The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will be our third “next-gen” era that began with the HD-era of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Since EA unveiled Madden 21 in a more “official” manner last night following the Patrick Mahomes teaser, we thought it might be educational to look at Madden next-gen trailers through all three HD eras as a way to perhaps gauge how “real” this Madden 21 footage will end up being.
Of course, one caveat we must always add here is sports games inherently show better than they actually look because we don’t play from any of these cinematic camera angles we see in trailers. We generally play from much further away and generally only get to appreciate the smaller details in instant replays, cutscenes, pregame and various other times we’re not actually controlling the action. So take that into some consideration as we go through these trailers.
Xbox 360 – Madden NFL 06
This Madden 06 trailer remains infamous, as do most of EA’s trailers from the lead up to the launch of the Xbox 360. Look, a lot of publishers, well, lied about the promise of next-gen when it was first unveiled. We had so many trailers where it was not captured in-engine or dubbed with the “target footage” moniker that it’s not like this Madden trailer is the only one that was yanking our chain. That being said, football fans remember this trailer so well because Madden 06 on the Xbox 360 was a disaster.
Now, portions of the trailer were accurate in a way in that we did get a radio broadcaster rather than commentators. We did get more focus on the big screens inside the stadiums. The graphics were better. But, no, the game did not look like the original trailer. The players did not move and react the way they did in that trailer. The presentation was nothing like that trailer. In effect, that trailer set up Madden to lag behind its high points during the PS2 era for most of the Xbox 360/PS3 era. The developers were always trying to play catch up after the launch title was stripped down to the bones features-wise while being a disappointment when compared to the graphics of the initial sizzle trailer.
PlayStation 4/Xbox One – Madden 25
The IGNITE trailer was a lot like the trailer we got last night in that it mixed together multiple EA Sports games in one video. IGNITE ended up being another lie of sorts in that EA tried to say all their games were under one umbrella engine now called IGNITE, but that only ended up being sort of true. While the sports games shared elements of each other and some sort of singular engine, they really weren’t working under some proprietary IGNITE engine that controlled all their games. At least, it does not appear it was as universal as the Frostbite engine now is — at least as it relates to games that have made the switch to Frostbite.
As for the trailer itself, yes, it was another bait and switch. However, this one was not as egregious as we did get “real” gameplay that somewhat resembled the graphics shown in this initial sizzle trailer.
Now, again, it doesn’t look as good and you never get to see Madden really look like this during action, but this was at least all in-engine footage at E3. There was trickery with camera angles and motion blur and so on, but that’s all stuff done with the footage after it was captured. All in all, the initial trailer was still faked to some degree, but it was not as absurd as the Xbox 360 trailer.
PlayStation 5/Xbox Series X – Madden 21
And now we get the Next Level trailer for the upcoming generation. The Frostbite engine is capable of incredible realism, so I don’t doubt on some level these visuals will be somewhat close to this target footage, but again, I think we’ll see a similar downgrade that we got when going from that initial IGNITE trailer for PS3/Xbox One to the actual E3 in-engine trailer. I’m sure FIFA will actually look that good with the cutscenes outside the stadium, and I’m sure the Packers will look great in a cutscene as they come out of the tunnel, but there will most likely be some downgrades with the actual gameplay if history repeats itself.