Electronic Arts and Florida-based Tiburon Studios' Madden football
franchise has become one of the cornerstone's in EA's sports lineup
and a leader in the sports genre. The combination of cutting-edge
graphics, deep, accessible gameplay, and Tiburon's attempts to
build on the solid core of each entry in its subsequent releases
has kept fans returning to the games on a regular basis. Given
the regularity with which the games have hit the market, the franchise
has often been dinged for not always offering enough change. However,
a recent visit to EA's Redwood Shores offices let us both take
an early look at the latest entry in the Madden line on the PlayStation
2 and also hear about Tiburon's plans for the 2005 game, which
offers some unique changes from last year's entry.
For this installment in the series, Tiburon has revisited the
gameplay from last year's game and has fine-tuned and tweaked
it for 2005. One of the main focuses for this year's game is defense,
which critics have said is traditionally not as fun as offense
in the game. The revamped gameplay system in Madden NFL 2005 is
aiming to mix hardcore and novice elements to provide a new feel
for how defense is played. While playing offense in the game has
always given players a fair set of options, defense has lagged
behind, to a certain degree. This year's installment in the franchise
expands on your defensive options with hot routes you can select
from that let you tweak individual player's actions via coverage
audibles. The resultant tweaking of your defense lets you do so
without messing up your safeties, which is quite cool.
Novice players will find that it will be possible to switch-on
a number of assists to help make catching and executing plays
easier. Once players get comfortable with how the game handles,
the various assists can be turned off. Artificial intelligence
in the game is also getting sent to school, with the ultimate
goal of having players on the field exhibit better pursuit behavior
while also coordinating movement better and more aggressively.
Amid all the fine-tuning to playing defense, Tiburon has also
managed to throw in a little something extra for more-seasoned
players to master in the form of the hit stick, which is a move
assigned to one of the analog sticks that lets you hit players.
However, this handy move will have a price attached to it to
ensure that games don't devolve into smacking matches. You'll
have to line up your player with an opponent to land a blow that
will increase the chance for a turnover (but not for an injury
risk) if you connect. While this is all well and good if you connect,
you're pretty much up a creek if you miss. While the exact look
of the mechanic is still being ironed out, Tiburon is planning
to have an onscreen icon pop up to keep you informed as to when
you can line up for the move. As far as modes go, the EA and Tiburon
reps on hand mentioned that the online mode in this year's game
would contain new features and that its franchise mode would offer
some surprises as well.
Madden 2005 features plenty of new offensive and defensive options
for seasoned gridiron veterans.
The graphics in this year's game are getting a number of upgrades
and refinements that help the game's visual presentation stay
in tune with its gameplay. Character models are being improved
and sport enhanced detail, with their upper torsos displaying
much of the work done. You'll notice improved definition in player
pads and arms, which gives them a much more muscular appearance.
Lighting is also being beefed up so that game players will better
see the character models, and stadiums will be better lighted,
thanks to effects such as light blooming. Subtle touches, such
as a redone sky and refined stadiums, are being tightened up to
offer stronger visuals. Furthermore, animation is being kicked
up a notch by adding new bits for the success and failure of hit-stick
moves. While the version of the PlayStation 2 game we saw was
pretty early, it was already looking sharp, albeit with a sporadically
inconsistent frame rate that will obviously be fixed by the time
Our brief, early look at Madden NFL 2005 finds the game headed
in a promising direction. The visuals are well on the way toward
living up to the high standards of the franchise, and the work
being done to the gameplay should make for a compelling experience.
Given the game's position as an institution in the sports genre,
it's nice to see that Tiburon is still trying to tweak the formula.
Madden NFL 2005 is currently slated to ship this fall for the
GameCube, PlayStation 2, PC, and Xbox. Look for more on the game
in the coming months.
more video games...