If you're a Madden fan, you'll no doubt already have the demo that up now on Xbox Live and PSN. You'll already have noticed the details like 3D blades of grass (woot!) and the improved real-time collision physics between players. But a demo is a demo and isn't going to let you see much of the Franchise mode. But we've seen it – so let's all stand in a line and shout "HUT" a bit until everyone agrees it's time to read this preview.
Last year's game was a massive step forward for the more casual football fan, with its GameFlow quick-calling of plays reducing the hundreds of possible plays to a best-fit at the touch of a button. Gameflow now lets you choose between running or passing plays while on the offense, which is useful without over-complicating the simplicity of the feature. But EA Tiburon's focus this year is on the hardcore gamer – and in particular the communities they create.
Above: That's it, son - give 'im the eyes. He won't even dare try to take it off you
Gamers can now be a member of up to 5 communities at any one time. You can search for an existing community, or set up your own in a few easy steps (we watched it happen and it really is as simple as naming it, giving it a shortened tag and creating a password). GamesRadar forum league, anyone?
Inside these communities, you can access leaderboards and head-to-head records and statistics. You can view member lists and leave ramblings on the community message board too. Adding this human element to the game is bound to increase the feeling of competition and immersion – which is exactly what the hardcore fans do anyway – only now, EA has given them the means in-game.
Human life in microcosm
The 'human element' has been brought over into the game's AI too. Line Producer Ryan Ferwerda, who talked us through the game, gave the example of New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who can become affected by incidents over the course of a real life game. He'll start jumping around and being jittery, causing him to either lose his head or turn into some kind of super-player. The game now features this kind of 'dynamic player performance'.
Above: Thet little red arrow isn't going to perform an attractive aerial display - it means his head's gone
So as you're playing, heavy sacks, wonderpasses and interceptions will affect 17 traits of every player's individual performance stats (much like the momentum meter of previous NHL games, only more subtle and not team-wide). Perhaps for the casual, the changes won't be that apparent, but for a player who can read the game or knows how individual players' minds work, it's likely to change things considerably.
Thanks to modern consoles' connectivity, rosters are going to be kept up-to-date for the entire course of the season. There will also be 'Madden Moments Live' offered for download, allowing you to replay key moments from the real NFL season on your machine. Best of all, all of these downloadable extras will be completely free.
Broadcast network CBS was consulted and even observed during transmission of live NFL matches to make sure that the presentation style in Madden 12 is totally authentic. Every camera's placement around the stadium is exactly where it would be in real life. Also, all the cut-scene animations have been recorded on hand-held cameras to make the wobble more realistic. Add in the green dots on the helmets of players who have radio contact with the sidelines and you're looking at the most lifelike representation of the sport to date.
Above: What's he gonna do? Perhaps self-preservation might be the best tactic here
Finally, we were given a short look at the player transfer market, where you bid on players against CPU teams in a style very similar to eBay. You even get a count-down clock on the screen showing when the auction ends, allowing for eBay-style final second bids to snatch a purchase away from your rivals.
Also, injured reserve players now free up roster spaces where they didn't before, and scouting is in, allowing you to suss out unknown player attribute stats by watching them in other games, so you know exactly what you're getting by the time bidding comes around.
As you've probably gathered, this is quite a substantial update for a game that's always been about incremental annual releases. Casual fans are going to enjoy the improved presentation, but I think the happiest players will be the hardcore. Look out for the review later this month.
10 Aug, 2011