Football season is right around the corner and that means Madden fans are anxiously awaiting the release of Madden 19, especially those who weren’t lucky enough to be invited to participate in the closed beta that was available to a select group of people this summer. As with every year, there are a number of features either being introduced or revitalized that have been key talking points among developers and the community over the last few months. Fans have had plenty of time to dig into developer blogs and gameplay videos, allowing them to fully dissect a work-in-progress and theorize about what will and won’t work with this year’s game. So let’s do the same by having a closer look at what looks promising in Madden 19 and what looks like it might leave something to be desired.
GRAPHICS & PRESENTATION
Madden 19 will mark the second year since the game switched over to the Frostbite engine and with that comes the expectation that any initial kinks will have been properly ironed out. The big hope is that the game should now incorporate a level of detail and realism that will make it almost indistinguishable from watching a game on TV. New player models will help to create more accurate representations of players’ varied bodies while having access to more scans should allow for likenesses so uncanny you’d almost swear you were looking at a photograph. We can also look forward to significant improvements to the environments these players compete within, as lighting refinements will see the stadiums and playing fields pop a little more than they have in the past, particularly in HDR.
REAL PLAYER MOTION
Since the very first Madden, developers have strived to have football players move across the field as you would expect them to in real life and it’s something that has always continued to elude them. So will this be the year they finally get it right? The introduction of Real Player Motion certainly seems like it should get us closer to separating the bulkier players from the speedier ones. This looks as if it will have the biggest impact on the running game, where it will be imperative to cut and hit the holes with purpose, and to choose wisely about when you use a burst of speed or when you need to break out a juke. On defense, it will be important to utilize strafe bursts to get to ball-carriers quicker, but perhaps the biggest change on that side of the ball when it comes to Real Player Motion is that it should limit the effectiveness of defenders (especially linebackers) in the passing game who were capable of covering way too much of the field last year.
When it comes to updating Madden’s stale franchise mode, any news is good news. While there will surely be plenty of franchise players who will complain that Madden 19 hasn’t gone far enough in revamping a mode that has barely been touched by developers for years, the mere fact that they’ve added any improvements at all is to be appreciated. The long-awaited implementation of custom draft classes should allow for plenty of imagination, and you can expect full classes of real college players to be created by some of the internet’s finest roster gurus for those dedicated to realism in their franchises. Elsewhere, new player archetypes should help to remedy issues with player progression that were allowing people to game the system to create superstars far too regularly.
MADDEN GOES PC
That’s right, Madden is finally coming back to PC. This means non-console gamers will have the opportunity to play Madden on a powerful gaming computer that can maximize the full potential of the game. Those with ultra widescreen monitors will be able to experience the novelty of seeing your wide receivers lined up wide without even having to use the coach cam. Without question, the game is sure to look absolutely stunning on the PC platform and it also means that people will be able to mod the game with all sorts of cosmetic changes, from tweaks to stadiums to altering players and their equipment. It’s just another way that Madden is attempting to put some power back into the hands of the people who play the game.
There may be no area that gets as much scrutiny in Madden as defensive coverage schemes and the AI’s ability to adhere to their individual assignments within those schemes. The early verdict at this moment seems to be that defenders in zone coverage appear be a little more competent than last year at doing their job (as Bill Belichick would say) in patrolling their designated zone, though there do seem to be instances where certain schemes (like Cover 2) aren’t as effective as perhaps they should be. On the other hand, man coverage has historically been known to regularly break down in Madden, but early indications are that it could border on actually being too reliable in Madden 19. It remains to be seen just how balanced and effective different coverage schemes will be, but it’s an area that Madden could always use some improvement and one that will inevitably be critical to the game’s reception from the community.
One of the big takeaways from early videos of Madden 19 gameplay (and the feedback of the few brave souls who decided to break the terms of the closed beta by discussing gameplay on forums outside of the one EA set up solely for that purpose) was how long it took quarterbacks to make audibles at the line before the snap. This reduced the amount of pre-play changes (i.e. hot routes and blocking assignments) that could be accomplished before the play clock expired. Naturally, competitive players balked at the fact that they could no longer make their usual 18 adjustments in the span of five seconds while players who favor a football simulation applauded this limitation as being more realistic. No one knows for certain just where EA will end up on this in the finished product but look for them to make tweaks post-release based on whoever complains the loudest.
For all of the areas that Madden has attempted to revamp in recent years, the one area that has remained stagnant has been in the trenches and Madden 19 appears to have done little to attempt to make line play any more dynamic this year. Sure, they may have added more specific positions to make re-arranging your depth chart a little more interesting, but what remains intact is the constant spamming of power moves or finesse moves until you’re able to win a dice roll and get the desired block-shed animation so your defender can get into the backfield to disrupt the play. If Madden is ever going reach the heights of realism, it is going to eventually need to overhaul this mechanic and try to replace it with something that accounts for some of the finer nuances of playing these important positions. It can get downright ugly in the scrum and it’s my understanding based on a popular EA slogan that if it’s in the game, it should be in the game.
Just as Madden 18 tried to appease the entirety of its fan base by introducing three distinct styles of play (arcade, simulation and competitive) that could be used depending on your preference, Madden 19 looks as if it is continuing that trend by attempting to cater to everyone across different modes. Franchise players get a much-awaited update to shore some things up and provide some welcome new features, fans of career modes get a continuation of the Longshot saga that was started in Madden 18, and those who love playing online will get plenty of attention with Madden Ultimate Team and the chance to compete for some real money in Madden’s continued evolution as a viable esport. The big looming question is if Madden’s continued attempts to please everyone could ultimately end up leaving no one feeling entirely satisfied because of developers’ attentions divided between the different factions. But if the inclusive plan does pay off, it might just be one of the rare instances where everybody wins.