I’m a big Madden guy.
Scratch that…HUGE Madden guy. I never buy first person shooters, never got into MMORPGs, but sports games, specifically Madden are my bread and butter. We all have our favorite ways to play Madden. Some people are all about online and MUT play, other like Superstar Mode, personally, I’m an offline franchise guy, taking one of the worst teams on the game and building them into a contender. This year, none of those modes really got any sort of update, as EA put most of their focus into the Longshot storyline. Since we already know the (lack of) changes in this year’s game, how about throwing out a few ideas for the future. But first, one small update they did put in that goes a long way in giving it a more realistic feel…
ID the Mike
The pre-snap adjustments in Madden are pretty bleh. You can hot route receivers, but can’t do much with the offensive line. If you see blitz, you either have to audible or scramble. But this year, they have put in the choice to identify the blitz pre-snap and shift your coverage accordingly. It doesn’t sound like much, but playing the game will feel a step closer to running a real NFL offense. Now for the real wish list…
1. More Dynamic Playbooks
First, on offense. It would be impossible to program the intricacies of an NFL playbook into a video game. But, there are things that EA already has in the game that could help with this. For instance, more option routes for receivers and the AI used when receivers finish their routes and just try to break free. As for the defense, the programmers have done a lot in the last few years adding different types of defensive zones, but until they put double team man coverage back in the game, it will feel incomplete.
2. New Broadcast Packages
There are going to be two phrases I use a few times here, and one is “2K already does a great job of this”. Its not the same announcers calling every game on the same network. 2K varies the announcers depending on the gravity of the game, which helps gives important matchups a truly big game feel. Going a little further back, EA Sports NCAA Basketball had two different, real networks (ESPN and CBS) worth of graphics packages, making the game ‘broadcast’ feel insanely real. I’m not asking for EA Sports to go out and get licenses for all 4 networks that broadcast NFL football, but having multiple announcers and maybe even making up fake networks so primetime really feels like primetime clearly isn’t unrealistic to ask for. A true halftime show, or even a weekly highlight show would go a long way as well (cough ESPN NFL 2K5 cough).
3. Bring Back Create-A-Team
My other go to line when critiquing EA Sports football series? “They used to have it”. Not only did they have Create-A-Team, it may have been the best feature on the game. You had complete control over location, uniforms, and most aspects of the stadium. They got rid of this mode in the early 2010’s, so one can only wonder how far it would have come on 3rd Gen consoles. The pre-constructed teams and stadiums in franchise relocation just don’t live up.
4. Add to Create-A-Player
Pretty much the same deal as above. Sure create-a-player is still in the game, but it’s a shell of its former self. First off, put tattoos back in. Easy. The preset heads are also a bit of a disappointment. There are maybe just shy of 100 heads now, with preset hair, eyes, etc. Throw it back to the mid-2000’s, there were a few hundred head models, on top of which you could add different kinds of hair, beards, eye color, etc. The current lack of options gets annoying when you get a few years into a franchise and every young player starts to look alike.
5. Improve Franchise Scouting
For those who like to get in depth in franchise mode, scouting is perhaps the most disappointing aspect. Talent evaluation is one of, if not the toughest task for NFL front offices, but Madden oversimplifies it and then some. You pick the players you want, with zero given info other than position and size, then its three clicks for three random attributes. Earlier editions of the game had slightly more in-depth mechanics, but this is one thing that has evaded the minds at EA throughout the franchise’s run.
6. Put Bonuses/Incentives In Player Contracts
This one is an easy fix. We all know how important statistical incentives are to NFL players, but they are absent in the game. When offering a player a contract, you can award a set ‘bonus’ to the salary of the contract, but that is it. Instead of that flat bonus, have a menu in the contract negotiation, with different statistical landmarks and dollar amounts, and then select the ones you want to apply to the contract. The more incentives you offer, the more money you risk putting on the table, but a higher chance the player signs the deal.
7. Franchise Expansion
Both 2K and even the NHL series have this one, so we know its in EA’s arsenal. It’s a little tougher given the NFL is already up to 32 teams, but 2K lets you expand the league all the way to 36. The good news? Madden developers have already hinted at expansion being an addition in next years game. If they want a real A+, they’ll combine this with the improve create-a-team mentioned above.
8. ‘Fictional’ Leagues
This one is taken from the Baseball Mogul series, which is one of the most underrated sports sim games out there. Basically, in setting up the league, you have the option to replace the current talent pool with randomized fictional players. Its not for everyone, but it can be fun watching a new league take shape.
9. Give Superstar Mode a More RPG Feel
This one is a double whammy; it was in older editions of Madden as well as the current 2K series. When EA introduced superstar mode in Madden 06, it was more than just playing the games. You’re player had an apartment, agent, family, etc. There was certainly an off the field aspect to it. 2K has taken it a step further, turning both their Superstar and Franchise modes into playable movies. Longshot is a good start this year, but the fact it ends before playing an NFL game will leave a lot of people feeling something is missing.
10. Make Madden 06 Backwards Compatible/Bring Back NFL 2K
Most of what I said above existed in either older versions of Madden or ESPN NFL 2K5. Madden peaked between 04 and 06, and unfortunately NFL 2k stopped after 2005 (2K Sports would release All-Pro Football 2K8 a few years later, but it had no current NFL players and was not followed up). If I could go back and play any of these games, but with updated rosters, I probably wouldn’t need to buy any new Maddens. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I can’t.
Did I miss something? Any features you’re expecting/hoping to see in next years game? Leave your ideas in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter.
Written By: Alex Barth (@The_REAL_Alex_B)