EA Sports has finally detailed Madden NFL 21 for the PlayStation 5, and its headline feature is the integration of NFL Next-Gen Stats. You may have heard about this while watching NFL broadcasts for the past five seasons. For those of you who don’t know, there’s a lot more going on with each player’s padding than protection from Aaron Donald – there’s also an RFID chip under every jersey. To cut a very complicated technical innovation story short, they track each athlete’s movements on every play, helping to inform performance and create uber-detailed analytics.
And now that data is being put into the next-gen version of EA Sports’ flagship football game. The idea is that each player should perform more true-to-life, as it’s no longer relying solely on artificial intelligence and random statistics; Michael Thomas’ ability to create separation or Khalil Mack’s devastating assaults on the quarterback will now be informed using real-world stats. Every player will perform like his real-life counterpart.
“[Ball carriers’] acceleration rates, speeds, and turn rates are now driven by next-gen stats data, with all-new animations,” Connor Dougan told Polygon. “You can see [in the PS4 version] the way Tyreek Hill inhumanly changes direction and swivels, with no lean or momentum, as he runs. [On the new consoles] there’s proper lean and momentum as he turns upfield.”
This means that the game, overall, is much slower – but crucially more realistic. That can come with advantages: you’ll now have time to pick your spot and hit a hole, where previous versions of the series didn’t afford you that kind of precision. And if you’re playing as an elite running back like Nick Chubb or Christian McCaffrey, you’re going to feel the difference on the field when you hit the gas.
Other improvements coming with the PS5 game include the ability to bookmark plays, and filter by player. For example, if you want to get your star receiver the ball, then you’ll be able to select from plays specifically designed for him. And of course, it’s all going to look better, with improved lighting and more detailed sideline activity – including the ability to bundle into photographers and referees. Sounds good, then – we’ll have a review next month.