More on the central gameplay improvements coming with Madden NFL 18

Posted July 21st, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Earlier today EA Sports released a trailer teasing various new features related to gameplay for Madden NFL 18. Those features included Target Passing, Play Styles, and new WR/DB mechanics. The publisher quickly followed that up with developer blogs that go into far greater detail than had previously been revealed on each. 

Target Passing

NFL quarterbacks like Tom Brady have an uncanny ability to throw with precision. The Target Passing feature gives users that same ability with an advanced mechanic that simulates that control with a graphical target. Users can finally see their intended passing target while placing it anywhere on the field.

The control scheme is intuitive, providing a straight-forward way for users to place the ball in the most advantageous place. The better players are at utilizing the Target Passing mechanic, the more efficient and tactical they will become at picking apart coverage. The ability to visualize the placement of the ball exactly where you want offers another level of user control.

Target Passing breakdown
♦See exactly where the ball is going to go before the throw
♦Lead shallow routes up the field before reaching the sideline
♦Place the ball between zones, forcing your receiver to throttle down
♦Lead the ball to where only your receiver can get it
♦Throw timing routes before the cut or even while your receiver is being pressed

Using the target passing mechanic
♦Select your primary receiver: Pre-play, activate coach cam with RT/R2, and press button of desired receiver to make him the Primary on the play.
♦Bring up your target: After snap, hold LT/L2 and your target will come up as your Primary.
♦Move the target: Use LS to move your target. As it changes the QB will turn to face the target.
♦Switch Targeted Receiver: While holding LT/L2, press the button of a receiver other than the one currently targeted, and the target will switch to that receiver.
♦Throw to Receiver: Press the button of receiver icon that is displayed. Use the same throw mechanics for lob, touch, and bullet.
♦Neutral Target Passing: If you release LT/L2, then it becomes Neutral Target Passing. This allows you to press the button of the desired receiver and throw to him immediately instead of having to switch the target, then throw.
♦Turn Off Target Passing: Simply press LT/L2 again and you turn off the mechanic.

Play Styles

Arcade is the high-octane version of Madden. This game style delivers a fast-paced, exciting style of play where high scores and spectacular catches are the norm and penalties are very limited. The user-controlled player is the “boss” and will feel like the most powerful player on the field. This mode is perfect for the gamer trying to get in a quick, casual, and action-filled game.

♦User-controlled pass rushers frequently beat their blocks
♦User Hit Sticks and Strip-ball attempts will be highly successful
♦Spectacular catches occur frequently, especially by elite players
♦Broken tackles and ball carrier fake-outs are commonplace
♦Chance of throwing interceptions as a user is lower
♦Can kick longer field goals and there’s higher chance to block kicks when on defense.

Simulation is the authentic NFL experience. This is the game style plays true to player and team ratings and NFL rules. This game style includes all supported penalties, injuries, and other random outcomes you see every Sunday. The players on your roster and the schemes you employ will be critical to success when playing Simulation. This is the game mode for players that are fans of football and want to play a game that’s true to that form. Simulation is the default style for connected franchise mode.

♦Expect the unexpected – even highly-rated players have a slim chance of failure on occasion
♦Injuries and penalties occur at a rate on par with real-world NFL statistics and data
♦Players with elite ratings will be successful far more often than those with lower ratings
♦New pass inaccuracy system allows more realistic performances from lower-rated quarterbacks
♦Fatigue and stamina have bigger impacts on gameplay

Competitive is all about head-to-head competition and tournament play. This is where user stick-skills are king and certain outcomes will be heavily weighted based on game situations and ratings thresholds. Penalties are limited, there are no injuries, and random outcomes are rare. Executing gameplay mechanics and making the right reads dictate success when playing Competitive. EA competitive gaming events and ranked online game modes will be set to this style by default. Be ready for some trash talk, for this is where the Madden hardcore reside.

♦Going for an interception with a wide open defensive player who has a good catch rating leads to a significantly-lower chance of them dropping the ball
♦Throwing from a clean pocket with the QB’s feet set reduces the chance of an inaccurate pass, providing they have a good pass accuracy rating based on the throw type and that you’re not using any passing mechanics
♦There’s a significantly lower chance of a dropped catch when a receiver is considered wide open and has a good catch rating
♦There’s a decreased chance of offensive wins in multiplayer catch outcomes, such as throwing to covered receiver
♦Only AI players with the big hitter trait can hit stick.

Wide Receiver/Defensive Back Interaction

Madden NFL 18 brings a unique meta-game to the gridiron, with new WR/DB mechanics. Tailored for MUT Squads, but available for use in all game modes, the battle that happens between wide receivers and defensive backs will have a big impact on the passing game.

Highlight Coverage
The Highlight Coverage indicator is an on-field assignment that tells your user-controlled player about his assignment in pass coverage, based on the play called.  When applicable, you’ll see lines linking your player to the receivers he should be leveraging in his zone (or in man coverage), as well as a recommended path arrow showing you where he should be moving to properly leverage his targets. This tool is critical in learning all the right reads in pass coverage and can be easily toggled ON/OFF via the Visual Settings menu.

Press Mechanics
When controlling a defender in coverage who is in range to press the receiver, there’s a whole set of interactions available by using the RS.  The defender can press right or left on the stick to funnel the receiver to either side when in man or zone coverage.

Also when in man coverage, there are two additional presses available. You can be more aggressive and go for a Jam straight down the middle of the receiver or, when playing off by about 3-4 yards, you can also press up on the RS to lock up on your receiver and follow him up the field.

The interactions triggered will be completely contextual based on the coverage called from the Playbook menu. You’ll see chucks in zone coverage and presses in man coverage. When using the press mechanics, there’s a risk and reward to the decisions you make so make sure to decide what you want to take away when pressing and use your teammates’ help to your advantage.  The animation variety will be decided by the Strength rating match-up between the two players, while the win/loss result is the match-up between Press vs. Beat Press (Release). And for the first time in Madden’s history, you can even manually press a tight end.

Contextual Auto-Chucks
Another big game-changer for defensive coverage is the new auto-interactions. When a receiver and defender run into each other during a route, you’ll see contextually appropriate two-player animations that take into account the assignments of both players, as well as their Awareness ratings. In some cases, this can throw off the timing of your routes just long enough to get the pass rush home, or even take one of the players completely out of the play if they aren’t aware enough to know what do on contact.

WR Release Mechanics
On offense, for every press a defender can execute, the receiver will have a counter mechanic to either avoid being pressed altogether, or counter out of a press once in an interaction. When controlling a receiver and anticipating a press, or chuck from the defender over top of you, there are four different techniques available to avoid the press.

♦First is the Just-Go release on RT, which will give your player a sprinter’s start, but is extra susceptible to the Jam mechanic. You’ll want to be smart about using this release, as it carries a heavy risk of getting locked up by a pressing DB when used in the incorrect situations. It should be used primarily when not anticipating a press.

♦The most useful counters against the press are the modified releases. Those are the Conservative Change-up release on the A/X button and the

♦Aggressive Footfire release on X/Square button. These can be steered either right or left with LS to try and evade the defender. You’ll want to get a feel for the defender’s tendencies and coverages so you know which one is most likely to get your player open to the side of your route.

♦Lastly, there’s the Standard release, which is simply steering off the ball with LS. This release will most definitely get your receiver jammed at the line, so you will only want to use this when you see the defender playing off coverage. It’s the slowest, most controlled release off the line.

The meta-game between the WR and the DB lies in the direction each player chooses when the ball is snapped, as well as a heavy influence by the ratings of the players involved.  If the receiver wants to release to the inside, but the defender is pressing to the inside, the defender will have a much higher chance to win that interaction and prevent the receiver from getting into his route on time, or get any separation. You’ll also see different outcomes from elite players that are not available for players who aren’t rated as highly.

Here’s a table that shows the base results for each action relative to DB pressing vs. WR releases, if all ratings are equal:

Cut-out-of-Press Mechanic: Don’t worry if you guess wrong and fail to avoid being pressed. When playing as a receiver, and finding yourself in a press interaction, you can attempt to cut out of the press and get into your route by using the RS in any direction. Based on the leverage of the defender and the direction the receiver is trying to release, you’ll see many different techniques and outcomes for the receiver trying to get open. The win/loss result of the interaction is based on the receiver’s Beat Press + Strength ratings vs. the defender’s Press + Strength ratings.

Route-Running and Cut-Move Mechanics: Once you are into your route-stem and out of any interactions that may trigger off the line, there’s some important mechanics to note when finishing your route. The LS will steer the receiver anywhere you want him to go, but when using only LS you cannot make any sharp cuts to gain separation.  To make sharp cuts, you must hold down the RB/R1 button to lock in your current moving direction and then flick the RS in one of eight directions to make a sharp cut. This can be used as a combo, as well to make double moves and fake out man coverage defenders. LS control will not be returned until RB/R1 is released.

Call-for-Ball: Lastly, we’ve improved our current Call-for-Ball mechanic to give a visual indicator to your quarterback that you’re open. When you want the ball, simply press the A/X button and your player indicator will light up to tell your QB in MUT Squads you are open. This will be accompanied by the ‘call-for-ball’ animation.

While these mechanics were spawned for the Team Play style of MUT Squads, all are available to be used in all modes, including Franchise, MUT, and online H2H. Even the AI-controlled players will be using the mechanics, again based heavily on their assignment on the given play call and their relevant ratings to each situation.  This new meta completely changes the way the passing game plays, and WR/DB mechanics are something you’ll want to get familiar with to become a Madden Champion.