Madden NFL 2005 Updated Impressions

We take an up-close look at an early PC version of the next Madden football game from EA Sports.

The Madden NFL series is one of the most popular sports game series around, at least in North America. We took a look at the upcoming PC version of the game, which, like its console counterparts, will feature this year's increased emphasis on defensive plays. As with the console versions of the game, the PC version of Madden NFL 2005 will feature a "hitstick." You can use the right analog stick on your PC gamepad to execute a set of all-new, brutal-looking defensive tackles that will put an immediate stop to running plays if executed correctly (but they may cost you dearly if you miss, since your defensive players will fall on their faces, allowing runners to gain all kinds of yardage while your men desperately try to pick themselves up). Unfortunately, at this time, you must have a PC gamepad with analog sticks in order to be able to use this new feature.

The PC version of Madden 2005 will contain enhanced "playmaker" features that let you give both offensive and defensive audibles to your players along with the ability to change their instructions on the fly (from playing zones to blitzing, for instance). On the defensive game, you'll actually be able to assign individual man coverage (this feature will be available for you to choose to "lock" on or off). This feature, when used with the ability to change plays on the fly, may also come in handy as a way to fake out your opponents who might think you'll continue to play man-on-man defense, only to have you switch out at the last second and go for the sack. You'll also be able to create your own custom plays and load them into your playbook to use whenever you like. The game will also feature storyline central, an enhanced career mode in which you'll play as the owner of a major NFL team, and you will be kept up to date with an in-game handheld PDA computer, local and national newspaper headlines, and a weekly show starring broadcaster Tony Bruno and many other real-life players and coaches.

The PC version of the game, specifically, will have a number of enhanced features for online play and what will likely be the best graphics of any version of the game. All versions of Madden 2005 will use volumetric lighting and bump-mapping where possible to enhance the look of stadium lights (this effect is especially apparent with games that take place at dusk, which shows the transition from day to night) and the look of players, which still have reflective helmets, but now they have more detailed bodies--right down to the holes in their jerseys. The game will continue to let players play online over EA Sports Online, along with the ability to form custom leagues and clubs as well as online rankings. The developers have also continued to take steps to eliminate online cheating; last year's game eliminated the ability to pause the game indefinitely (until the other guy quit in disgust, thereby giving you the win); this year's game will remove the ability to induce lag into the game (to throw off your opponent's timing) by pressing the Windows key or the Alt and Tab keys together.

Even though we saw an early alpha version of the game, Madden NFL 2005 for the PC looks extremely promising. All versions of the game are scheduled to ship later this year.

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