Monday, August 09, 2004

This Score Just In: ESPN 38, Madden 0

I'm sitting here looking at Madden (Xbox) and I'm stunned. It looks HORRIBLE on the Xbox in 480p mode compared to ESPN. Textures on players are warping in and out on every single play. It looks like the uniform has suddenly changed size slightly, for lack of a better description, then it warps back. This isn't happening occasionally--it's 10+ times on every play. You can see an occurrence of this every second if you look for it. It's absolutely driving me crazy. Nice job on the QA, guys.

Here are some other doozies after three hours.
--I just watched a linebacker cross from left to right at the line of scrimmage before the snap--and he ran through all four defensive lineman. I've heard of clipping, but that's ridiculous. A few minutes later, I saw a receiver make a pre-snap adjustment based on an audible call--and ran right through his quarterback.
--Quarterbacks will sometimes face away from the line of scrimmage before they pass. It doesn't happen all the time, but when I see a QB looking back toward their own goal line when they're in the pocket, something is seriously wrong.
--Uniforms look terrible. ESPN using bump-mapping makes a huge, huge difference. The Madden uniforms are so flat they look like they're painted on in comparison.
--Colors are very washed out. This is a pretty common problem for EA sports games on the Xbox, and it still hasn't been fixed.
--I've seen some reviews say that Madden's animations are better than ESPN's. This is conclusive proof to me that some people still use crack. The difference is so huge that it is inconceivable to me how anyone could think Madden looks better.
--Al Michaels and Madden actually sound better this year. They still sound very awkward at times, but at least Michaels recorded more dialogue.
--I'm really thinking that the home crowd shouldn't sound like they're cheering when the visiting team runs a fumble back for a touchdown.
--The crowds look terrible (still). If you don't think that matters, try looking at them.This game looks like it's at least a month of development time away from being in release shape. But we've got it now. Outstanding. Now it's possible that since this game is designed for the PS2 and then ported to the Xbox that the PS2 version fares much better when compared to ESPN. But if you have an Xbox, Madden is going to absolutely look like ass. ESPN destroys it.

I think it's safe to say that Madden plays a better game of football. ESPN still needs work on their two-minute A.I., although it's significantly improved this year, and Madden's was bulletproof last year [after writing that, though, in Madden I just saw Indianapolis passing on first down with a 29-17 lead and one minute left in the game, with their opponents only having one timeout left. Um, that's pretty stupid]. But ESPN plays a very good game of football, and when you wrap an incredibly immersive environment around it, the game is a wonderful experience. Madden, even if it plays a slightly better game of football, feels very 'last-generation' and bland in comparison. Because of the texture warping and the directionally-challenged quarterbacks, I'd say it actually looks worse than last year.

Hey, I'm as surprised as you are. I seriously questioned whether Madden could top what I'd seen of ESPN this year, but I had absolutely no idea it would be such an ass-kicking. If you've got a Madden pre-order in for the Xbox version, and you haven't bought ESPN, you are both buying the wrong game and spending $30 extra for the privilege.

This doesn't mean, however, that the PC version is going to suck as well. They've got a month to fix some of these problems, and the PC version has always looked much better, on-field, than the console versions. So it's possible that Madden for the PC will still be outstanding. Here's hoping, anyway.

I was sure a week ago that I'd do a Madden slider project, but unless the PC version is substantially better, I won't be.

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