E3 2014: How EA is revamping defense in Madden NFL 15
I’ve never been a fan of playing defense in the Madden franchise. Judging by how the NFL is changing the rules to turn it into a more offensive-friendly league, apparently neither are they. Electronic Arts is aware of your complaints about defense, and they are looking to address them in Madden NFL 15 -- it starts with the pass rush game.
"There's hundreds of new animations that went in this year, but again the main story is not really about throwing a number at you,” Madden creative director Rex Dickson said to me. “It's about that we've completely redone the pass rush mechanic in the game.”
“In previous Madden games, rushing the passer was about running downhill, colliding with the guy, and mashing the right stick over and over again and hoping you come off the block So previously rushing the passer was about running downhill, colliding with the guy, and mashing the right stick over and over again and hoping you come off the block. There wasn't anything that was clear about the feedback of are you gonna win, are you gonna lose, what are your chances,” Dickson explained.
EA has changed that this year, by mapping the pass rush to your “A” and “X” buttons (Square and X on PlayStation, I assume). Now your pass rush finesse move is mapped to the “A” button, while your pass rush power move is mapped to the “X” (again, on Xbox).
“We have this whole new player rank system giving you feedback in terms of your win, your lose, your neutrals, and things like that,” Dickson continued. “As soon as you press the button you can clearly tell what happened and why and you get a clear idea of when your next window is to try another one of those pass rush moves.”
“So you’re not just guessing anymore and you’re not just mashing on the right stick and hoping for the best. The whole mechanic of rushing the passer, user controls, the feedback system have been completely overhauled."
When asked if factors like size, weight, and speed will also come into play, Dickson reiterated that the base chance is pass block rating against your finesse move or power move rating, but added that there’s “a lot more” that goes into. For example, EA has added a new mechanic this year called “Off The Line.” This allows you to gauge the snap count and possibly get an acceleration burst at the start. With successful jump, Dickson explained, you can sometimes beat the blocker before he’s fully out of his stance. In those cases, the blocker may never fully get to you and instead might just get a push on your back shoulder.
Another new feature is “Block Steering.”
"Once you're engaged with a blocker, previously you'd use left stick and hope that you'd come off the block,” he explained. “Now disengaging is an actual mechanic.”
With block steering, you simply press “A” (or X on PlayStation) along with a direction, and you’ll actually be able to disengage your blocker in that direction. “It allows you to reach tackle,” I was told, “so if a ball carrier is running by you and you’re getting blocked you can just press A and left stick in that direction and your guy will come directly off the block and transition into a tackle."
Another thing, EA allows you to do with the left stick is move the blocker out. “If somebody's blocking you, as a defender you can kind of push the left stick to go left and move the blocker in that direction.
“It allows you to do counter-moves. You can get the blocker going one direction and do a rip move in the other direction and that's how you can get a guy off balance and get a better chance of pass rush."
While the changes on defense start in the trenches, the defensive line is not the only position that’s seen improvement this year. EA has also completely rebuilt tackling, I was told. Zone and man coverage has been “completely overhauled” as well.
“If you think back to Madden NFL 25, a lot of people would say coverage is soft and the passing game was too wide open. You'll find that's not the case this year. We've worked very hard on our coverage AI to make sure its up to snuff,” Dickson concluded.
While we haven’t yet gone hands-on with Madden NFL 15 yet, we’ll be stopping by the EA booth on Tuesday. We’ve got tons more Madden stuff to share with you throughout the week, so make sure you keep it tuned to GameZone all week.