I had the opportunity to play an alpha build of Madden NFL 15 three weeks ago at the Tiburon Studios in Orlando, Florida. I put in over 20 hours with the game and wanted to share my hands-on impressions of the presentation and visuals in the game. It is important to note that this was an alpha build of Madden NFL 15 and the development team makes improvements and changes on the game every day. Therefore, the impressions coming from E3 this week are likely to be from a different build than I experienced.
The presentation aspect of Madden NFL 15 immediately reminded me of watching a game on CBS. The score bug, stat banners, down and distance graphics on the field and camera angles inspired by NFL Films all combine to make it look like a real NFL broadcast. The cameras change up during pre-game focusing on different parts of the field like the sideline, a group huddle or the team lining up to kick the ball. The best part about the new cameras are the variability. I saw a handful of different angles for the same sequence. It was refreshing to see one kick off following the kickers foot swing into the ball while the next one followed the kickers torso and hand movement signaling his teammates to start rushing towards the opposition. This variability helps keep the presentation fresh. I can’t even do it justice by talking about it. It is something you need to see to fully grasp.
Speaking of camera angles, there are six new gameplay cameras that you can toggle through on the fly with the d-pad before snapping the ball. The majority of the camera angles are similar to previous titles. They do have a new “Zoom” camera that puts you closer to the action on the field. Unfortunately, this angle does cut out the wide receivers from being seen. However, this is where the adjustable camera angles come into play. If I was running the ball, I would switch to “Zoom” and switch back to “Standard” with a passing play.
Another new addition to the presentation is the half-time show. Half-time shows of some fashion have been in Madden for a while now, but they were usually bland because they only showcased a couple of plays without any voice overs lending insight into each play. This changes in Madden NFL 15. They not only include a couple of big plays, but plays that set up those big plays as well. For example, you will see a replay of a third down defensive stand if that led to a touchdown during the offensive possession. While the highlights are being shown, Larry Ridley will discuss each play and send the broadcast back to Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to start the second half.
My favorite part of the new presentation is the elimination of celebrations being tied to a cut scene. Celebrations are all dynamic. This adds a sense of realism and makes the game look more fluid. The best example I saw of this was when Alfred Morris scored a touchdown against me. I tackled Morris into the endzone and he rolled over and celebrated by pointing both hands in the air. After celebrating on the ground, he got up off the turf and did his signature “home run” celebration. This all happened without any cut scenes; all of this happened in real time. This new addition helps immersion immensely. Gone are the days when a touchdown is scored on one side of the field and the cut scene shows the player celebrating on the opposite side of the endzone.
Another highlight of the presentation in Madden NFL 15 is the addition of each head coach’s likeness. Andy Reid rocks his extra long jacket and belt while Chip Kelly dons his tight tech gear. Small details like Marc Trestman’s half-tucked in shirt even made it into the game. Yes, these are small additions. However, it really does add to the presentation when your coach on the sideline looks identical to how they do in real life.
The fan models in the crowd are improved, but I think people will still be disappointed by the “Living Worlds” feature introduced last year in Madden NFL 25. The sidelines get a slight upgrade with more moving staff members, but are still hindered by the absence of fully rendered player models. Unfortunately, I spent most of my playing time without audio so I can’t comment on any commentary or crowd noise improvements.
I walked away very pleased with the overall presentation in Madden NFL 15. I was impressed with the graphic overlays, half-time show, dynamic cameras and attention to detail on the head coaches. While the sidelines still need to be improved, I think people will be happy with what Madden NFL 15 brings to the table, especially if they were able to improve the commentary and crowd noise.
I live in instant replay mode. I have always enjoyed capturing screenshots and looking at the details of video games; especially sports titles. After playing Madden NFL 15, I think it looks on-par with every sports title that has released on Xbox One and PS4. There is one caveat though; the game still lacks great visuals during games played at night and in a dome stadium. The game still looks good, but it shines during games played during the day and evening. That being said, the visuals were not 100% completed when I played the game. I am hoping to see improvement in that area when the game releases on August 26, 2014.
The biggest improvement in my opinion is the player models and addition of more authentic face scans via EA SPORTS new capturing technology. I tried to play with as many teams as possible during my time with the game and only had issues with the player models for Tony Romo and Lance Briggs. I personally thought that Romo was too skinny and Briggs was too small. Aside from those two instances, I thought the player models were much improved. The facial scanning technology EA SPORTS has is great and was used on a lot of star players in Madden NFL 25. It is obvious that they made an effort to capture as many faces as possible for Madden NFL 15. I am hoping some of the popular rookies like Jadaveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel get the same treatment before the game releases. I played the game three weeks after the NFL draft so it makes sense that they would be absent from the game. Although, their faces do look decent from this official screenshot released today by EA SPORTS. Hard to tell if they were scanned in or not from this angle though:
The biggest “WOW” moment I had in terms of visuals didn’t even happen in front of me. I turned around to see someone else playing as the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III was walking up to the line of scrimmage. I was blown away. I immediately thought about the Madden NFL 25 trailer between the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings and how they finally achieved that level of realism shown in the trailer.
With that being said, my impressions are from viewing the game in instant replay mode and close up camera shots. Many people expect the game to keep its visual fidelity while far away in a gameplay camera angle, but that expectation is not realistic. The game still looks good from afar, but you need to zoom in to appreciate the details. I would suggest using the “Zoom” camera to get the best look at graphics while playing the game.
Like the presentation in Madden NFL 15, I walked away very pleased with the graphics portion of the game. I take a lot of screenshots for the website and just sat in awe at some of the shots I had lined up the game. The lighting, color palate, player models and player face scans combine to make the game a strong competitor in the visuals category.
If you have any questions concerning the presentation and visuals in Madden NFL 15, please stop by this thread to ask me and I will answer as soon as possible.