Madden NFL - title

I think I've finally decided to take a stab at some long-form video analysis and critique on Youtube. My first go at this came in the form of a nearly-hour-long breakdown of my frustrations with the Madden NFL video game series (broken up into 2 parts). For the benefit of my readers, I'm also transcribing the video onto this blog post. Though reading this post will certainly convey all the same points that I make in the video, I still highly recommend watching the video, as the video footage included will do a better job than screenshots of demonstrating the problems I report. The entire video is embedded below.

Watch the full video on Youtube.

EA's ethos of releasing a new Madden entry every single year has become a tremendous detriment to the game as a whole. Modern games have become very large, very complicated, and very expensive to create, and every game series that has relied on an annual release cycle has, in my opinion, suffered for it. Even companies like Ubisoft have recognized this, which is why the company has decided to end the cycle of annual Assassin's Creed releases, opting instead for a major release every two or three years, with some large-scale DLC and expansions to fill out the intervening period. Despite re-using the same game engines, the huge cost of creating a new game every year stretches the company's resources further than they can go. Though I still didn't think that Assassin's Creed: Origins was particularly great, the game still clearly benefited from the extra design and development time that the year's hiatus provided, and the general internet consensus is that the game is very good.

Assassin's Creed: Odyssey was released only a year after Origins, and it looks like a terrible, derivative, waste of time fueled by a grindy micro-transaction economy pulled straight out of a mobile free-to-play game, except with a $60 upfront price tag. We'll have to wait and see if Ubisoft follows through on its promise to "spend more time making fewer, better games", or if it goes back to milking its franchises with slapped-together annual releases.

EA's Madden game is in an even worse boat than Assassin's Creed was in. Not only is Madden an annual release, but it's internal resources are being stretched out between multiple, completely divergent game modes! EA has to chose how much resources to devote to each of these modes, and that commitment comes at the expense of the other modes. In addition to having to make general gameplay improvements every year, the team is also tasked with coming up with new features and improvements for Franchise mode, Ultimate Team, and now Longshot. They're basically developing three different games, and trying to squeeze them all into a single annual release cycle.


Madden's resources are divided between three divergent game modes every year!

Worse yet, one of these game modes clearly makes a lot more money than the others...

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Madden NFL '15 - title

Regular readers of my blog who happen to be football fans may have noticed that I never reviewed last year's EA Sports football games. I had played and reviewed the games every year for the previous three years, but not last year. The truth is: I didn't play last year's games. There were a few reasons for this.

For one, I was kind of burnt out on football games, and was neck deep in RPGs like Skyrim and Dark Souls, as well as Brave New World and some modding. So my plate was rather full. I was somewhat curious about the next-gen football games being released on the PS4 and XBox One, but I had neither system, so couldn't play them. And I wasn't really sure that the PS3 version would be worth playing, since EA's focus was probably (and hopefully) on improving the next-gen games. I didn't want to waste my time on an inferior version of the game that may have been "incomplete" compared to its next-gen counterpart. So I skipped last year's football games entirely.

I still don't own a PS4 or XBox One, and don't have any immediate plans to buy either. But a friend granted me the use of his PS4 so that I could try the P.T. demo. I figured while I have the PS4, might as well try the new Madden, so I picked up a used copy on eBay fairly cheap.

Since I was borrowing a friend's PS4, my time with the game was limited. As such, this review can't be as in-depth as some of my previous football game reviews have been.

EA is continuing to make small, iterative changes to the game's mechanics, as well as recycling mechanics and features from earlier iterations of the game. This year's focus was on defensive control and line of scrimmage play, both of which are areas that were in desperate need of an overhaul. Unfortunately, EA's changes were mostly superficial.

Madden '15 - defensive controls
"New" defensive controls are just prompts for commands that already existed. At least they work better now...

The game advertises new defensive controls for breaking blocks and tackling. The only thing that is really "new" is the ability to steer blockers in order to fill gaps or maintain containment. This helps to give defensive linemen a greater sense of presence, as they aren't run out of the play by blockers quite so easily, and gap control is actually possible.

The other new defensive controls are really just fluff features...

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Madden NFL 13

I was really impressed with the demo for Madden NFL 13. So impressed that I went ahead and bought the game new. I am now suffering from severe buyer's remorse. The demo looked and felt really good. The AI seemed surprisingly competitive (even at the default, Veteran, difficulty). Heck, even the commentary was good!

Then I bought the actual game and had access to Instant Replays and all the teams, and I realized that this year’s Madden was just the same game as last years', but with a few extra coats of paint and polish.

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NCAA Football 13

It seems pretty apparent that EA doesn’t give a damn about releasing the best product possible. They just want to milk it for all the money it’s worth. If they really cared about making NCAA Football ‘13 the best game it could be, then they would have delayed it a few weeks in order to install the same, potentially revolutionary, physics engine that is being implemented in this year’s Madden. The game releases six weeks prior to the start of the college football season anyway, so it wouldn’t have hurt to delay it a month. It still would have made it onto store shelves before the kickoff of the season. Heck, most teams haven’t even finalized their depth charts yet, and some are still revealing new uniforms and stadiums!

NCAA Football 13 - throwing a receiver open It is now easy to "throw a receiver open."

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NCAA Football 13 - box art

The NCAA Football 13 demo hit the PSN a few weeks ago, and I managed to play a few games before my PS3 went belly-up with a yellow-light-of-death last night. I can't do a very detailed breakdown of the demo because I don't have my PS3 at the moment in order to continue playing it. Hopefully, I'll get a working PS3 back in a week or two, but I have no guarantee that it will work. So in lieu of a full breakdown, I'll offer some simple observations and impressions.

First and foremost, it has already been announced that NCAA will not be including the new "Infinity Engine" that is being introduced to Madden with the intent of providing real-time physics simulation for collisions. NCAA is due out only about a month before Madden, so it seems like if EA really cared about providing the best game possible, then they would have just delayed the game a few weeks and added this feature to NCAA as well. But no, even though they have no other football game to compete with, and even though the college football season doesn't start till late August, EA insists on releasing the game in mid July. They have essentially relegated this year's NCAA game to being a second-class football game - which is a real shame because the NCAA dev team just seemed to show slightly superior effort that the Madden devs over the previous two years or so.

Unfortunately, if the demo is any indication (but that is the whole point of a demo), the lack of any real-time physics simulation won't be the only thing holding NCAA Football 13 back from greatness this year. The demo itself is a much better demo than what we've been given in the previous year, but the game being demoed doesn't seem that good...

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Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

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