Tag:Video Games
Posted on: May 7, 2011 10:31 pm

Madden 12 getting serious graphical upgrades

Posted by Will Brinson

As some of you may know, I'm a bit of a Madden junkie. I reviewed Madden 11 before it dropped last year, and look forward to doing so with Madden 12 this year again, especially after reading this post from Mike Young, Art Director of Madden 12 over at EA Sports' website about the "major graphical upgrades" they're putting in place for the newest rendition. 

For starters, pregame introductions are getting what appears to be a serious overhaul -- pregame is a facet that's been improved in recent years (Can you even remember what the "pregame" looked like five or six years ago? Guh.), it's still an area where the team at EA can find some improvement. They look to have done that this year, not only with the giant flags in the middle of the field (great graphical detail, woo America!, etc.) but with the team introductions as well.

As you can see below, the Bears look pretty sweet coming out of the tunnel.

Now, we just need them to figure out a way to have Ray Lewis do his dance in 3-D so we can get people really pumped up and scare the crap out of kids.

Speaking of scaring kids, the images of Michael Vick below (I kid, I kid) are pretty indicative of how EA's providing an upgrade for player detail and lighting within the game. They've moved to what's called "Linear Lighting," something that was used in NCAA 11 in order to achieve more realistic colors. In Madden 11, you're pretty clearly playing on a virtual world, even as real as the stadium, field, etc., look.

The improvement in player detail should be obvious, albeit subtle -- check the shadows, padding and creases on Vick's jersey, as well as the flak jacket that he's rocking in the right photos. In addition, Young points out that they've got a brand new "head and neck scaling system" in place that will make dudes like Brandon Jacobs and Darren Sproles -- people with weird body types -- not look as cartoonish as they might have in 11. 

One of the most dope things I've seen from this set of upgrades, though, is the 3-D grass that Madden 12 will have, in addition to the "flying turf" you'll see below.

Unlike previous years, you can actually, you know, see the grass a) standing up on the field when it the camera gets close and b) see turf flying. The latter is particularly sensical, because as we've seen from the aforementioned Soldier Field (except in real life), conditions aren't always perfect for football. 

So, yeah, very cool stuff all around. And, sure it may seem uber-nerdy -- and it is! -- but for those of us that play the game, it's a welcome bonus. Besides, it might be the only football we get in 2011!

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Posted on: April 13, 2011 6:53 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2011 7:04 pm

Madden 12 release date moved back to August 30

Posted by Will Brinson

Those pining for any professional football, real or otherwise, suffered a blow on Wednesday, when EA Sports announced that they've changed the Madden 12 release date to August 30th.

Typically, the game is released in the first week of August, so this is a pretty serious change. One could effectively surmise that such a change has something to do with the current NFL labor situation.

However, EA Sports spokesman Rob Semsey says the two events are unrelated.

"[The lockout] had no impact in the decision," Semsey said. "This is a long term approach in wanting to align the launch of Madden NFL to the start of the NFL regular season. Not just this year, but in future years as well."

The NFL's slated to kick off on September 8, so it means that many players won't get as much time to check their virtual skills with their new teams as they'll (hopefully) be constructed in 2011.

But this also safeguards the folks at EA Sports against a free agency and draft-signing issue; even though the change in date isn't about labor situation, should there be a late-happening free-agency period, EA should be well-prepared for any movement in time to get the rosters fully updated before the season starts.

Of course, the beauty of video-gaming these days can bypass that problem anyway -- before the internet existed like it does today, having a labor situation crop up before free agents moved around or draft picks were signed would have been an utter disaster for the many people that play Madden.

Nowadays, weekly roster updates can solve that problem pretty quickly.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 6, 2011 7:15 pm

Madden lawsuit granted 'class action' status

Posted by Will Brinson

As someone who plays his fair share of video games, I often get emails from "EA Sports." I have never, until today, received an email from "EA Sports Litigation."

But that's what happened when I was informed that I -- and you too! -- may be a member of a class-action lawsuit involving the Madden franchise. (No, this is not a result of the lockout.)

The premise of the lawsuit is that EA Sports -- and in full disclosure, I've reviewed one of their "football video games" for this here site -- entered into "a series of exclusive licenses" with the NFL, NFLPA, NCAA and AFL that prohibited competition in an "alleged football video game market."

Here's how you know if you're a member of this class.
The Class includes all persons who, during the period January 1, 2005 to the present, purchased the Madden NFL, NCAA Football, or Arena Football League brand video games published by Electronic Arts with a release date of January 1, 2005 to the present. Excluded from the class are purchasers of software for mobile devices, persons purchasing directly from Electronic Arts, persons purchasing used copies of the relevant football video games, and Electronic Arts' employees, officers, directors, legal representatives, and wholly or partly owned subsidiaries or affiliated companies.
This classification doesn't mean EA Sports has lost or will lost the case against it; it just means there are so many plaintiffs (duh) that they're being bound together as one "class" in order to simplify things. That also means all the rights of those plaintiffs are, as noted in the e-mail, bound together in one big lump.

You can get full, legalese-ridden details at EASportsLitigation.com, but here's the skinny: if you do nothing, you remain a class member and get a tiny part of whatever likely-lame settlement is issued. (I say "likely lame" because there's a TON of money involved, but most of it goes to lawyers, and then the rest is split up amongst everyone in the class.)

If you have serious issues with being involved in a lawsuit like this, you can send a letter or an email to EA's litigation department.

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Posted on: August 9, 2010 2:37 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2010 4:48 pm

Madden '11 Review: First Look

Posted by Will Brinson

Real football debuted Sunday night as the Dallas Cowboys took down the Cincinnati Bengals. Virtual professional football debuts Tuesday as EA Sports Madden 11 hits stores. Here's a review.

Let's be clear: change usually isn't fun. Fortunately, while the newest version of the Madden franchise forces me to deal with change, it also does so within the context of yet another superior product from EA.

For instance, two excellent changes were built into online play in this rendition.

First, when someone "quits" against you online, you can choose to "quit and count" or "quit and don't count." In other words, when you're up 40 points at halftime, you can't get burnt by having to play the last 30 minutes against the computer in order to get the win.

The other is online team play. It's freaking awesome -- basically, you can get 2-6 people into a game, lock into certain positions (QB/RB/WR or DL/LB/DB) and talk over the headset with your "teammates" throughout the game. 

Now, lots of people will debate whether playing online with six people is even logistically possible (some folks don't have headsets, a must for team play, and see above, re: quitters and bad connections). People will also debate whether the "D cam" -- in which you'll have to learn how to play defense from the opposite side of the field -- will really work.

(Ed. Note: BIG props to the EA Sports Gamechanger Devin "XxDaMole00xX" Peden for helping me out with the team stuff -- you can read more about the Gamechangers here and get your team play community party thing on over at MaddenOTP.com as well . If you can find a Gamechanger online to play with you, I highly recommend it.)

Those are valid claims, but this is something that's been offered successfully on FIFA, and it's a very welcome addition to Madden as well.

The game itself (graphics, play, overall experience, etc), by the way, actually features some nice additions too.

One that stands out? GUS FREAKING JOHNSON. Madden fans have been drooling about the exciting announcer's inclusion in the new game for quite some time, and while it's almost impossible to encapsulate Gus' intensity in a simulated game, this puppy comes close.

The best line, off the top of my head?

Has to be "Look out for that SIDELINE SPEED!" which features Gus' voice rising (and firing) as a running back gets around the tackle and heads for the sideline with no one in site.

Cris Collinsworth is there too, although -- and though I can't be positive -- I'm pretty sure they reused a few of his lines from Madden 10. No matter, though. Gus makes up for it.

In terms of graphical gameplay, the newest rendition is a strong improvement over its younger siblings, although with any of these new renditions (regardless of sport) it's really, really difficult to make leaping and bounding improvements, if only because the quality of the previous version was so high already. That being said, Madden 11 is crisper and flows much more smoothly than last year's version -- all the players feel more fluid than they have in the past, and running with the ball in particular feels more lifelike.

"Locomotion" was the big addition this year; essentially, the right joystick gives players more juking/breaking tackles option, although the differences are much more noticeable in the NCAA game than on Madden.

One welcome addition to gameplay is a increased risk/reward to the "Hit Stick." Last year, it was practically magnetic -- if your player was within 10 yards of the ballcarrier and you jabbed the left stick towards him, you'd go flying and record a tackle 90 percent of the time. Now, that just results in a LOT of missed and/or broken tackles, but it also seems to result in more fumbles when you actually connect.

That means the "X" button is much more in play than before, but that's a good thing -- the hit stick almost replaced the tackle button in previous play and this is much more realistic. (Note that if you're used to playing with the Hit Stick and use it frequently when you test out Madden 11, you'll immediately wonder why EVERYONE breaks away from Jon Beason in the open field. Try using X.)

Additionally, the details are much improved: fans, players and stadiums seem more life-like than ever before. For instance: I actually complained that Brett Favre's beard wasn't gray enough. I mean, what does that even say about the details going on here?

Ease of use with some features will be a complaint early on from lots of gamers. Particularly with "Gameflow" and the "Stratpad." Gameflow is similar to NCAA 11's "No-Huddle," albeit with less initial success. It's the type of thing that will benefit gamers willing to put in the effort, but will likely annoy the very casual fan.

Basically, Gameflow allows you to change your personal offensive and defensive gameplanning -- under "My Madden" you add, remove and rate plays based on certain situations and your preference for calling them there -- so that while playing you can just hit the "A" button without having to dive into the actual playbook.

This makes a ton of sense from the perspective that not having to waste potentially valuable time scanning through piles of playbacks is difficult; it lacks sense in that anyone who knows exactly how to work their playbook doesn't need help quickly accessing plays. All that being said, though, I used the Gameflow a good amount … but didn't do my due diligence to put together my own profile at first. Later on, I went back and started putting it together, and it makes a tremendous difference -- if you're willing to spend time tweaking your profile, it'll end up being a very worthwhile addition. (I should note too that part of my disappointment stems from it not being the true "no-huddle" a la the NCAA version; I was looking forward to rolling with the Colts and calling plays at the line. Alas.)

Also, the added bonus of it eliminating wasteful time used on selecting "Kickoff" and "Extra Point," "Field Goal" or "Punt" in obvious situations make it more than worth any hassle it might cause.

Part of the Gameflow addition is something totally different than ever seen in a video game: the inclusion of an offensive coordinator who provides advice via either pre-snap messages on the screen or the headset. I've used the headset to get the advice a couple times, and while I wish that my OC didn't sound like a sober Yankees fan, I throughly enjoyed having someone chatting in my ear for the first few quarters. Honestly, the bigger bonus is for less-skilled Madden players who can take a lot from the tips that the OC offers. In other words, it's not just an aesthetic development, as the game offers play-specific stuff like "take your five steps and wait for the wideout to get free of the coverage underneath" or "don't think about it, just take three steps and hit your receiver when he breaks."

Not all of the advice is great, or even necessary, but that comes with the territory -- overall, it's a very cool addition to the game and the "football experience."

"Strategy Pad" is an addition so villainous that Pasta Padre asked in July if it would be "the most reviled feature since the vision cone?"

Well, let me tell you ... I think it is.

From what I understand, there's some sort of patch coming for what's being called the "Strat Pad," but as it is right now, I hate it. It takes all of the many available audibles from last year (shifting your defensive lineman, shifting your linebackers, calling hot routes, bringing your safeties in, backing up your coverage, etc) and forces you to access them via the D-pad. Which means in order to fake a blitz (a simple combo of up and left last year if I recall correctly), you have to hit the D-pad, which opens up a new menu where you can choose up, left, down or right depending on what kind of audible you want to pull off.

Eventually, I won't hate this as much -- I've already found myself somewhat memorizing the various combinations (up, left, left shifts the d-line to the left … maybe) and after a slew of games it'll probably become second knowledge. But what's the point? It just adds an extra step, insofar as I can tell.

The audible-calling differences from Madden 10 aren't all bad, though. Big, BIG ups to the gameplay team for introducing a menu at the bottom of the screen which offers "Run," "Play-Action Pass," "Deep Pass" etc. When you hit the "X" button, you're given an option to scroll left and right on that menu, with the various play-art -- routes, etc. -- popping up for each play. This is huge for online play (not so much if you're playing a buddy in the same room, of course) and two-minute drills, especially if you don't set your audibles beforehand. Great addition

Last year, I thought that experience was heavily tainted by EA's decision to sell primetime advertising space on the game. Every other play, it felt like, I'd see a Snickers (or some other company) ad pop-up. That'd be fine if it didn't slow down the game or get in the way of my playbook, but it did both last year. This time around, the programmers and advertising guys wised up and figured out how to integrate advertising in the content more seamlessly.

For example, Gus Johnson will frequently remind you that certain things are, "As always, sponsored by Verizon. The OFFICIAL wireless provider of the NFL." And sometimes when you call a timeout, you'll hear the Old Spice jingle, coupled a shot of whoever was the "Old Spice Swagger Player of the Game."

But you know what? That's fine. In fact, I appreciate it, because it's freaking clever -- I like to think that I'm okay with advertising when it's done smartly and openly without being obnoxious. Madden 11 does that quite nicely.

Two more points on the special teams aspect of the gameplay: Kicking is TOTALLY different. The "round meter" (or whatever you want to call it) is out. In? A Mario Golf-style power meter that makes you tap it twice. See above. Complain all you want, but it takes all of like two games to get adjusted.

Kick returning is different too. In this year's game, it's a helluva lot tougher to take a kick back to the house. But that's a good thing -- last season was kind of ridiculous in the amount of terrible tackling you would see from the computer's special teams AI and house-bound returns.

The long and short (but mostly long in my case) of it is that things are different. Stuff is changed. Moreso than in years past when comparing the year-to-year differences. And that will throw lots of people off, just like any time a website is redesigned, or anytime anything that's comfortable changes.

But embracing the change is a worthwhile process -- as usual, the majority of the differences that EA implemented are positive ones, and that makes Madden 11 better than the previous iteration. It also makes it fun as hell to play, and if you're a fan of the NFL and spend any time on video games, you'd be pretty silly not to pick up a copy.


RATING: 4/5 Eye Logos

Posted on: August 8, 2010 9:26 pm

Madden '11 already features special Tebow package

Posted by Will Brinson

This post will probably come off as "reading far too deep into the harsh realities of a virtual world" (or something), but I found it interesting nonetheless -- on EA Sports' Madden '11, there's already a special Tim Tebow package installed in the Broncos' offense.

It's called "Broncos Heavy" and it features Tebow in a funky little shotgun formation, with one wide receiver and two running backs. (For the purpose of this example, Eddie Royal is split out left and Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno flank Tebow a few feet inside.)

Interestingly, it's not the same as the Broncos typical "Wild Horses" (their version of the Wildcat), which is also in Josh McDaniels' playbook. That formation, however, features only three running plays with Moreno.

Tebow's formation, on the other hand, has about 15 plays (if I recall correctly -- real football started as soon as I remembered to play around with it today), some of which are running plays, some of which are play-action, some of which are handoffs and some of which are passing plays.

In other words, EA seems to think -- as do the rest of us -- that McDaniels won't be letting Tebow sit idly on the bench. Instead, he'll use his varying talents to really do some damage from some funky formations.

I've messed around with it some, and a couple things pop to mind. Tebow has a cannon. However, the alignment does not setup well to run the option -- after all, you'd rather have the backs starting behind you to do that. The blocking on the play seems to be sufficient enough not to worry about a full-on blitz decapitating our savior.

In fact, I played online with the Broncos and ran out of the Tebow formation -- on one play, I bolted out left with Tebow as if to run, and my opponent's DBs sprinting in to stuff me and I winged a pass to Royal streaking down the left side. It was incomplete, but the better point is this: not only will people respect your attempts to run Tebow, but the computer intelligence respects it too.

That's good news for gamers and may seem irrelevant for Broncos fans, but the truth is it'll probably end up reflecting reality pretty well.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com