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Madden Next-Gen Trailers: Three Eras of First Looks

madden 21 film study

Madden NFL 21

Madden Next-Gen Trailers: Three Eras of First Looks

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.

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  1. brobamigo
    The oline in the 06 trailer look like they belong on the mean machine in the longest yard

    I was just thinking they look like Blitz characters lol
    That Madden 06 trailer aged poorly, not only because the final product turned out so disastrously bad but also because the art style presented in itself was and is pretty awful even in isolation from a retail product.
    Wasn't there a thing with that trailer about how it was never intended to see the light of day, or how it was never intended as anything more than a visual target as opposed to representing a retail product? I seem to recall some amount of internal controversy about it from that old Rolling Stone article about the Madden 06 train wreck, but I may be misremembering.
    It wasn't uncommon for game companies to put out trailers which woefully misrepresent the final product at the time (Redsteel and Killzone 2 did similar things), but that doesn't justify the resulting bait-and-switch by any means.
    I vividly remember that nonsense with the 360. I remember dropping $400 just to buy a 360 because they suckered me in. To this day I have trust issues with EA and this is why.
    pHiLKizer
    Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't see anything in Madden 21 that can't already be done on current gen.

    Looking at the Next Level website their are a few things that only next gen can handle.
    1. Controller haptics
    2. Blazing fast load times
    3. Deferred lighting & rendering.
    4. Reimagined player bodies.
    pHiLKizer
    Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't see anything in Madden 21 that can't already be done on current gen.

    Yeah, you are just wrong. Sorry.
    The current-gen systems simply do not have the graphical horsepower to push the triangles and effects shown off in the next-gen in-engine trailers.
    There's obviously more to a good game than looking pretty in still images, and there are plenty of things you can criticize in this year's Madden rollout so far, but the obvious graphical facelift is absolutely not one of those things.
    CM Hooe
    Yeah, you are just wrong. Sorry.
    The current-gen systems simply do not have the graphical horsepower to push the triangles and effects shown off in the next-gen in-engine trailers.
    There's obviously more to a good game than looking pretty in still images, and there are plenty of things you can criticize in this year's Madden rollout so far, but the obvious graphical facelift is absolutely not one of those things.

    I mostly agree with your points but would note that The Last Of Us Part II and Red Dead Redemption 2 are MARKEDLY better in graphical fidelity than Madden.
    The only thing that sparks my interest is this trailer says “in engine” apposed to the ignite trailer and the madden 06 cinematic.  looking at madden 25 official trailer, it wasn’t to far off the look of the final game release. If the game is 80 percent as good looking g as the trailer we might be in lock for a decent generation. 
    Vazione
    I mostly agree with your points but would note that The Last Of Us Part II and Red Dead Redemption 2 are MARKEDLY better in graphical fidelity than Madden.

    I mean, yes, those two games undeniably and unquestionably look better. TLOU2 and RDR2 are two of the best looking console games ever made.
    Those two games also had development timelines of eight and six years respectively, whereas Madden has to put a product on retail shelves every twelve months and realistically gets six months of full-blown heads-down production time. This doesn’t even entertain the wildly different technical challenges between open-world games, cinematic games, and sports games.
    It’s an apples-to-wrenches comparison.
    Vazione
    I mostly agree with your points but would note that The Last Of Us Part II and Red Dead Redemption 2 are MARKEDLY better in graphical fidelity than Madden.

    To be fair, those games are designed around 30 fps. If Madden was 30 fps, it'd give them a lot more headroom for visual quality, but I don't think people would like the trade off because 60 fps is really nice especially for a sports game in terms of responsiveness.
    CM Hooe
    I mean, yes, those two games undeniably and unquestionably look better. TLOU2 and RDR2 are two of the best looking console games ever made.
    Those two games also had development timelines of eight and six years respectively, whereas Madden has to put a product on retail shelves every twelve months and realistically gets six months of full-blown heads-down production time. This doesn’t even entertain the wildly different technical challenges between open-world games, cinematic games, and sports games.
    It’s an apples-to-wrenches comparison.

    Madden has to release a game annually; true. but it's not like it's for a different system every year. so with the collective knowledge gained with 5-7 yrs of releases, id think that would actually give them an advantage.
    The graphics look believable to me mostly because I just honestly can't see much improvement. Looks like more definition and some lighting adjustments, which is very achievable.
    Nza
    The graphics look believable to me mostly because I just honestly can't see much improvement. Looks like more definition and some lighting adjustments, which is very achievable.

    I agree with this, the graphics did look believable especially for Fifa, Fifa player models didnt look like a big upgrade. It was the lighting & camera angles that made the big difference.
    I remember all of the NBA2k trailers blew me away and the game always looked like that. Which tells me that Zion trailer is most likely real. Madden has done this so many times that I have no faith the game will even look like anything Next Gen. I remember for Madden 25 it was hard to tell the difference between last gen and this gen. 2k was night and day. Remember when ESPN finally aired Next Gen gameplay and people were like WTF!?
    Nza
    The graphics look believable to me mostly because I just honestly can't see much improvement. Looks like more definition and some lighting adjustments, which is very achievable.

    Americas Team
    I agree with this, the graphics did look believable especially for Fifa, Fifa player models didnt look like a big upgrade. It was the lighting & camera angles that made the big difference.

    I agree with lighting improvements and Ray tracing alone, it will make a noticeable difference. Overall with the proposed power of next gen, I do think it is achievable. But when it comes to Madden, I don't take these trailers at face value until we see actual gameplay. These "target" visual trailers and "what the hardware is capable of" trailers do more harm than good because you set unrealistic expectations.
    The BIG takeaway from this trailer. Is Lamar Jackson run, but notice how he is player controlled. EA never gets the CPU QBs to play like their real selves. God this gets old yr after yr.

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