Myself and Dustin Toms (associate editor here at OS) were in agreement about how this year's game was likely to be polarizing with some loving it and others hating it -- it was literally the perfect storm.
The poll linked above, and as of this writing, is a pretty balanced poll -- and likely indicates overall temperament to the game will fall in the good or average realm for most. Polls like the one linked usually overestimate the great and good reactions for many as the excitement of a new product wanes.
This has been the story for Madden NFL throughout this generation. If I had to sum up what I thought about this generation in a sentence it would be: Started off really bad, ended up good but not close to all-time greatness.
The problem is, Madden NFL represents the most popular sport in America and people are expecting greatness every year. To have a product which consistently teeters towards greatness but doesn't quite get there is frustrating for myself and the rest of the sports gaming audience who just wants a great game of football.
In my opinion, Madden has three very specific areas which have to feel markedly different on next-gen to be considered great -- and with scant details thus far, we have no idea where the product is actually going to end up.
1)More Dynamic Gameplay- The buzzword of next-gen to me is dynamic. The computing power and memory is there for more random occurrences which look realistic. I'm talking about more dynamic physics, better AI which reacts to what's going on the field in a much more realistic manner, and more animations and ways for players to interact. Wideouts and DBs jockeying for position, linemen engaged in real battles and not black hole suction vortices, and even more realistic piling of players and short runs.
There are a lot of things wrong simulation wise with Madden, as the game takes some creative shortcuts to appear realistic even though it is not, I'd like for those creative shortcuts to be eliminated in favor of real solutions and for additional dynamic features to be added to the on-field action.
2)Presentation- The presentation in EA Football has been a joke of a joke of a jokester forever. The game looked to be on the right track in the past few releases, but this year it seems like no one wanted to cross over into greatness territory. The commentary is still average at best, the camera sweeps are ok at best, and the game is stuck somewhere between trying to be Hollywood and a realistic broadcast presentation of the NFL.
I've long pushed for Madden and NCAA to adopt an ultra-realistic TV presentation as that is how most every football fan experiences the game today. More work should be put into the commentary, TV wipes, camera angles, and other broadcast elements. My big and bold suggestion: Hire some college and pro broadcast directors to come in and help make this portion of the game shine.
As strange as it sounds, the current gameplay would even be more bearable as-is for a season if the presentation was off the charts good.
3)More Dynamic Career Modes- First, let me give the folks down at Tiburon credit for Connected Franchise/Careers/Online Dynasty/Dynasty/etc. If there is one thing they've done pretty well on current gen, it is to create a fun/compelling experience within their single player modes and then taking those single player modes and making them fun and compelling online.
With that said, next-gen means next level. I understand a balance has to be struck between going too deep and alienating the typical EA customer but going deep enough to satisfy those who's voices you hear the most, the hardcore fans. I think it is time for all sports games and not just Madden to start incorporating the most overlooked portion of sports into the game: emotion.
EA Sports Ignite does say this will be the case, but is it anything more than just a visual addition? If a player gets visibly mad, will losing their composure impact their performance? I want to see players visibly lose their composure and have their performance suffer because of it. I want to see an option to manage the emotions of a team, I want to see how a team is handling losing a big game. I want to experience the challenge of playing a week 17 after you just lost the last playoff spot in the prior week.
Sports are just as much about emotion and preparedness as they are talent. Currently, Madden and other sports games largely only focus on talent. For a game to be 'sim', it has to start figuring out how to incorporate those other two factors as well.
What do you want to see out of the next-generation of Madden?