Draftees get a peek at next-gen Madden

EA played its pigskin preview during the NFL Draft over the weekend; ad is first publicly displayed footage of next-gen capabilities.

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Though most viewers of Saturday's NFL Draft were festooned with NFL memorabilia and cheap beer, a handful no doubt held EA foam fingers while pounding Mountain Dew. That's because Electronic Arts, the world's largest software publisher, gave its football faithful a sneak peek of Madden NFL 06 for "next-generation consoles." The 60-second spot aired during the first hour of the NFL Draft, which was televised nationally on ESPN.

The trailer opens with a shot of a particularly jovial Veterans Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Eagles and Madden NFL 06 cover boy Donovan McNabb. A flyby camera zooms toward the newly built stadium, where a shower of green and yellow fireworks erupts. The next shot comes from over the top of the stadium, through a wall of smoke left over from the pyrotechnics. In one smooth motion, the point of view goes all the way down to the field level, where we get our first look at the players.

McNabb and his teammates take the field, ready to do battle against the New York Giants. It's snowing, and McNabb is hyping up an already-pumped Philadelphia home crowd as kickoff nears.

In pure Philadelphia Eagles fashion, safety J.R. Reed is injured returning the opening kickoff. This is where we see our first rendition of a new feature of Madden. As Reed is tackled to the ground, the camera zooms toward an X-ray shot of his shoulder. A reticule, labeled "Injury Analysis," appears over the point of injury, detailing the time of rehab, injury reserve status, replacements, and franchise costs, which may indicate that the new franchise mode uses some form of credits system.

In the next shot, EA shows off its new play-calling screen, which now appears as a side menu. The camera on the field shows the players in a huddle from a bottom-up perspective, players' icy breath condensing in the night air. Even though it is the 2nd down with 8 yards to go, the header on the play menu reads "3rd and Long," which may mean that this year's edition will group plays by yardage instead of by formation.

Whichever play they called, it wasn't a good one. The next scene shows McNabb getting sacked for a big loss by Giants' all-pro defensive end Michael Strahan. As Strahan makes McNabb eat turf, the camera zooms past their supine bodies and toward the stadium JumboTron, which lights up with the phrase "sack-cam" and replays the defensive gem from a closer angle.

With the Eagles down 14-20 and two seconds remaining, McNabb chats with coach Andy Reid, who tells him something about the safeties. The two teams take their places on the line of scrimmage, and Strahan gives McNabb a finger wag and a snarl before blowing by his man and bearing down on the quarterback.

McNabb craftily evades him and heaves one toward wideout Terrell Owens, who has blown past the Giants' secondary. In slow motion, T.O. goes into full extension, grabs the ball out of the air, and breaks the plane of the goal line (which is represented by a sci-fi-like laser field) for the dramatic victory. Owens celebrates, and the familiar EA Sports logo and the "EA Sports, it's in the game" motto round out the ad.

While the commercial may have dropped the jaws of many gamers, there was no disclaimer that the technically impressive ad was actually in-game footage. The ad was, in fact, an artist's "target video," sort of an artist's conception of what the final version of Madden NFL 06 will look like. As for the actual game? We won't know until it kicks off on next-generation consoles.

For more information on Madden NFL 06, check out GameSpot's scouting report.

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