E3 2011: Madden 12 preview – prettier than ever, in that “giant men colliding in the mud” kind of way

Madden fans have come to expect the same base gameplay every year – in fact, they’ll riot if anything is drastically changed – but we also want to see new things each year as well. With a pending NFL lockout, gamers may need this year’s Madden more than any other; it may be the only professional football we see this season. Thankfully, this year’s Madden is making some subtle but meaningful changes on the field.

One of the most noticeable tweaks in Madden 12 is the collision system, which has been completely overhauled to eliminate “sucking”. Before, when you hit the tackle button within two feet of the ball carrier, the players were “sucked” into an often-ugly pre-canned animation. Now, the animations are unique to each situation, with all the physics being computed on the fly using real limb-by-limb collision measurements, and look much smoother. If one player is being slowly dragged down and another comes barreling into the scrum, it will toss everyone in the opposite direction in a much more natural way.

Another major change is the degradation of uniforms and helmets over the course of a game. If the conditions are muddy, uniforms will grow increasingly dirty throughout the game. If a player sustains (or delivers) a significant hit, scratches will appear on his helmet. This effort at more visual realism is reinforced by the most impressive feature – easily perceptible individual blades of grass.

Franchise mode has received a slight overhaul as AI incorporates smarter and more balanced trading. The game also now uses future trades and improved rosters for a more realistic feel. Computer teams will make sure to resign contracts and compete fiercely for top players preventing lopsided teams that can sometimes result from bad AI.

To further their emphasis on a higher quality visual presentation, EA Sports hired real NFL photographers to create many of the shots rendered in the game. Player proportions and ball proportions have both been improved and a serious effort has been put into giving the game a “TV broadcast feel.” With a cancellation of the entire football seasonlooming, EA’s timing couldn’t have been better.

Jun 15, 2011

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