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Once you do get out there, you'll notice a wealth of new features, large and small. Gang tackles, which first appeared in the PS3 Madden 07, have arrived, so expect yourself to get dragged down by mobs more realistically than ever. Also cribbed from last year's Madden, is the ability for the player to control your lead blocker on offense, opening up a bigger running lane. But smaller defensive players can now aim for the legs, making it easier to tackle big, bruising ball carriers - who can now hurdle a would-be tackler, putting themselves in prime position for one of the new mid-air collisions. Those sound nasty.
If you're online-enabled, the game will log onto the Weather Channel and match the in-game weather - as in time-of-day and precipitation - to whatever's happening in the real-world version of the city where the home team's stadium is located. Wherever you're playing, the entire game will be temporarily saved onto your 360 or PS3's hard drive, so you can pull still images and video clips and share them with friends, post them on YouTube, or whatever.
What will those clips show? Probably a ton of new plays, among other things. You might not know the Statue of Liberty or Hook 'N Lateral plays by name, but if you watched last year's upset in the Fiesta Bowl, the plays themselves are etched in your brain forever. They're here, as are double passes, in which the quarterback tosses sideways to a wide receiver, who then heaves it downfield, a sort of shovel-pass option play and several calls that use Arkansas' "Wildcat" formation, in which a player like tailback Darren McFadden lines up in the quarterback position - very important to at least one school's success.
There's also a great new set of "auto-motion" plays. These plays set a certain player in motion - which means sending a player like a wide receiver running sideways before the ball is snapped, usually to see if the defense is playing a zone or man-to-man style - and snap the ball automatically at the moment when that motion man heads upfield. It makes the timing of these tricky plays infinitely easier, and adds a ton to the strategy.
With all this, we actually don't even have room to go into the beefed-up Dynasty Mode - which is fine, because all EA will tell us so far is that recruiting is deeper. Doesn't really matter - we're already eager to dig out the foam finger and hit the books again this fall.