As November gets closer and closer, sports gamers are getting more excited, and worried at the same time, about how their next-gen sports gaming experiences are going to turn out. EA Sports has come out full-throttle in promoting their new game engine, “Ignite.” We’ve seen trailers and promos-galore showing jaw dropping visuals and near perfect recreations of star athletes. Is this just a repeat of the “Madden Trailer fiasco” from 2005? Or will EA Ignite a Next Gen revolution not just in the sports genre, but in gaming altogether?
During E3, EA Sports debuted their new Ignite engine with a slew of fantastic looking trailers, some with real-time gameplay, some not. The graphics and visual fidelity were flat-out amazing. In a clip of Madden 25, RGIII looked and moved just like himself. It was impressive, but does this trailer show what the game will really look like? That’s exactly what’s up for debate. Back when the Xbox 360 was released in November of 2005, we had a fantastic looking trailer for Madden 06 featuring Donovan McNabb, then of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Michael Strahan of the New York Giants. This trailer alone had sports gamers salivating at the mouth with anticipation of what was to come. Unfortunately, 7 years later we have still yet to fully realize what that trailer touted. We’ve seen upgrades and enhancements year over year, but nothing that’s at the level of what was supposedly coming with back then. Here we are, now in 2013 and a handful of months away from what could possibly be the largest, most anticipated console launch of all time. This time, EA is going for the knockout punch.
This could be one of the features that’s noticeable right off the bat. Not only will player models look identical to themselves in real life, but EA now has the ability to get them to actually run not just like a real human, but like the human version of that particular person. This will allow for a variety of signature moves from all of our favorite athletes in every game using this technology giving us an even more accurate representation of what we see on our tv’s. The next big thing you’ll get is real life physics. EA is trying to capture the physicality of professional sports and here is where you can actually see the difference of someone who’s agile compared to flat footed, strong versus weak, and fast versus slow. Collisions will be more varied and random. Not canned and preset like they are today. No longer will a gamer be chased down by a slower defender in Madden when they have a speedy running back. Imagine Adrian Peterson taking a sweep and hitting the safety level, only to be crushed by a cornerback. In Madden 25, expect AP to obliterate that corner and leave him lying on his back while running for a touchdown. We’ve been waiting for this for 7 years now. Will it finally be delivered?
Another great aspect is the Human Intelligence. This will allow your AI controlled players to actually think for themselves and compute data on the fly. They will react in real-time according to what the opposition is doing, just like our famous athletes do. Imagine being on a 3 on 2 break in FIFA, only to have your CPU controlled teammate break off his angle and stop running. This has happened countless times in past generations of the FIFA series, but no more. Before, sports games relied on algorithms based on player attributes and game sliders to determine certain outcomes. That will still be in effect, but not nearly as much going forward with Ignite. With the ability to compute 4 times more calculations per second than current consoles, we should really see a fluid and more realistic looking game based on the decisions each character makes. This adds a whole new way of playing a sports video game and the way we actually experience the sport itself. Everything is done dynamically and every action will get a reaction from all AI controlled characters in-game.
Something no sports game has truly been able to recreate, is the experience you get being at a sporting event live. For those gamers who’ve been to a Euro League soccer match or a NFL football game know what I’m talking about. EA is now looking to change that. With Living Worlds, for the first time they have created real 3-D crowds and stadiums for total immersion, dynamic and changing crowds who ebb and flow as the game goes and reacts to every play, and photo realistic visuals to finally recreate that feeling of being there. This gives “home field advantage,” a whole new meaning in next gen sports gaming.
It’s hard to say what’s hype and what’s real when it comes to EA Sports and their future releases. But truth be told, I’m very excited, but I’m also cautious as we inch closer and closer to the Xbox One and Playstation 4. The last few years, Madden has come a long way compared to the disaster that was Madden 2006. We haven’t seen the NBA Live/Elite series since a YouTube video completely crushed it’s hopes and dreams, and we are finally getting something new within the UFC franchise now EA has taken over from THQ. Will this be the holy grail of gaming engines? Maybe not, but on the other hand, sports games now are starting to reach the ceiling on current gen consoles. It was only a matter of time before developers finally started listening to what gamers want. It wasn’t always about graphics and eye candy. But more about sports games representing what we see on TV. We want movements to not look robotic, but fluid and like the athletes they resemble. We want to see the crowds actually have a presence and not necessarily be the same 4-5 models copied and pasted a few hundred times throughout the stands. I for one, am excited to see what EA has up their sleeve. They botched their releases back in 2005-06 and they are determined to get it right this time. If they do, that only raises the bar for other developers and makes the industry notice,which is great for gamers all around. If not, then it could be a complete disaster for EA Sports and another blunder under their belt. It seems like a huge gamble, but a gamble I think EA must take in order to gain the trust and respect back from gamers they’ve lost during the last console transition.