With Memorial Day now in the past, that means summertime is here for all intents and purposes -- and it also means that Madden NFL 2005 will soon be on the shelves. In order to give fans a sneak peak at what's in store for this year's top football gaming experience, we had a chat with line producer Phil Frazier, who divulged some key facts about what we can expect from the all-time best-selling gridiron title.
EA SPORTS: What exactly is the Hit Stick?
Phil Frazier: The Hit Stick is a brand-new control innovation whereby players can attempt to lay a big hit on their opponent by flicking the right stick. They are risky, as a mis-timed hit can be devastating to your defense, but it can all pay off with a huge hit and a fumble or dropped pass.
EA SPORTS: What other modifications have been made to defensive play this year?
Phil Frazier: We started over and re-did our DB coverage, especially man-to-man. Good DBs will just blanket their receivers this year. We really feel that we've portrayed the shut-down corners extremely well, and it will actually force the offense to rely more on strategy and mismatches than money plays. Adding to that, defensive matchups let you assign a particular defensive player to cover a certain guy all game. Imagine sticking Champ Bailey on Randy Moss, and not really having to worry about that side of the field for the rest of the game. We also added defensive hot routes where you can customize nearly everything about your defense before the snap. There are just too many things to mention -- it truly is an exciting year for defense.
EA SPORTS: Talk to us about the new Storylines involved in the game.
Phil Frazier: Storyline Central is a new addition to Franchise Mode this year that focuses on every story that is at the forefront in the NFL. The stories around your team now impact your team. If the rookie RB is pushing the veteran for playing time but not getting it, his morale will drop and it will affect his performance. You hear about the stories three different ways.
The first is the newspaper. Every team in Franchise has a newspaper from their local city that discusses only the stories that pertain to that team. We also feature USA Today, which is the franchise's national newspaper. In USA Today, the most important stories from the entire NFL appear.
The second part of Storyline Central is EA Sports Radio. We've added sports talk radio to Franchise, where host Tony Bruno breaks down the week's biggest stories. Each week's show includes call-ins, coach and player interviews, trivia questions and from time to time, Tony will rant about important issues in the NFL.
The last aspect of Storyline Central is email. Every week on your PDA, you'll receive emails about everything going on with your team. You will receive emails from players, coaches, general managers, the PR department, etc... If a player is upset about his playing time, you're definitely going to hear about it!
EA SPORTS: What sort of changes have you made to Franchise Mode this year?
Phil Frazier: We've added more to franchise this year than we've ever added before. Some key additions include:
Restricted Free Agents - Allow your young guys to test Restricted Free Agency.
Preseason Position Battles - Let two players who are similar in talent battle it out for the starting job.
Player Personalities - Players react to everything that happens to them and if things get really bad for them, they demand a trade. If you're not throwing the ball to your star receiver, you'll hear about it.
Franchise Tags - Tag players who refuse to re-sign with your team.
New Realistic Off-season Free Agency - Players no longer only care about money. They now look at your team, the players you have, your team prestige and lots of other factors.
Weekly Gameplan - Your coordinators provide you with a gameplan each week that contains keys to stop your upcoming opponents.
NFL Icons - We've acknowledged the stars in the NFL and they become Icons in your Franchise. These players influence free agents and affect morale if something happens to them.
Practice in Franchise - You can now practice with your current franchise team.
Improved Team Management - Teams intelligently manage their rosters now. They cut dead weight and sign regular season free agents.
Name Team Captains - You can now name your team captains every year in Franchise.
Rivalries - Rivalries are a new addition to Franchise this year.
Team Prestige - A new aspect of Franchise is prestige. Turn a perennial loser around to become a true powerhouse.
In-Season Player Progression - Players now progress based on how well they're doing during the season. Breakout players are rewarded for their performance.
Improved Draft - A ticker, announcer and trading during the draft highlight our draft improvements.
Change Player Positions - You can change the positions of players in Franchise every season now.
EA SPORTS: Are there still training camps and other skill-improvement features?
Phil Frazier: Practice Mode, Mini-Camp, Situation Mode, Football 101, and several tutorial videos are all available to help people that may have difficulty with the game. Even experienced players use these to keep their skills sharp. We've also added a mini-game called Rushing Attack that allows two users to go head-to-head in our Ground Attack drill.
EA SPORTS: Fans are now a more important part of the game. What does Create-a-Fan do?
Phil Frazier: Create-a-Fan allows you to make a crazy fan to your liking to have him show up in games that you play. You can customize everything about him, from a foam finger to a dog bone, and you can team specific objects to your fan. We have added numerous fan cut scenes this year -- be sure to check this out because there are some pretty hilarious ones in there.
EA SPORTS: Are you adding any new old school teams, players and uniforms this year?
Phil Frazier: No additional old school teams or players; however, we have included all of the alternate jerseys teams are now wearing in the NFL.
EA SPORTS: Any changes to the graphics engine, physics engine, animations or anything else that dictates the way the game looks and feels?
Phil Frazier: Madden NFL 2005 looks and feels like a completely new game. We're updated our player models to look more intense, and more realistic. The environments, including stadiums, lighting, and the sky, have all been redone as well. Check out the sidelines: we've added tons of players, media, and other 'stuff' to make the sidelines look more realistic.
All-new running animations provide a much more realistic looking and feeling running game. We've added over 1000 new animations to the game this year.
EA SPORTS: What sort of new features will be available for online play with PlayStation 2 and Xbox LIVE?
Phil Frazier: This year, online play features a ton of refinement over last year's game. We've added a lot more ways for users to match-up with a player who is closer to the skill level, as well as more powerful EA Messenger that will allow you to keep track of dozens of friends while online. One of my favorite new features is the quick tournaments, which allow you to play in 4 or 8 player tournaments in one sitting, without having to wait for your opponent to show up. We've also added an insanely addictive Rushing Attack mini-game, which lets you go head-to-head with other players online to see who can pick up the most yardage. Add to that unlockable trophies and medals, a robust scouting report that lets you size up a player before you play him, a real-time score and stats ticker and a deeper stats book, and you've got the best online football experience out there.
EA SPORTS: Anything else you want to add about Madden NFL 2005?
Phil Frazier: The addition of the Hit Stick and our other defensive enhancements is sure to change the way video game football is played, I promise… defense is fun to play this year! Storyline Central adds even more depth to Franchise Mode and gives you even more to think about as you run your team. Create-a-fan really adds a little something else for the user to customize.
Overall, there are a TON of new features throughout the game that we think our fans will enjoy!
Who else is extremely excited about this years version?