Madden NFL is entering a benchmark year. Not only will this be the 25th anniversary of the football franchise, but this will also be the year that both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are released and we can see what taking Madden to the next level will look like. As the launch date for both systems and the game approaches, Life+Times caught up with Madden developer Shawn Graddy to discuss what the next generation of Madden will look, feel, and sound like.
L+T: What’s the big deal with the new EA Sports Ignite engine aside from the pretty graphics?
SG: With the power of the new platform and our own EA Sports Ignite engine, we are able to make our players more like their NFL counterparts. We have a new technology called “player assess.” What that does is when your running back is running through a hole, that player may put his hand on a blocker in his way. Whereas, last year you would see players run into blockers and turn to Jell-O. Now he’ll push his way around. As he is running down the field, he may have a defender coming at him. If the ball is in the wrong hand, he will auto switch to the outside hand. You can also control that if you want to. If you’re running down the sideline, he’ll be aware of where it is and he may tiptoe and give you a chance to recover in order to stay inbounds. He may point out a blocker. There is just an awareness going on in the field that we never had before.
L+T: Looking at the demo, it appears that this also affects offensive and defensive lines like never before.
SG: With the offensive and defensive lines, we have had fans asking for it to be overhauled but we waited because we didn’t have the CPU to process the human thinking across the entire line with the blockers. Now we have a resident former NFL lineman who wrote a system so those guys think like he did when he played in the NFL. We have things like double teams. If a linebacker blitzes, one of the blockers in the double team will realize the threat, break away and go pick him up. You have a true passing pocket now. If you call a play with a 3, 5 or 7 step drop, your linemen will know this and block accordingly.
L+T: So, no more dropping back ridiculously far to clear a passing lane?
SG: If you try to drop back 20 yards to throw a pass, one of those ends that are going deep will get you. There’s a lot more human intelligence that we’ve ever had.
L+T: What about defensive players?
SG: Defense will be intelligent as well. They will have a contextual intelligence where they will use their arms to move around players to get to the quarterback. There are tools you have when you control the defender. We have something called “Heat Seeker” where you hold down a button and it gets you to your target. Some more advanced players may not want that as part of their gameplay so you can turn it off. But if you are more of a casual player we have a tool that will get you to your target. In the past you’ve seen when you switch to a cornerback to cover a receiver, some guys don’t realize which guy they switch to and they pull away too quick. Now we have added a new mechanic that will give you a couple of frames to realize which player you have taken control of.
L+T: Back with Madden NFL 2004, Michael Vick exploited defenses with his mobility. With the league seeing many mobile quarterbacks, how will you prevent another game where fast quarterbacks destroy defenses?
SG: All of the tools are going to help you defend mobile quarterbacks. With that being said you have Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson in Seattle, RG3 – those are fun offenses to run and we want them to be authentic. You’ll be able to stop it but those are going to be tough players to defend because that is the future of the NFL right now.
L+T: What about the presentation? We already know that the graphics will be incredible, but what about the environments that have lacked detail on current gen consoles?
SG: One of the things we want to have on the next gen consoles is a living, breathing world. If you played last year’s game, we had a good sideline and they gave life to the environment but now we’re going to have guys react to what you are doing. We may want to cut away on this generation’s sidelines, but we want to show it off here. You’ll see teammates catch you as you are coming out of bounds or they may help you back onto the field. If you go to the opposing team’s sideline, they will just push you back onto the field. The crowd is going to be more alive and more high end 3D characters. We will use that in our presentation. Now that our characters are of such a high resolution now we want to show those guys off in the face. We have three different cameras to chose from. We have the camera from last year, one that is a bit more zoomed out and the one we have been using in the demo that we call the zoom cam run. When you are in the zoom cam run, you have this big deep environment where you can see the fans going crazy, an alive sideline and a sense of pressure we have never had before where you feel like you have to score. You’ll feel it more than ever.
L+T: I’m assuming that the commentary is getting an overhaul as well?
SG: The power of the console will allow us to bring more data into the commentary. We know if you were the offensive or defensive player of the week. We know if Tom Brady goes down it is something the NFL would talk about every single week. We’ve got that data now and we can tell original stories about you and your season.
L+T: When the Xbox 360 was released, a stripped down version of Madden really let us down as it appeared to be a rushed product to coincide with the console hitting stores. Can you guarantee that this won’t happen again?
SG: You’ve got nothing to worry about. I was there when Madden 2006 came out and it was a tough time. We had to sacrifice a lot to get the build out of the door. Everything you had in last year’s game and everything you will have in Madden 25 will all be in Xbox One and PS4.
Madden NFL 25 will be available on Tuesday, August 27, for Xbox 360 and PS3.