Madden 21 Has More Plays And Better AI This Year

EA offers a detailed rundown of the new plays and why and how AI will be smarter in this year's game.


EA Sports has published its latest "Gridiron Notes" blog post for Madden NFL 21, this time covering what's new in terms of offensive and defensive playbooks, and improvements to AI. Additionally, EA is promising more substantial regular updates to this year's game.

Starting with the new playbooks, the Live Playbooks feature from Madden 20 is coming to Madden 21 with a 2.0 version. Like last year, Live Playbooks are updates to the playbooks to reflect what happens in the real NFL, and EA is promising more substantial updates this year.

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"For Madden NFL 21 we are increasing the amount of content we are delivering via Title Updates. As this feature evolves, it will increasingly become the way we add new playbook content to the game," EA said. "We are already in the process of working on new playbook content that will bring even more variety and authenticity to our playbooks."

One example that EA provided is that the New England Patriots signed the QB Cam Newton during the offseason. To reflect this, the NFL Live Playbook for the Patriots will factor in Newtown's fast-paced and dynamic play style, which is very different from how former QB Tom Brady was known to play.

EA will update the NFL Live Playbooks throughout the entire NFL season, but the baseline playbooks in Madden NFL 21 are getting updates, too. "The first change you'll notice is all the NFL Live updates from Madden NFL 20 have been added to all the default team playbooks where applicable," EA said. "And just like we've done previously, all teams with a new head coach or coordinator will have playbook content that reflects the schemes of those specific coaches, based on research like film study and coach interviews."

You can see new plays for various NFL teams in the images below.

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Defensive playbooks are also being updated for Madden NFL 21. In short, players will have more formation and play options, and the overall goal was to make them "more unique by focusing on including the primary formations that each team uses in real life," EA said.

The blog post also covers the various general gameplay changes that EA has made this year, including better ball-handoff animations so they become the same speed no matter which direction the runner is headed. Additionally, block-shedding by defensive players is now related to handoff speeds. "These two changes have made more running plays reliable options in the ground game, while also bringing balance to overused plays, such as stretch and dive," EA said.

Other subtle changes include a greater variety of stance animations for receivers to better depict their body type. EA has also adjusted "some issues" with how receivers would run their routes.

Run-pass option plays, which were introduced in Madden NFL 20, are getting some further refinements for this year's game. For "Peek" plays specifically, the running back will now take a more "inside zone track" to better reflect how the play might unfold in real life.

Also in the blog post, EA spoke about some of the improvements to AI when you're playing against the computer. AI-controlled QBs will now make better decisions reading the defense and finding the open receiver. Additionally, AI QBs will be smarter about throwing to the receiver with the highest likelihood of completing a catch based on the specific scenario.

For defense, AI players will mix things up and call a variety of different plays in goal-line situations to give you more of a challenge and require you to get more creative. Additionally, AI teams will be generally smarter about clock management and they will make better decisions about calling specific types of plays depending on the situation of the game. In years past, the AI might not might not have called a risky play, even if they needed to try it to win, but the AI will be more aggressive and risk-taking in certain situations this year.

This is just a small sampling of some of the updates for Madden NFL 21 this year--be sure to read the full Gridiron Notes blog post to get up to speed on everything.

Madden NFL 21 is coming on August 28 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It will also be coming to the next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X, with free upgrades for current-gen owners through EA's Dual Entitlement program. For more details check out our Madden NFL 21 pre-order guide.

For more on Madden NFL 21, check out the latest player ratings here.

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