Today is the day. Next-gen Madden is officially here (sure it started yesterday, but that was like a weird surprise)! So we’ll be doing our usual thing now where we explain what’s different between Madden 21 next gen vs. last gen.
When I first started writing this article, we had sparse details about what this leap into the next-generation of gaming would entail. There were no full videos of actual gameplay and even some of the screenshots may have been enhanced to showcase the power of the systems. About the most information we had came from the OS preview via Bob, and from EA developers.
Nevertheless, release day is upon us. And although we probably have to wait until Madden 22 to really see the “full” difference between current gen and next gen, here is what EA is touting as of now.
Next-Gen Stats And Player Movement
One of the biggest additions to next-gen Madden is the presence of NFL’s Next-Gen Stats. Here’s what EA’s official website says about the partnership between the two:
“Leveraging the power of NFL Next Gen Stats, Next Gen Player Movement is fueled by real athlete-data, route paths, and acceleration rates, allowing the next generation of Madden NFL to deliver the most realistic, authentic, and fluid player movement in franchise history. Feel the most elite NFL athletes at every position move on the virtual field like they do in the real world.”
Yes, you will now see Next-Gen Stats on various overlays and replays. However, the bigger change is how this may impact the way players perform. So far, the player movement does feel much different, so it’s now about trying to figure out how different various players feel. The game in general feels slowed down, so that’s something that also just needs to be adjusted to right now.
In general, whatever Next-Gen Stats end up being, movement differences between the generations appear to be the biggest talking point right now.
Players really do run better routes (or at least more rounded/realistic routes), and this also should change how players are attacking balls (more 50/50 plays seem to be happening right now with wins going to big receivers). There may be more to this, but again, these are just some early impressions from the community.
Regardless, I don’t think I need to tell you how important it is to have wide receivers that run routes more like their real-life counterparts. Much of these improvements can be noticed with players cutting on the field; or running a more precise route than we’ve become accustomed to. And sure, we can all sit here and ask “why is this only something we’re seeing now when you had the exclusive rights for years” but let’s see how this plays out and hope it’s the first step into the future.
Here’s a video from Operation Sports user BleedingRed21 showcasing the new route-running.
Before: On previous gen, our receivers ran from one specific point to another specific point at top speed all the time and made very similar cuts, with very little difference between unique players.
After: On next gen, player ratings and archetypes will heavily impact the quality and speed of each route and they will be run as an entire route from start to finish rather than each individual portion of a route on previous gen.
EA has also promised archetype-specific movements that capture these specific body types:
- Ball Carrier: Agile, Agile Small, Agile Tall, Bruiser, Bruiser Quick, Bruiser Heavy
- Route Runners: WR, RB, TE split up between Agile, Agile Small, Agile Tall, Bruiser, Bruiser Quick, Bruiser Heavy
- Pass Block movement for OL’s
All of these additions to the game affect the defense as well. Corners should play the ball better in the air, trail better in coverage, take improved pursuit angles, tackle better, and so much more. This is something fans have been asking for over the last several years. However, it’s not only improved player movements. Player builds have been improved and the equipment has been adjusted to better reflect we’ve seen in the past.
I think what’s so exciting about the potential here is the fact it’s early in the process. And although it might not take your breath away from the upgrade to Madden 21, next year’s game will be the most telling.
Next-Gen Enhancements, Replays, Celebrations And More
(First, let me take note that the “leap” into the crowd above appears to be basically the same cutscene for every single stadium, so that’s a bummer.)
Most of the improvements to next-gen Madden are heavily influenced by the addition of Next-Gen Stats. So please forgive me if I sound like a broken record. As mentioned above, if done right this is absolutely a game changer. But it doesn’t only impact the gameplay. We also see improvements in the broadcast and replay presentation as well.
So far, the main issue with these replays is they just don’t feel diverse enough. They’re very pretty, and the overlays look good, but they tend to be about top speed, air yards or yards after the catch. We have seen a couple replays with time to throw as well, but in general, it feels like the replays need more variety and depth. Seeing how much separation a receiver got on a play or how much air DeAndre Hopkins got on his Hail Murray catch would be examples of how to give this area more love in the future.
Let’s also not forget the improvements to the sidelines. Now, instead of a generic player standing there lifeless with an unrecognizable number, you will see players that belong. Again, this is maybe not quite as deep as we were expecting as we still would love more sideline reactions and even more player fidelity, but it’s an obvious improvement over current gen.
Players will now be with their position groups on the sideline and generally look the way they should.
From here, maybe EA can start implementing more crowd celebrations, more interactions on the sidelines (such as players cheering more during a play or interacting more as players run out of bounds), and maybe we’ll even get refs back on the field.
Lastly, they’ve also revamped the play-calling screen. This might take a bit to get used to as it can feel a little overwhelming, but I do generally like the new organization after getting used to it.
Next-Gen Visuals, Controls And Audio
I’m not going to pretend to know how powerful both systems are and the minute differences between the two. At the end of the day, this means improved graphics, rendering, shading, lighting, weather and sweat — just to name a few things. The new triggers on the PS5 controller will allow you to feel authenticity in every play. You will feel the ball drop into your hands, feel the pressure as your kicker attempts a game-tying field goal and feel the impact of a bone-jarring hit.
The sound has also been updated, but we have not taken Madden 21 through its paces yet in a good surround sound setting. Either way, here’s what’s being touted by EA:
- Utilizing crowd placement data that provides one-to-one fidelity of crowd members in the stands, we are able to accurately place cone outputs utilizing spatialization effects and precise orientation. This means you will hear the impact of spatialized sound FX, especially in the huddle and when the crowd roars. Audio is an underrated attribute of the total gaming experience, and location-based audio allows you to feel more like a player on the field the audio soundscape wraps around you authentically as it would in a stadium environment.
EA didn’t make many flashy changes to next-gen Madden 21 and that’s mostly what we expected considering this was a “free” upgrade from current gen. By comparison, we had to pay full price (and then some) to play NBA 2K21 on next-gen consoles, and so we expected more there. But the addition of Next-Gen Stats, better player movement, enhancements to gameplay and a couple of the other things here are what we’ll continue to monitor now.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, and this won’t make up for #FixMaddenFranchise or anything, but we’ve seen much worse console launches from EA and Madden in the past than this one.