Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Physics in Football? -

Around this time every year every year, football fans gather around their local electronics retailer (or place an order online) for their virtual football fix. It’s a sort of annual tradition that in late August everyone gets their chance to stand at the controls of their favorite team. I’ll admit it, I still get giddy every year about getting the opportunity to play as Tom Brady and make those precision passes that he is capable of. It helps, of course, to have Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and the other assortment of weapons on the Patriots.

I know, you’re not here for me to gush about my favorite team and their juggernaut offense. You’re here for the lowdown on Madden NFL 13. I wish I could paint a picture as pretty as a Brady to Gronkowski pass in the corner of the end zone, but unfortunately Madden 13 has its fair share of flaws. That’s not to say that it is a bad game, because it’s honestly one of, if not the best Madden on the PS3. It should be though, considering that we are near the end of the console’s life cycle and EA has had a ton of time to perfect this formula.

There is no better place to start than the new physics engine. EA touts the Infinity Engine as one of the “greatest technical innovations in a generation” because it accounts for so many attributes. Every collision accounts for mass, speed, and body type and delivers outcomes that reflect that. I remember being floored that Darren Sproles could run over Kevin Williams, but thankfully those days are gone. I will admit that every tackle looked realistic and felt unique, but there are some unfortunate quirks that come with that. First off, players will bend and contort into inhuman ways. I saw Wes Welker fold like a lawn chair, sandwiching a defensive lineman between his rear and his shoulders. It also seemed that players would bump into one another after the whistle and both would flop like they were shot. I don’t know how either of these things are calculated in muscle tension, but it is a serious enough problem that I had people over, watching me play the game, who pointed it out in their very first viewing.

The overall animation outside of tackling has been greatly improved, however, Players can fight for those extra few yards, get tripped and stumble forward before falling, and depending on where they are hit they can brush it off. Going for big hits has always been a risk/reward proposition, but in Madden 13 you absolutely have to measure your shots if you are going to take him. Quite often in my first few guys I would have a defender launch, only to graze the ball carrier's shoulder, and watch them take off for six. Momentum plays a key role, because if your defender is fading back and making an interception you will start out running backwards to complete the movement. It’s not as easy as a player’s feet touching the ground and being able to take off.The Infinity Engine passes its test with flying colors in the balance department. Well, at least until the whistle blows, then all bets are off.

The passing game has also been revamped this year. There are more than 25 pass trajectories, whereas old Madden players will remember there were only three. This allows players to fit the ball over a defender and in those tight windows that just weren’t possible before. Either you’d lob it directly to the defender, throw a touch pass over everyone’s heads, or throw a bullet through someone. I will admit to letting out an audible “woo” during my first touchdown pass over Ike Taylor’s shoulder. Of course, the changes aren’t just for the passers, but also the receivers. Receivers must become aware of a pass before you can attempt a completion, symbolized by their button getting greyed out. If you decide to sling a pass toward a player who isn’t quite aware the ball is coming their way, you must snap control over and make the play manually.

It wouldn’t be fair for the offensive guys to get all the love, so EA has also made some changes for the defense. Defenders who aren’t looking for the ball no longer snap around and make an interception outside of the realms of probability. The defense will react far more realistically and this is something that Madden players have complained about for years. I can’t tell you how many times I would make a beautiful throw and see the defender make a play on the ball even though he was beat on the route and playing catch up. Champ Bailey in particular was infuriating due to this, diving for balls over his head and snatching interceptions on what should be deep completions to burners like Mike Wallace, Randy Moss, or Julio Jones. No offense to Champ, if he somehow ever ends up reading this, but I don’t think he’s quite good enough to magically predict a ball is coming his way, not look at it, and make a diving catch even though the receiver is standing over him. Defenders are no longer tethered to a side of the field. If you move your best WR to the slot against the Jets, prepare for Darrelle Revis to also get in there and mix things up. The defense will always go for the best-on-best matchup and disguising coverage has also taken a big step forward.

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