After years of struggling to field a next-gen football game that met the expectations of its rabid fan base, EA Sports finally got the vaunted Madden franchise back on the right track last year by adding gang tackling, introducing the oft-requested online franchise mode, and realigning the presentation to bring it more in-synch with television broadcasts. For the encore, developer EA Tiburon isn’t just building on the success from last year – it’s reinventing the most integral part of the gameplay experience.

Unhappy with how players accelerated, changed directions, and carried momentum in past Madden titles, the dev team scrapped its old locomotion engine in favor of a more responsive system. Speed is no longer the most important rating for skill players. The new approach places a much higher emphasis on agility and acceleration as distinguishing factors that separate the stud backs like the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson from mediocre skill position players, like the Bears’ Adrian Peterson.

Armed with a revamped right analog stick juke system that takes advantage of the new technology, players now have an entire assortment of moves resting under their thumb. If you wiggle the stick back and forth, the running back will stutter step. Pressing the controller far to the left or right prompts the familiar juke, but swinging the analog stick around like throwing an uppercut in Fight Night triggers a dangerous spin move in the direction you rotate the stick. Flicking the stick down activates a high step for avoiding diving tacklers, and holding it forward makes the runner assume the trucking position, which you can then steer by slightly guiding the right analog stick to the left or right. This is an important technique to employ with fumble-prone players, as you can guide the runner strategically to keep the hand holding the ball from taking the brunt of the tackle.

Getting used to the new system takes time, since you must trigger moves much earlier than you did in last year’s game to effectively use them. But after a few quarters I was stringing together killer juke combos that left defenders gasping for air. Tiburon is so confident in how this system improves the running game that it eliminated the sprint button altogether. It sounds like a dangerous move that could provoke the anger of hardcore fans, but EA Canada did the same thing with the NHL series, and it gave the game a more realistic feel.

Running the ball isn’t the only aspect of the game the new locomotion engine improves. Receivers finally try to keep their feet inbounds when making a catch on the sidelines. Backs and receivers immediately square their shoulders and turn upfield when catching comeback passes or screens, which finally eliminates their frustrating tendency to run backwards in past Maddens.

Defenses also benefit from the new locomotion system. Cornerbacks with amazing closing speed can bait quarterbacks into throwing their way by playing loose coverage, and star defensive linemen with impressive acceleration ratings explode toward the quarterback after shedding blocks.