obviously recovered but then the “fight for the fumble” happens and the ball changes possession. It was encouraging to hear they are working to make sure that will not occur. The hope is to tune the “fight for the fumble” so that it only happens about once per game. It is an exciting moment, and if it happened more than that not only would it get frustrating but it would lose that appeal.
One of the goals this year was to slim the game down. A new streamlined menu system is one of the first things that will be noticed. They’re attempting to keep the gameplay screen as clean and simplified as possible. The play selection has gone back to a single bar of three plays with no window style presentation. I hope they will have a way to change personnel, view stats, and watch replays without pausing the game though. That wasn’t evident in the build we saw. Also while weapons remain but the icons won’t be visible on field.
Controls wise they have pulled that display off the screen though it is optional and can be put back up. Defensive line moves now use the right stick instead of the bumpers which should make for a much more natural feel. A new addition is the QB Avoidance Stick. In the pocket the controller will rumble when pressure is coming. By hitting the right analog stick the QB will make a quick move. Push up and he’ll step up in the pocket, right to shift right, and left to shift left. From what I saw the QB was usually able to execute the move successfully however it doesn’t mean that there will be another couple comfortable seconds. In many cases the QB bought a little time but then got hit as he was throwing. This is another really nice improvement seeing the QB get the ball off but the throw being affected adversely by the hit.
When I attempted to describe my feeling towards the games coming out of the event it was that NCAA Football 10 was exciting while Madden 10 was impressive. That was just the nature of what they had to show given their different points in the development cycle. Much is still to be revealed for both games. It is only a little over a month until E3 and that is shaping up to be a huge event for the EA Sports titles.