While I was exploring the plethora of games at E3, I had the opportunity to sit down at the EA booth and enjoy a press demo of the upcoming Madden NFL 12 on the show floor. EA had a number of systems set up to show off the game, using 5 minute quarters and full rosters (including the recently-drafted and as-yet-unsigned rookies), albeit without final ratings. Being a fan of the Texans, that’s the team I chose with the man running the demo choosing the Bucs. This allowed him to point out the fact that not only was Raymond James Stadium in Tampa completely faithful, they moved the camera angles so that they matched broadcast angles used on television. Also, they had the Bucs PA announcer come in to do the announcing for Tampa’s games to add just a bit more authenticity to the entire thing.
It’s very obvious just by these little touches that EA Sports is taking the presentation in Madden to the next level and attempting to make it as realistic as possible. In the process, they’ve gotten rid of the pre-game from Madden 10 and 11, removing the fans buying hot dogs, the announcers talking about the stadium and everything else. This means that while it may feel less like watching a game on TV (at least before the game starts), it’s much more like actually being there.
Of course, presentation isn’t everything, and soon after starting the game it’s apparent that the new collision system is most definitely in play. Watching Arian Foster run between the tackles revealed that each play developed differently. Not every tackle was the same and the movement of the players seemed to flow much more naturally than in years past. Also, the blocking seemed much improved, as I was actually able to take the NFL’s leading rusher and find holes for him to run through. It wasn’t every play, of course, but getting 3-4 yards was common, and (given the talent of the player in question) busting out runs of 6 to 9 yards happened about how often I’d expect. It was also apparent on defense, as once I saw J.J. Watt just completely blow past the offensive lineman, causing my opponent to have his quarterback run around like online players used to do with Mike Vick, but without the results one would expect: After dodging a sure sack, he threw the ball incomplete.
Another thing which was obvious was the improved defensive schemes. Picking apart a defense and throwing 40 yard bombs with ease seems to be out the door. Most of my passes were of the 5-20 yard variety, with one very nice 35 yard pass on 1st and 10 to none other than Andre Johnson. Outside of that, there were a lot of defensive stands as we fought to a 6-3 halftime score.
When you throw in the improved free agency system, Dynamic Player Performance (with announcers making accurate comments to reflect how this is occurring in-game), a new side-line kickoff view and what appears to be a much-improved game of football, Madden NFL 12 looks like it could be the Madden that we all want. While I left the demo with almost as many questions as I had answers, I left feeling cautiously optimistic about the game and definitely curious about how it will look when it ships in August.