Friday, October 07, 2005

Madden 360

Here's the thing: previews kiss ass.

They do. Anyone who writes a preview that doesn't kiss ass isn't going to be doing them for long, and I can understand that. Previews are a rainbow-smiling face-happy look at what a game could be, not what it will be. Developers should be given the benefit of the doubt, and they are.

However, sometimes previews are far more interesting in what they don't say than in what they do say.

There's a long Madden 360 preview over at Gamespot ( It's a big, sloppy, French kiss--in other words, a regular preview. However, the one paragraph that does have very mild criticism warrants a much, much closer look:
In terms of play and overall graphics, Madden is shaping up slowly but surely. Some graphical highlights--such as detailed and accurate facial modeling for players like Brett Favre and Brian Urlacher--were impressive. In addition, the sheer amount of detail in player uniforms is notable, so if you zoom in far enough you can count the stitches on the back of the jersey or read the warning label on the back of a player's helmet, for example. Overall, though, the game seems like it was still running a bit on the slow side. The running game especially seemed to get things chugging a bit. Still, with more development to go, there's still time to iron these issues out in time for the release.

Read between the lines and it's like a huge WARNING sign. Notice how animation isn't mentioned--not a word (and it's not mentioned in the rest of the preview, either). That's been my single biggest concern about this game--the existing animation was crap, and it needed to be significantly upgraded. And clearly, it hasn't been, because if it looked good, it would have been praised to the heavens. Instead, "some graphical highlights" were praised, like facial detail and the uniforms. When such minute details are praised, while much larger features aren't even mentioned, it's not a good sign.

I know someone at EA who I totally respect. He says that Madden is going to blow people away, and I hope he's right. If they haven't replaced the animation, though, all the uniform detail in the world isn't going to make up for it.

I get the feeling that the 360 launch games from EA are, to some degree, in panic mode. The 360 version of NBA Live isn't going to have FRANCHISE mode. That's not an optional feature in a sports game today. I also saw a clip of NBA Live which featured some of the most henious animation I've ever seen--a player dribbling in place, and the ball was actually periodically going over his head. Again, it's the animation. There is no excuse for players not moving in an extremely realistic fashion, and the ball must move in realistic fashion as well.

The history of EA with new platforms, to the best of my knowledge, has not been impressive. I was trying to remember a Madden game from EA for a new platform that just blew people away--and I can't think of a single one. I remember the first version of Madden for Playstation being cancelled. I remember the 2K series for the Dreamcast being much better than Madden's debut on PS2. The Xbox version of Madden had washed-out colors and wasn't very impressive. I don't think EA's corporate model lends itself to brilliant first efforts on new platforms, and I think Microsoft is taking a risk in depending so heavily on EA for launch titles (five, at last count).

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