The Small Things In Life (cntd)
Most of the actual on-field gameplay is rock solid in terms of control and mechanics. Several small-but-important improvements have been made that make it an overall more enjoyable experience. For one, the improved momentum-based tackling system feels much more natural and realistic. I’d still like a truer and larger group tackling ability, but at least now there seems to be a noticeable effect when additional tacklers maul the ball carrier after initial contact.
Another improvement on the defensive side of the ball, and one that I am extremely thankful for, is the improvement of zone coverage. For those that don’t know, zone coverage means that each defender is assigned to a specific zone of the field instead of a specific person (which is called man coverage). The defender must cover whoever runs into his zone, and then break off of them once they leave it. I’m a huge user of the zone defense, but in years past there have always been big problems with passing receivers off from one defender’s zone to the next. Defenders would act as though they had no awareness of their teammates, abandoning opponents regardless of where their help was on the field. Now defenders work much better together. If an offensive player is leaving one zone, but the defender belonging to the next zone over is 15 yards away covering someone else, the original defender will stick a bit longer to minimize defender-free time. I know it sounds small, but it can make a huge difference.
Offense has a number of small-but-important improvements as well, the most important of which is the ability to actually read your blockers. Football games have traditionally struggled with the ability to realistically read offensive linemen when running the ball. Sure, you could see if they were standing wholly on the left or the right of the defensive player, but it was normally black-and-white. As a former offensive guard, I know that blocking is really a very fluid process. If you want to get to somebody’s left, sometimes you have to hit them on the right first. If you want to take out a deep linebacker, you have to get some momentum instead of just walking up and planting your feet. The linemen (or really anyone blocking) now do a much better job of this, allowing me to not only read where my blockers are, but where they probably will be a few seconds in the future.
Going The Extra Mile
Aiding in both of the offensive and defensive improvements is a much improved animation system. Not only is tackling better from a momentum or physics-based standpoint, but it looks better. Defenders don’t just latch their chests on to the runner. They can arm or leg tackle, they can throw their whole bodies forward, and they can dive from the side and let their momentum carry them over the body of the ball carrier as he falls to the ground. These have all been possible to some extent in the past, but now they’re just plain better. Not only is the running and block-reading more realistic, but runners’ move animations react with defenders much smoother than before. When spinning in a tight area, the running back and plant can be performed on an unsuspecting defence linemen to carry his momentum around a corner. Using the right stick to push your momentum forward and backwards also results in appropriate contact animations. These are just a few of the things benefiting from the better animations, but there are many more. Balls very seldom “magnet” into receivers’ hands, people don’t glitch into each others’ bodies nearly as often, people act realistically after being pushed out of bounds, and more.
That being said, there are still some animations that are really quite bad and pulled me out of the experience. One is goal-line play. In real life players don’t block or rush the same on the goal-line as they do at mid field. Linemen may stand up straighter for a normal run play, but when you’re 1 yard away from a touchdown or first down those linemen should be going low on the defenders, taking out there legs as to not be pushed back any. Similarly, defenders should be getting extra low to stop the offensive linemen from doing just that. Watch a football game on TV sometime, and you’ll notice that after most goal-line plays most of the linemen on both sides of the ball are on the ground. The same goes for players diving in on an onside kick. I don’t see why this can’t be added to a game that prides itself on the little things.
Another example of animations that took me out of the experience were how poorly-rated players act. I realize that a wide-receiver with a 59 rating is going to drop a decent amount of balls. I realize that there are going to be times when they mess up their routes. That being said, they are still collegiate athletes that know how to play the game. Too many times one of my receivers would be wide open in the middle of the field, only to be looking in the complete opposite direction when the ball hits them in the head. This just doesn’t happen in real life, at least not very often. Adding in a few more dropped ball animations would be a huge improvement over silly looking errors such as the one present.
Bigger, better, more accurate presentation. Greatly improved animations overall. Enough depth to keep you busy for months or more. Online Team Builder is still amazing.
No big additions to the core of the game. Players occasionally react to situations unrealistically. A lot of re-hashed dialogue.