The Sports Desk – Tons More Info About The Sports Titles Of E3 2017
I saw a lot of games at E3 (and not just the sports ones!), and while I've already done some write ups on many of these titles (lots of links throughout this article), there's so much to cover with each of them that there's not always enough space to fit everything in. Anyway, here's some more info and thoughts on many of the sports titles at E3.
Madden NFL 18
MUT Squads is a big feature for Madden 18, and a key part of it is the interactions between user-controlled wide receivers and cornerbacks (it also applies to any passing matchup), whether at the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped or during the route. For instance, one of the tools receivers have is using the right button as a modifier and flicking the right analog. This puts cuts into the route to try and shake the defensive player. Both players on either side of the ball have moves they can perform, amounting to a rock-paper-scissors matchup that results in either the receiver getting separation or the corner pressing and gaining superior positioning.
I only got a little time with this, and was able to make my receiver breakdown fluidly and make a cut in the route to shake off the DB and get open. On the other side of the ball, one time I applied a lockdown press with a DB, jamming the receiver at the line pretty good. Madden creative director Rex Dickson told me that there are different gradations of winning/losing these one-on-one battles. So if you're playing as a WR, a small win might get you a step ahead (but the DB can still recover), while executing the right move at the right time versus a bad decision from your opponent could lead you to being unmistakably wide open.
The important aspects of the feature I have not been able to figure out is what the appropriate timing is – particularly when it comes to players of different abilities. I can say this: Apart from the win/loss battle between the receivers and defensive backs, these new controls will improve users' route running. In real-life, route running is a skill in and of itself, and these tools make the routes feel less rounded off and more precise.
This matchup chess match is available in any mode, but playing MUT Squads in general at EA Play was fun. I was playing with two other strangers beside me, and the gamer controlling the offense had to make sure we knew what play was being called. He even varied his snap count for when he'd hike the ball. Shouting when your receiver is open, telling each other to watch out for certain plays or tendencies, and just building that team spirit made the mode a lot of fun.
In gameplay news....
- One thing that I really noticed is that tackles – particularly group tackles – are more smooth and natural looking. Running and getting in and out of cuts also felt good. The lighting and overall graphical quality of the title jumps off the screen.
- You can finally match your best defensive backs to your opponents' receivers based on factors such as height, speed, overall, and more. This will help cutdown on mismatches.
- You can tell your team to play differently via situational modifiers. Thus, you can tell your team to strip the ball or go for the aggressive tackle. There's a risk/reward here, of course, such as the strip ball command possibly leading to more face mask penalties.
- Target passing is an optional mechanic separate from the traditional precision passing that allows you to throw to a spot on the field instead of the receiver's body. Dickson says that it's a feature that most players probably won't benefit from, but if you put the time in to master it, it'll pay off. Target passing is brought up by the left trigger, which puts an icon on your primary receiver. Using the left stick then allows you to place the ball where you want.
- Dickson also said that other various gameplay changes for Madden 18 include fixing of defensive zones in the flats and controlling the WR for RAC catches (including near the sidelines).
I saw some scenes of The Longshot, the game's story mode, and I think it's going to be fun. The voice acting is good, and I saw a scene where I chose to play a prank on my friend Cole. This resulted in the mode's protagonist Devin Wade getting a checkmark against him as an immature player. It was as if I was creating a history for Wade that he was going to be judged for by scouts leading up to the draft. I could see how scouts were sizing up Wade by hitting the pause button. Here you can also see the scouting report on Wade's football intellect and performance to this point.
Later on I played through Wade's first game as a high school player for the Mathis Bullfrogs. The team has worked hard to get little touches of local Texas football into the mode, such as having dedicated announcers for Wade's high school games that are familiar with the Mathis players, including their personal lives, which gives the commentary in these instances a more hometown feel like they know these kids. Cole is also on the team, and Wade and Cole's relationship here and beyond is a big part of the story.
I'm excited to see and play more of the mode, and I hope the gameplay is varied enough to keep things interesting.
We're all excited for the continuing journey of Alex Hunter, but I am equally looking forward to playing more of the title for its gameplay. The body shielding from last year has been smoothed over; players who use it don't automatically slow down to a crawl. Instead, users have more control to use the feature but still have the option to maneuver off the contact. Also improved is the game's detection of possession. There were times in FIFA 17 when players would randomly lose possession of the ball even though it was right at their feet. While it's good in a soccer title for the ball to feel like it is its own entity, this made the game sometimes feel loose when it should feel tight. Anyway, that wasn't a problem when I played the game.
One of the main things I'm curious about is how good the game is at making teams and individuals feel different from each other and like they do in real life. One of the ways that developer EA Canada wants to do this is by surfacing team tactics clubs like to use such as the long-ball or short-passing schemes like tiki-taka. Unlike rival PES and its Advance Instructions, FIFA's renewed use of tactics is not executed by selecting a specific tactics option in a menu. Instead, FIFA 18 will use the existing sliders and settings, but the studio says the game will simply express these tactics like they should have been doing all along. I'm cautiously optimistic that this happens for FIFA 18, but I wonder if the studio can make this a reality this year if it didn't work last year. I asked FIFA senior producer Aaron McHardy whether the game would help gamers out by telling them which players do or do not fit their team's chosen tactical playstyle, but he would not say anything either way other than that there would be more info on this later.
As for the second installment of The Journey, which I think it's going to be better than the first season (which I liked), I think it definitely needs to showcase more club context beyond just talking to the assistant managers and a few of your teammates, and seeing a social media sidebar that's easily ignorable. I want to interact with my manager, feel the passion from the supporters, and feel the heat of the media scrutiny. Again, on this point McHardy couldn't go into specifics at the time, but said, "I can confirm that what you're talking about has been a focus and a lot of needles have been moved in that regard. Yes, I agree with the sentiment. I think you'll be happy."
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
- Konami has announced an online beta for the PS4 and Xbox One on July 20-31. I talked to Andre Bronzoni, brand manager for the Americas, who said that the team wants to use the period to take a look at online exploits like PES 2017's lag cheating (where users intentionally tank their connection to cutoff matches without penalty). There are now three entities looking at player claims of cheating.
- Konami says that new licenses will be announced later, but in terms of real-life legend players for MyClub specifically, Adam Bhatti, the global product and brand manager, said in general, "We want to be different. We don't want to sign a whole bunch – we want to sign the best. We've got some really big announcements about who we're teaming up with..."
- 3-on-3 online co-op is a big new feature, and there will be an overall team structure to keep you and your friends together over matches (which is integrated into the competitive PES League). There will also be a more freeform lobby or room for random pickup matches.
- Random Selection matches are back, and for those of you who aren't familiar with them, they allow you to create a team made up of random players culled from three teams. Before a match begins you can steal players from your opponent's team.
- Making the PC version of the game equal with the current console editions is a focus, and the reason I'm optimistic this happens is that the PC version this year is on the same Fox engine instead of being a hybrid of old technology like pervious years.
- The scout auctions for MyClub players are being changed according to Bhatti, but he said details will be announced later.
- The player stat overlays (showing number of passes, for instance) while you're playing using real-life pictures are cool.
- A demo is coming at some point.
- The game is coming with PS4 Pro support, as far as Xbox One X support Bronzoni says, "We don't know yet if we'll be able to do it."
Eko Software is working on this title for an October release on PS4/Xbox One/PC. I don't know anything about Rugby, but when I talked to one of the developers, he stressed that their gameplay approach to the title is not about twitch gameplay or minutely controlling a character. Tackles from A.I. highlighted players are initiated by the flick of the right analog, and you can add players to an ensuing ruck by hitting the circle button. Once a teammate has the ball, you can backpass it along the line. The strategy with the ruck of course is that the more guys you put into it the less you have available for a pass or to set up a defense. The game selects tacklers for you when your opponent has the ball, which I didn't have a problem with, but I did see some weird A.I. reactions and player pathing. Hopefully this is addressed before the game comes out. Rugby 18 also has a full career mode with team management, online play, and what sounds like an Ultimate Team-like fantasy mode.
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