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Justin, Guy, Dan, and Randolph close Wednesday at the E3 2012 Bonus Stage
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While I may not spend much time online anymore with my sports games, I always find time for a little NCAA Football online. The dynasty feature in NCAA is probably my favorite mode in any sports game, and taking it online (either against friends of perfect strangers) is a great extension of an already fun mode. Naturally, NCAA Football 11 is bringing online dynasty back, and I've been playing with the system for the past week to check out some of the changes.
There are two major changes to how online dynasty works in NCAA Football: dynasty wire and the new recruiting process. The dynasty wire features stories from around your online dynasty, and the game will automatically generate stories after each game in the season. If you've got the time (and the inclination), you can edit these stories to your heart's content, adding detailed description of the action on the field. You can also pull highlights from the game (either video or photos) and add them to your story. You can even put together stories before the season begins--I wrote a story about how Auburn would be refusing to redshirt any players for the season, in a mad dash to win and win now.
You can either edit stories in-game (which, frankly, takes forever, thanks to the clunky typing interface) or you can head to NCAA Football 11's dynasty home page, sign in, and put together stories there, which happens to be much easier. However, you'll need to be aware that stories you post via the Web interface will appear on your console, but they'll still be subject to filtering. For example, my recap story on Auburn's come-from-behind victory over Mississippi State was filtered in the console version of the game. I'm assuming it was because I put a "quote" at the end of my story calling for the immediate arrest and jailing of all Bulldogs fans (and LSU fans to boot).
As with the dynasty wire stories, you can also recruit via EA's NCAA Football 11 dynasty portal. As in the console interface, you can do practically everything you need to on the Web, such as checking out team needs, organizing prospects, and searching for specific recruits via a number of criteria. Adding or calling recruits is just a few clicks away, and, of course, you'll only have 10 hours per week to recruit.
Beyond the Web interface, the biggest change to recruiting has to do with the way recruiting interest is more explicitly displayed. There's also a slightly different method of making calls to individual recruits. In the past, you could choose specific aspects of your program--conference prestige, championship contender, and the like--to pitch to a recruit. In NCAA Football 11, those pitches are randomized to a certain extent; once a pitch pops up, you can choose from a number of options: make the pitch on that subject, determine how important that aspect is to the recruit, pitch that aspect against other leading programs, change the subject to something else (which is helpful when a particularly weak aspect of your program appears), make a promise to a recruit, schedule him for a visit, and offer a scholarship.
NCAA Football 11's recruiting is much more explicit than in years past in terms of the progress you make with recruits, thanks to a numerical system that will show how many points a particular pitch earns. Pitching a strong aspect of your program that also happens to be a high priority for a recruit will result in a big points gain; while pitching a weak aspect to a recruit who couldn't care less might not make much of a difference. This system is particularly useful when pitching against another program. Say you're trying to compare conference prestige of the SEC against that of a Big 12 school. You'll be able to add a significant number of points to your recruiting total while subtracting points away from that school--a great way to make big strides on a recruit who might be looking at a different program. As the weeks of the season pass, you'll also be able to see where your school ranks in that recruit's eyes, as well as how many points away you are from the next school on that recruit's list. In all, it's a better system; one that makes recruiting--which has seemed a bit of a dark art in the past--easier to understand than ever before.
NCAA Football 11 is due for release on July 13.
[UPDATE: Check out the new video demo of NBA Elite with EA Sports' Connor Dougan below.]
Earlier in the year, Golden State Warriors star point guard Stephen Curry had a chance to visit EA Canada's Vancouver HQ to try out the company's new basketball game. According to developers, Curry--who'll readily admit he is a big video game guy--got his hands on the new controls that are the underpinning of the NBA Live series' transformation and rebirth as NBA Elite 11. Right away, Curry began making shots from all over the floor, despite not having had much time with the game. When asked about his in-game success by developers, Curry--who ended up third overall last year in scoring for the Warriors--simply replied, "Shooters shoot, man."
Yes, indeed, shooters shoot. And if the Curry anecdote, as well as our own hands-on time with NBA Elite 11's revamped control scheme last week at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo, are anything to go by, then player skill is going to determine your success on the floor more so than any previous year in EA's long-running NBA series. Our time with Elite was relatively brief, but we can safely say the game's new controls are the most significant change to EA's hoops series--and perhaps to basketball games--in the past several years.
Beginning with a change at the top of the NBA Live development team, the Elite team has focused on turning around the NBA Live series in much the same way that EA Canada turned around its NHL series several years back. The blueprint, it seems, is to take many of the control ideas that revolutionized the NHL series and port them over to NBA Elite: The left stick controls player movement and the right stick controls the player's hands (and, by extension, the movement of the ball). The result becomes a control scheme that is intuitive… that is, once you wrap your head around it.
We got some hands-on time with Elite, featuring a one-on-one practice game featuring LeBron James and NBA Elite 11 cover star Kevin Durant. Controlling King James, we were able to pull off crossovers simply by moving the right stick left or right. The speed we moved the stick with determined the pace of the crossover. By pulling the right stick back at a diagonal either left or right, LeBron would execute crossovers under his leg left and right. Finally, by making upward half-circle movements with the right stick, we could do behind-the-back crosses left or right.
As in previous years, movement is controlled with the left stick, and you can mix in specialized moves, such as pro hops or Euro steps, by combining the triggers and the left stick when moving. When you couple those moves with the ability to manually change hands at any point, you have the makings for a very flexible offensive system; one where pre-canned unbreakable animations between players seem to be a thing of the past.
Fancy moves might get you closer to the hoop, but you'll still need to get close and get the ball in the basket. The new shooting mechanic takes a nod from NHL's skill stick approach. To shoot, you simply move the right stick forward and let go at the appropriate moment. When you decide to release, of course, depends your player's proximity to the basket, and as a result, you can clank a ball off the rim or put up an air ball if you don't get enough power in your shot--or overcook things with too much power. You can also dunk by running toward the net and pressing up with the right stick (and, yes, you'll be able to change hands in midair for some truly impressive improvisations under the net).
The E3 demo we played featured an onscreen heads-up display that showed our right and left stick movements; it also featured a shot meter that showed us the ideal release time for every shot we took--but that HUD element won't be part of the final game. Instead, you'll need to rely on the feel of the shot to get the power right. And, you'll need to keep in mind that you'll be able to miss right or left of the basket if you aren't straight with your right stick when shooting. But hey, don't worry: Shooters shoot, remember?
The new controls aren't reserved for players on offense, however. You'll be able to attempt a steal by pressing down on the right stick and move your player's right or left hand up or down by pressing left or right on the stick. Producers told us that tweaked animations and improved player AI will mean that a defender's hand will better track the ball, making it easier to break up a pass or block a shot (the latter of which you can execute by pressing up on the right stick).
Beyond the controls, it's the new animation and physics system that really shine on defense. Player contact feels great, especially if an offensive player is backing you down. It looks and feels like a real struggle for control--a struggle that either player can break out of at any time with a quick spin move or a steal attempt. Forget the player lock on defensive controls of years past, too; in NBA Elite 11, defense will be about quick reflexes, keeping your body in between your assigned player and the basket. On defense, you'll be able to pull off quick side-to-side steps to stop a player from making a move to the hoop, but there's an element of risk versus reward here. If you slide in the wrong direction, you might get your ankles broken trying to get back, giving your opponent an open lane to the basket.
So what do all of these new controls mean for NBA Elite 11? From what we've seen, the controls work great in one-on-one play. However, producers only showed us five-on-five play--we didn't get a chance to try it for ourselves. This was certainly intentional; it's easy to get a better handle of the controls in a controlled setting, and we suspect that full-team play simply hasn't been tuned yet to make the most of the new controls.
However, in a larger sense, we suspect that because the new controls put a premium on the skill of the players with the controllers in their hands--as well as the skillset of the NBA player they are controlling--the idea of controlling only the NBA's most…ahem…"elite" players (whose attributes make them best suited for pulling off the kinds of moves you'll want to execute in Elite) will become the new standard for this series. After all, why on earth would you want to put the ball in the hands of Luke Walton when you can put your stick skills to their best use with Kobe Bryant?
Will NBA superstars be overpowered in NBA Elite? Will passing--an already rare phenomenon in online hoops games--become a thing of the past? The jury is still out. Nonetheless, the changes in Elite look to be among the most important in the series' history, and we'll be closely following the game's progress in the coming months.
There was a question as to whether 2K Sports would be bringing out an NHL game in 2010 at all. The long-running NHL 2K series has been struggling from a sales and critical reception standpoint on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and lagging behind its direct competitor at EA. NHL 2K11 isn't dead, however; it's just a Wii exclusive. 2K Sports announced the year-long hiatus of the 360 and PS3 versions of the NHL series earlier this year as it revamped the game, presumably for NHL 2K12. Yesterday, on the show floor of E3, we got a look at the Wii-only NHL 2K11 to see what 2K puck fans will have to tide them over before the series returns to the 360 and PS3.
As with 2K Sports' other big game--NBA 2K11--we didn't get a chance to play NHL 2K11 for ourselves. We did hear about the upgrades to the Wii MotionPlus controls (which producers are dubbing "Wii MotionPlus 2.0") and that it promises more one-to-one motion between player movement and onscreen stick control than ever before. Standard movements will be easy enough to pull off, but 2K is also promising the ability to pull off more advanced moves like poke checks, stick lifts, juggles, and even holding the puck on the end of the stick in midair. We saw the latter in motion during a one-versus-one practice session--it looked cool enough but we doubt there's much room for this kind of flair in a full six-on-six match.
From a presentation standpoint, NHL 2K11 will feature a more vibrant color palette with improved lighting in stadiums, touched-up player models, and improved jerseys and sticks. Speaking of lumber, broken sticks are in NHL 2K11. We didn't see any in our demo, but producers said players will skate to the bench to retrieve a new stick.
Love them or hate them, minigames have been a part of the NHL 2K series for years now. In NHL 2K11, minigames have been organized into a new mode known as Road to the Cup. Built off the superskills events from previous games, Road to the Cup has you traveling through NHL cities, trying to gain fans as you complete in a number of skills minigames. These minigames run from standard "hardest shot" competitions (where you swing the Wii Remote to take the shot, naturally) to more esoteric games, like a skating game where your goal is to avoid yellow barrels that are moving at random all over the ice. Each time your player is hit by a barrel, you lose a life and the last man standing is the winner. Winning a game will earn you fans on your Road to the Cup and the first player to reach 1,000 fans in the mode is declared the overall winner.
2K Sports producers pointed out that this is the third year of development for NHL 2K on the Wii, a point in the annual game cycle where developers typically really find their stride with a series. It remains to be seen whether or not NHL 2K11 will be an improved effort over last year's game or merely a bridge to whatever comes next from 2K Sports on the 360 and PS3, but we'll be keeping an eye on the game up to its release later this year.
Players get rocked against the boards, players drop sticks, and the lamp gets lit up. In EA Sports' upcoming NHL 11, a new physics system changes the way players react to one another on the ice, and the result is a game that feels even more realistic than ever before--high praise, considering the NHL series has been a critical and sales darling for the past several seasons now. At E3 2010, EA showed off an updated version of NHL 11, including full six-on-six play and a few control surprises that might surprise NHL veterans.
In our last look at NHL, we had a chance to play the game on practice ice, featuring a one-on-one matchup that highlighted the game's new physics engine, which maximizes collisions between players to make them more realistic. It's impressive in one-on-one play, but its importance becomes that much more obvious in an actual match. We played a game that featured a 2010 Western Conference Championship rematch between the San Jose Sharks and the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and the Sharks were absolutely manhandled by the Blackhawks' tough defensemen.
After taking one too many blasts into the boards, we tried to alter our strategy by avoiding sideline rushes, only to find the Blackhawks stuffing the Sharks' momentum in open ice. The new system puts a premium on player contact, and as a result, if you're looking to avoid that contact and, you know, make your way to the net, you'll need to make the most of the game's deke options, including toe drags (which are new for this year) and more.
A new wrinkle in the passing game has some important ramifications for NHL 11. In last year's game, a pass was completed when a player pulled the right trigger; this year, the on-ice player releases the puck when the player releases the right trigger. That ever-so-subtle difference in passing turns out to have a significant effect on gameplay; playing isn't as instantaneous as it has been in the past, but you can now control the speed of your pass. The longer you hold the right trigger, the more powerful the pass will be once you let go of the trigger. This new passing tweak has an upside and a downside--on the positive side, you can zip in strong up-ice passes to forwards or set up vicious one-timers with relative ease. On the other hand, passing requires some slightly different timing, as the puck isn't let loose as quickly as in the past. It will require some getting used to this subtle change.
The new face-off system works as advertised, with the player being able to choose from standard or reversed grip before the puck drops. You'll also be able to push or block your face-off opponent and more. That said, new options on the face-off side are just that: new stuff you can do. The basic timing of the face-off remains the same, and we won a fair share of face-offs without needing to use some of the more advanced moves. Whether that means EA reps were taking it easy on us or the more advanced moves weren't crucial to success, is anybody's guess.
There's more to learn about NHL 11, especially regarding game modes. What will the developer have in store for us with long-standing features like online team play and the like? We'll find out as we get closer to the game's release date later this year.
Last year's Madden NFL 10 saw the introduction of online cooperative play, where two players could join forces to take on the AI on the field. It was a good start, but camera issues prevented it from being a must-play feature in that game. Nonetheless, the developers at EA Tiburon have pressed forward with the idea in the upcoming Madden NFL 11, and they're introducing the new online team play feature. Reminiscent--in spirit--of the online team play features in games like the NHL and NBA Live series, OTP in Madden will have some twists of its own, as well as features that won't be found in any other EA Sports game.
As many as six people can take part in online team games, with a maximum of three people per side. You'll also be able to play with any permutation of the six total/three-per-side limit (that is, three vs. the AI, three vs. one, two vs. two, and so on). Before you begin an OTP game, you'll be able to choose where you want to play on the field. There are three positions to choose from. On offense you can choose from quarterback, running backs, and wide receivers; on defense, you'll have defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs. Here's the twist: If you choose to play as running backs, you'll be able to switch between any of the halfbacks or fullbacks on the field; similarly, when playing as the linebacker squad, you'll be able to switch between any of the linebackers on the field. The same will go for any position on the field--when playing in that squad, you'll be able to access any player in that squad. One final pregame squad selection option will be "Any"--if you select this option, you'll be able to choose any player on the field that is not currently being controlled by a player.
Once the game begins, you'll have the responsibilities and abilities of the position you're playing. As a quarterback, you'll be able to call plays and pre-snap audibles; wide receivers will be able to call hot routes (and run whatever route they want after the snap). Similarly, on defense, the player controlling the linebacker will be able to call defensive plays. Once the play begins, you'll be able to switch on the fly between whatever players you like--something that seems more useful on defense than when playing on offense, since you'll want to be able to switch to the player closest to the ball.
During our hands-on time with OTP, we played as a wide receiver on offense, while our teammate played as a quarterback. It was fun to call hot routes on the fly for our selected receiver, but we had to make sure that we coordinated our route change with our quarterback (though he could see the new route if he brought up the superimposed play art before the snap). Running routes and trying to keep ahead of the defensive back was also a great deal of fun--things tended to break down when we decided to improvise on the field and change the route. The quarterback--not being able to read minds--wasn't able to keep up with our rapid changes in direction, and the result was often an incomplete pass.
The problem might be exacerbated when the AI is controlling the quarterback--though developers did say they recognize that this would put increasing importance on the QB AI and are making adjustments that will hopefully stave off those problems. One other bit of interest--while AI-controlled wideouts do a better job of keeping their feet in bounds when approaching the sidelines, there's nothing stopping you from running out of bounds and directly to the team bench, regardless of where the QB puts the ball--perhaps a "feet in bounds" button would be a good solution for those threaded sideline passes.
Online team play will put a premium on communication and coordination, and Madden 11 will reward you for playing OTP well thanks to an achievement system that will reward you at different positions based on your play on the field. For instance, if you're playing quarterback and manage to throw 300 yards in a game, you'll earn an achievement that will give you a bonus to your awareness and accuracy ratings. These bonuses will be permanent for that position--in this case it would include a small bonus to accuracy and awareness--so that the next time you fire up an OTP game and play as a quarterback, you'll enjoy that additional boost. In addition, everyone will be able to see your relative skill at each position, which will make it easier to pick positions before the game begins.
With last year's cooperative play and this year's online team play feature, it seems that the Madden series is inching ever closer to full 11-on-11 online football. Whether that happens next year or further out remains to be seen (as well as whether or not playing offensive lineman can ever be anything other than completely boring). Look for more on Madden NFL 11 as we lead up to its August 10 release.
If you love EA Sports' NCAA Football series, chances are you've been neck-deep in the online dynasty feature ever since it was introduced back in NCAA Football 09. Getting together with a group of friends online and duking it out, not just for wins of the field but also five-star recruits, is one of the series' great pleasures. However, as good as it is, online dynasty has a noticeable flaw: You can't work on your recruiting while in the bathroom. Or when you're at a posh dinner with your in-laws. Or when you're pretending to "work" while on the clock at your job. Consider that problem solved with the upcoming NCAA Football 11, which, in addition to giving you "120 ways to win," will be giving you the chance to manage your recruits in online dynasty wherever you have access to a Web browser or mobile phone.
Developers from EA's Tiburon studios were on hand in Los Angeles in May to show off a work-in-progress build of NCAA Football 11 and demonstrate how the remote recruiting will work. If you've played with the browser-based Teambuilder featured from last year's NCAA Football 10, however, you'll already have a good idea. Everything that you can do with regard to recruiting will be accessible to you via the Web site, and it's all attractively organized and easy to understand. In fact, from the looks of things, ease of use was a big aim for the designers behind NCAA Football's 11's recruiting this year; not only is it easier to navigate with a mouse on a Web page than in the game's sometimes sluggish interface, but it's also easier to understand just how to make strides in recruiting this year, thanks to some changes to the recruiting feature.
For instance, consider the phone call feature, which will return in NCAA Football 11. As in the past, you'll need to make phone calls to individual recruits to pitch them on specific aspects of your program, and once again, your success will be found not just by your school's various ratings among the 14 different categories, but also by the specific recruit's interest in that topic. When you phone a recruit this year, you'll be able to choose anywhere from one to six topics, each costing you 10 minutes apiece (from a 10-hour pool per week). However, which topics you pitch will be random once the phone call begins. From there, you'll be able to navigate around that specific pitch to find out your potential recruit's interest, try to sway a pitch, make a promise, and so forth. In addition, improved comparison screens will let you show how you stack up against a recruit's other interested programs, and a hard point value will show you exactly how many points you've earned toward landing that recruit (say good-bye to the ridiculous smiling/frowning footballs forever!) For more on the phone call system in NCAA Football 11, check out the recent post on the official NCAA 11 Football blog.
So, if you have access to a Web browser, you'll have access to your online dynasty's recruiting board and will be able to fill your board, change recruit priorities, make pitches, and more. EA producers also touted the fact that you'll be able to recruit with your mobile phone, but it won't be through a dedicated iPhone/iPod Touch app; instead, you'll be able to access your dynasty via your phone's built-in browser. Beyond finagling for new recruits, you'll have access to other online dynasty tools, including one that will let you share your dynasty's story with all of your friends. After each game in your online dynasty, you'll be able to create a story from scratch detailing your win or loss, along with accompanying screenshots and video highlights that will either be added automatically or painstakingly selected by you, the player.
While you'll be able to pull screens and video, as well as come up with stories (plus headlines and captions for your photos) from scratch using the game's interface, if you're really into this feature, you'll want to use the PC/Web-browser interface. Stories will accommodate up to 4,000 characters--yes, a keyboard will be a good idea--and publishing to your online dynasty's news page will be more or less instantaneous. In addition to the standard game recaps, the types of stories you'll be able to recruit seem to be pretty open ended. One producer showed off a story highlighting one of his soon-to-be-graduating defensive players. In addition to the written story, there were a number of screens and videos compiled from various uploaded highlights throughout the course of his player's collegiate career.
Though these two features are both online-dynasty-centric, it seems they are aimed at two different audiences. While even casual fans will probably enjoy the ease of use in tending to their recruiting board even when away from the game, it seems that the storyteller feature is meant for the hardest of hardcore online dynasty fans--or at least those who have a lot of time on their hands. However you plan to spend your time with NCAA 11, there will be plenty of ways to keep busy. When you put these features together with lots of updates to the game's visuals and gameplay, NCAA 11 is looking like one of the stronger entries in the series. College football fans will need to endure a long summer of meaningless baseball games before the pigskin kicks off, but take heart, NCAA Football 11 is set to arrive on July 13.
While the video game industry might be converging in Los Angeles next week for the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo, the rest of the world's attention is firmly centered on South Africa, and, more specifically, the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Despite that terrible scheduling decision by the gods of soccer, GameSpot will have you covered with our ongoing World Cup 2010 feature.
In addition to a rundown on each and every team participating in the tournament, we'll be bringing you full matches and highlights of every match throughout the month-long World Cup competition (using EA's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa). Here's the full video of Saturday's epic showdown between England and the USA to whet your appetite:
Be sure to visit the feature all month long for a match-by-match look at the biggest sporting event of the year.
In a sports series as large as EA Sports' FIFA Soccer series, the changes that happen from one year to the next occur at many different levels. Naturally, there are new features to be added and tweaked, as well as gameplay elements that the development team has worked into the game. During the past few years, however, the development team at EA Canada has been listening to the huge FIFA community more and more--involving the hardcore contingent into the development process, with the result being a soccer series that has flourished both critically and commercially. That same approach has once again informed the upcoming FIFA Soccer 11, which looks to address many of the concerns FIFA fans had with last year's game.
Perhaps the most noticeable change to this year's FIFA has been made to the player models themselves, which, according to producers, have been rebuilt to look even more like their real-life counterparts than ever before. For casual FIFA players, the difference might not be noticeable, but when compared to the players in last year's game, the change is obvious and for the better. In general terms, players have been reshaped slightly to give them a more athletic appearance, with larger, more rounded shoulders and more powerful-looking legs. The most important shift in appearance has been made with the introduction of accurate body types in the game. There are four main body types: short, average, tall, and special (for the Peter Crouches of the world), as well as three subcategories for each body type: lean, regular, and bulky. More variety in body types means players will be more recognizable on the pitch.
The new player models are just one part of the approach that EA Sports has dubbed "Personality +" for its players. Responding to criticism that the FIFA franchise has lacked personality, the team has looked for ways to inject more realism and life into its players. Consider some of these changes:
1. Individual dribble styles--Some players will keep the ball close to their feet and run with short steps; others will dribble with longer kicks and more lumbering strides. Elite players, such as Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, will feature dribble animations that are a based on their real-life style.
2. Customized celebrations--Carlos Tevez bent over and shaking his rump; Fernando Torres sliding on his legs, his arms in the air--these user-controlled signature celebrations will be found in FIFA Soccer 11, and players will also be able to interact with teammates after scoring a goal. Producers told us the team is aiming to have more than 90 trademark celebrations in this year's game.
3. AI teammates act like the real thing--By adding an attribute known as "work rate," EA is able to better emulate how players that are not being controlled by the player act on the pitch. When you aren't playing as Wayne Rooney, you'll watch as the notoriously busy striker works up and down the field for the entire game. His teammate Dimitar Berbatov, by contrast, is relatively sedate and will move to the ball only when the situation demands it in FIFA Soccer 11. As a result, knowing the work rate of your surrounding players will help you understand how to make the most of your team.
4. Skills--Players in the FIFA series are rated by more than 30 separate attributes and a similar number of traits (which determine ability for special moves like long passes, specialized passes, and the like). According to producers, the team has gone to great lengths to tune, test, and tweak these attributes for all the players in the game, with the end goal being players who behave and play more like their real-life counterparts than ever before.
While adding personality to the game was a result of fan demand, it wasn't the top wish of the FIFA community. That honor fell to so-called "ping pong passing," a phenomenon in FIFA Soccer 10 where players could execute precise upfield passes in rapid succession to quickly move the ball up the pitch and, often, end up with the ball in the back of the opposing team's goal. A new passing system--known as "pro passing"--should help to alleviate that problem. The idea is to add a bit more user skill to the pass; in previous years, holding down the pass button for longer would result in a more powerful kick.
This year, however, there will be an "ideal" kick power (indicated by a line on the kicking meter) that will get the ball to your intended receiver quickly. An underpowered kick will still reach your target but at a slower clip (opening you up to the possibility of an interception), while an overpowered kick might either sail past your target or be a difficult ball to trap for your teammate. What's interesting about this system is that the "ideal power line" will appear only after you have kicked the ball; as a result, there will be a bit of trial and error as you get a feel for how to achieve perfect kick power based on the distance of the pass.
Adding more depth to the passing game is the idea of "contextual error," a concept that EA previously introduced to the shots in FIFA. A myriad of factors will now contribute to the success or failure of an individual pass, including obvious things like player skill, as well as direction of the kick, nearby defensive pressure, degree of the kick, and the like. As a result, first-time passes that demand a high degree of skill will be more challenging, just as they are in the real world. All of this feeds into another goal for FIFA Soccer 11: ensuring that highly skilled players are represented as truly elite on the pitch.
Goal keepers seem to be a perennial focus in the FIFA series, and that's no exception this year. One important change for FIFA 11 will be an increased reliance on momentum for keepers--when an opposing player takes a shot, the keeper will have to deal with his own body's weight when trying to get to the ball and make the stop. If he's moving in one direction and needs to change directions, his momentum might make it more difficult for him to make the play.
Corner kicks have also received some attention. Producers told us that in last year's game, players in the box had an uncanny ability to predict where the ball would land once the ball was in the air; this year, players will follow the ball's trajectory in the air and will have to make judgment calls on where they think the ball will land. Players with better awareness will be able to judge the ball's trajectory more quickly and get in position to make a play.
In addition to the above, there's a myriad of smaller gameplay fixes that the team is working on for FIFA Soccer 11 for things like top spin shots, analog sprint, more accurate net shapes, handballs (which will be included in this year's game), defensive pressure, and much more. The game will also let you save your replays to your hard disc, customize your soundtrack, and even customize and add your favorite team chants to the game. EA is currently playing all of this and a host of brand new features close to its collective vest. Stay tuned for more coverage of the game throughout the summer.
THQ is shaking up its wrestling plans at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year. The publisher will be unveiling not one but two WWE games at the show: WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 (due later this fall) and the brand-new WWE All Stars, which is due for release in early 2011. While debuting two WWE games at the event might seem like a strange strategy, the two games are distinct enough--visually and otherwise--that there's little doubt you'd confuse one for the other. Last week, THQ representatives came by the GameSpot office to give us an exclusive look at both games ahead of E3 2010, and here's our hands-on report for both.
WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011
This year in SVR 2011, every chair shot you take, every table you crash through, and every ladder you leap from will be more like a real physical object than ever before. That's thanks to a new physics system that looks to affect objects in all match types across the game but will have the most powerful impact in the TLC (Tables, Ladders, and Chairs) matches. If you've ever seen one, you know it's one of the most exciting match types the WWE has to offer, where both Superstars in the ring have an arsenal of--you guessed it--tables, ladders, and steel chairs at their disposal. How the wrestlers use those objects is up to them--from the direct approach of bashing one another with whatever is at hand, to more complex architectural violence, such as leaning one ladder against another for use as a launching ramp, or stacking tables on top of one another…for no other reason than it looks cool when a body crashes through it.
If you've seen it happen in a TLC match in WWE programming, chances are you'll be able to replicate it, or something very close to it, in SVR 2011. Let's talk tables first. In previous games, sending a body flying through a table was typically an all-or-nothing affair: you either hit the table and it collapsed, or you grazed it and nothing happened at all. In SVR 2011, where you hit the table will matter, and tables will break in different ways--one side might collapse after a leg folds in, for example, or you can break a table completely and it will shatter into pieces (with those fragments remaining as real objects in the ring for a limited time before disappearing).
Ladders, too, will bend and break depending on where they are impacted. As with any object in TLC matches, you pick up a ladder by pressing the A button (on the Xbox 360 controller), and you can then move it around the ring to line it up as you see fit. This is especially important when using ladders and tables for more complex stunts--such as leaning a ladder against another ladder. During our demo, we watched as Randy Orton (fighting against the Undertaker) leaned one ladder against another and then used it as a ramp, which he ran up before leaping out of the ring altogether and landing on top of Taker. You'll also be able to lean ladders against the ring apron, in the corners, and so on. Finally, chairs are still effective for a quick attitude adjustment on your opponent, and, new for this year, you'll be able to do things like toss a chair at an opponent for some added long-distance damage.
Producers said that while you'll have access to unlimited amount of tables during a match, you'll only be able to have a maximum of four tables in play at any given time. As mentioned previously, destroyed objects will eventually disappear, in order to preserve memory, but while fragments exist in the ring, they are considered solid objects and will move around if they are jostled by wrestlers. From a control standpoint, the developers at THQ and Yuke's are aiming to give you more control over how you position your opponent in the ring to take advantage of all this destruction. For example, when you pick up an opponent and are preparing to slam him into a ladder or table, you'll be able to move your controller Superstar in any direction before finishing off the move.
All objects in SVR 2011 will benefit from this new physics implementation in the game, from sledgehammers to kendo sticks. We're hoping the new physics will also apply to cars (dynamic vehicular hit-and-runs, please!), but there's no confirmation on that just yet. One other bit about the E3 2010 demo of the game is the roster lineup: In addition to Undertaker and Randy Orton, attendees will be able to choose Chris Jericho or The Miz. Naturally, this is just the start of what THQ has to say about SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011, and we'll be following the game throughout the rest of the year.
WWE All Stars
John Cena is a big dude, but you've never seen him like this. He enters the top of the ramp leading down to the ring, gives his trademark salute, and you find yourself wondering where Cena's neck ends and the rest of his torso begins. His jaw is proportionate for placement on Mount Rushmore, and his trademark jean-shorts (I call them "jorts") cover legs that could double as tree trunks. Cena is followed by The Rock, who is decked out in black trunks and chin-length sideburns--and the Brahma Bull is looking just as rocked out as Cena.
Welcome to WWE All Stars, where over-the-top is just the beginning. The brand-new wrestling game is being developed by THQ San Diego, and the game is being led by veteran video game designer Sal DiVita. The team is no stranger to wrestling games; many of them worked on 2008's TNA Impact. Though the team has carried that experience and passion for wrestling forward with All Stars, there will be no confusing one game for the other--All Stars is pure, fast-paced wrestling from the get-go, and the difference is seen in every aspect of the game.
If you think of the SmackDown! vs. Raw series as the "sim" WWE game, then All Stars is pure arcade action top to bottom. From a combat standpoint, DiVita says that All Stars has as much in common with a fighting game as it does with a traditional wrestling game. Part of that similarity comes in the overall speed of the game. Punches and kicks fly quickly in the game, and the recovery time of struck wrestlers is quicker than you might expect. As a result, the action in the ring is a good clip quicker than what SVR veterans may be used to.
Another aspect of that fighting game mentality comes in the controls themselves. The face buttons are used for strong and light grapples and strikes, and you'll be able to charge your strikes by moving and holding the right stick away from your opponent. Combos will play a large role in wearing your opponent down. We watched as Cena laid out The Rock with multiple lefts and rights to the jaw--during one more-complicated sequence, Cena was able to throw a quick one-two punch, then do a scissor take-down on The People's Champ.
Combos aren't just for standing, however, thanks to a juggle system that will let you string together multiple midair slams and throws in a row. The timing is delicate, but with a bit of practice, you can get a two- or three-hit chained slam full of huge leaps in the air and devastating slams on the mat. The early build of the game we played used slo-mo frequently, especially during juggle combos, perhaps as a way to make stringing moves together easier, as well as to illustrate the destructive power of the moves. As for defense, you'll have a small window in which you can reverse both grapples and strikes using the respective shoulder buttons (and you'll be notified of that window thanks to icons that will briefly appear onscreen).
You'll get access to your signature moves and finishers in All Stars by building up an onscreen energy meter. In the case of The Rock, we got to see amped-up versions of signature moves like The People's Elbow, which had The Rock jumping high into the air to deliver his patented elbow finisher, as well as a Rock Bottom move that looked like a cross between the aerial maneuvers found in a Cirque du Soleil performance and the Incredible Hulk slamming to earth, complete with the requisite shock waves emanating from the bodies crashing to the mat.
Only Rock and Cena are being shown at E3, but if those two are anything to go by, the lineup for WWE All Stars looks to be a mix of current WWE Superstars and famous faces from the WWE's past. According to DiVita, the various characters in the game will handle differently from one another, not just in terms of the moves available to them, but also in the timing required to successfully pull off juggles and combos.
So, one part WWE wrestling game, one part fighting game, featuring a compelling mixture of old and new talent--that seems to be the formula for WWE All Stars. As with SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011, there's much more to be revealed about All Stars in the months leading up to its 2011 release, so stay tuned. If you've got questions about either game, you won't want to miss our live stage show from E3 2010 in Los Angeles. Both SmackDown! vs. Raw 2011 and WWE All Stars will be shown onstage along with the game's producers, and we'll be taking your questions live.
Zdeno Chara is prowling the ice like a frost giant who hasn't slept in 72 hours. The towering defenseman for the Boston Bruins is bowed up to his full 6-foot-9-inch height and heading my way with bad intentions in his virtual eyes. I do my best to fake him out with a sweet little deke…but it's too late. Before I know it, my pitiful forward is bowled over and absolutely pasted against the boards--his legs flying into the air, his arms akimbo, and his neck landing at a sickening angle on the ice. NHL 11 producer Sean Ramjagsingh looks over my way, gives me a smile, and begins telling me about the new physics system that's been implemented in the latest hockey game from EA Sports. But all I need to do is look at the splayed form of my power forward on the ice to know everything I need to know.
The new physics will perhaps be the biggest change in NHL 11, and it is one that has taken a full year to implement, according to Ramjagsingh. The result--though seemingly amped up for effect in the demo we played at EA's May pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo press event in Los Angeles--will bring in a new sense of power to the NHL series' already impressive hits. I spent some hands-on time with a one-on-one demo of the game, and I can say unequivocally that although most of the results were the same (that is, Chara blasting my guy into the boards or simply knocking him down on the ice), no two collisions were exactly the same. I saw glancing blows that spun my forward around and head-over-heels blasts that made it look like my guy was shot by a sniper sitting atop the rafters at TD Garden. One time, I even managed to get the better of Chara, taking him down despite giving up at least seven inches and 50 pounds.
Bigger, badder hits are the most obvious benefit of the new physics, but a subtler by-product might be the increased attraction of playing the defenseman position. While upending forwards and taking slap shots from the point has always been fun in previous NHL games, the new system adds an increased physical element that will make playing the bruisers in the back that much more appealing. With the press of a button, you can lean forward to either attempt to block shots (similar to the kneel mechanic that remains in NHL 11) or upend an unsuspecting forward who is coming your way. When you couple that with the ability to poke check, sweep your stick freely back and forth, or lift the stick of an opposing player, there will be lots of weapons in your defensive arsenal this year.
Elsewhere, the development team is extending the control a player will have with the right stick by completely overhauling the face-off system, which Ramjagsingh calls the number-one request from NHL series fans. Now, you'll have multiple options when squaring off in the circle, including whether you choose to use a forehand or backhand grip on your stick before the puck drops. By pushing forward with the right stick, you push at your opponent's stick, and by pushing back, you'll swipe for the puck once it hits the ice. You can even push your opponent off the puck once it drops by pushing forward with the left stick and take a quick shot off a face-off pass by pushing forward with the right stick.
Finally, there is one other detail that should please hockey fans: Broken sticks are in NHL 11. They won't occur in every game you play, but they'll be frequent enough to make the game realistic. If a player loses a stick, you'll still be able to control him--if the puck gets near, he'll kick it to keep it out of play and even try to snatch it out of the air for high shots. A nearby teammate might offer your player a stick to borrow, and you can also skate to the bench to pick up some replacement lumber. My time with NHL 11 was limited, and I didn't get to experience the full six-on-six gameplay, so I'm very interested to see not just how the new physics engine affects collisions in a proper game, but also how the AI players handle the engine's capabilities. Based on past experience, I'm optimistic that the change will be a good one for the series and will follow up with another report soon. Look for more on NHL 11 throughout the summer and beyond.
The Madden NFL 11 machine keeps on rolling. Earlier this week, EA Sports unveiled a new online scouting feature, which will allow players to learn about their opponent's tendencies before an online game begins. With the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo just around the corner, it's time for yet another reveal for the biggest football game in the land: Today we've got the exclusive scoop on the team ratings for all 32 teams as they'll appear in Madden NFL 11 when the game ships on August 10. First up, is the full list from best to worst.
Rank Team Madden 11 Madden 10 Change 1 New Orleans Saints 92 94 -2 2 Indianapolis Colts 91 93 -2 3 Baltimore Ravens 90 87 +3 4 New York Jets 89 88 +1 5 Minnesota Vikings 88 90 -2 6 Green Bay Packers 87 87 NA 7 Dallas Cowboys 87 88 -1 8 New England Patriots 86 88 -2 9 Cincinnati Bengals 86 86 NA 10 San Diego Chargers 85 89 -4 11 Pittsburgh Steelers 84 85 -1 12 Atlanta Falcons 83 83 NA 13 New York Giants 81 81 NA 14 Philadelphia Eagles 80 86 -6 15 Arizona Cardinals 79 87 -8 16 Miami Dolphins 79 77 +2 17 San Francisco 49ers 79 78 +1 18 Houston Texans 78 82 -4 19 Denver Broncos 78 80 -2 20 Chicago Bears 77 75 +2 21 Tennessee Titans 77 79 -2 22 Washington Redskins 76 70 +6 23 Carolina Panthers 75 78 -3 24 Seattle Seahawks 75 72 +3 25 Jacksonville Jaguars 74 76 -2 26 Oakland Raiders 71 71 NA 27 Kansas City Chiefs 71 68 +3 28 Cleveland Browns 70 69 +1 29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 69 67 +2 30 Detroit Lions 68 66 +2 31 Buffalo Bills 67 71 -4 32 St. Louis Rams 66 65 +1
The biggest winner on the list is obviously the Washington Redskins, who will benefit in Madden NFL 11, thanks to the addition of new quarterback Donovan McNabb, among other players. On the other end of the spectrum, the biggest loser is the Arizona Cardinals, who look to suffer in a big way, thanks to the retirement of quarterback Kurt Warner and the loss of wideout Anquan Boldin to the Ravens.
Here's the full list, organized by division:
AFC EAST Team Madden NFL 11 Rating New York Jets 89 New England 86 Miami 78 Buffalo 67 AFC NORTH Baltimore 90 Cincinnati 86 Pittsburgh 84 Cleveland 70 AFC SOUTH Indianapolis 91 Houston 78 Tennessee 77 Jacksonville 74 AFC WEST San Diego 85 Denver 78 Kansas City 71 Oakland 71 NFC EAST Dallas 87 New York Giants 81 Philadelphia 80 Washington 76 NFC NORTH Minnesota 88 Green Bay 87 Chicago 77 Detroit 68 NFC SOUTH New Orleans 92 Atlanta 83 Carolina 75 Tampa Bay 69 NFC WEST Arizona 79 San Francisco 79 Seattle 75 St. Louis 66
One other surprise? The Oakland Raiders--despite dumping all-time draft bust JaMarcus Russell and adding former Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell to the fold--remain at a 71 overall.
Earlier this week, Homer Rabara and I had a chance to chat with EA Sports' Donny Moore via Skype about the team ratings in Madden NFL 11. Check the video out here:
The last couple of years have seen the basketball video game rivalry become more heated than ever before, as EA Sports and its main rival, 2K Sports, have sought dominance in one of the few sports where exclusive licenses don't come into play. Last year, EA Sports made a splash with its well-received NBA Live 10, a game many critics felt was a turning point for the series and one that signaled a shift in quality for the Live series. Fast-forward to 2010, and things have changed with EA's basketball series, both from a personnel standpoint and, now, with the game's entire approach. As rumored last week--and confirmed today--the NBA Live series has been renamed NBA Elite. Along with the name change will come a new approach to basketball, one that is being led by a name familiar to fans of EA Sports' hockey series: David Littman, who is now spearheading both NHL 11 and NBA Elite 11. We recently caught up with Littman to talk about his new role overseeing both games and to learn more about the new approach for EA's upcoming basketball reboot.
GameSpot: How did you come to be on the NBA Elite 11 project?
David Littman: NHL and NBA have been working together for a while since a lot of features are similar such as Dynasty mode, Season mode, and Online Team Play. But we wanted to take it one step further. NHL has been incredibly successful over the last few years, and the NBA franchise could greatly benefit from the learnings we have had on NHL. I had a vision and design for what I thought the NBA game could be both on and off the court and brought that vision to a few other people at EA. We got a prototype up and running, and it really caught on internally.
Even more important than that, the studio is putting a lot of people, resources, and new technology behind the game. With the studio success of FIFA, NHL, and Fight Night, it is time for basketball to shine. We have a technology called ANT (Animation Tool Kit) that is miles ahead of any external technology. One of the geniuses behind the technology is a software engineer named Geoff Harrower. Last year, Geoff was named EAC Studio MVP for his groundbreaking contributions to multiple franchises, including FIFA. [You'll be] hearing from Geoff this year as he takes the technology that has been a driving force for a number of other EA Sports award-winning titles and applies it uniquely to the world of basketball video games in NBA Elite 11.
GS: You are highly regarded as a hockey developer, thanks to your work on EA's NHL series. Was there any hesitation in coming to an NBA game?
DL: Not at all. I actually started my career as a tester on Madden when I was living in Orlando. I love all sports games. My pro hockey career certainly helped me move on to the NHL franchise, but I am a gamer first and foremost. I have owned almost every gaming system since my Atari 2600 and have played as many games as I can, including first-person shooters, RPGs, MMOs, and, of course, sports games.
My new role is creative director for both franchises--hockey and basketball--so I still work closely with the NHL team. But it has been a joy and an honor to work with the basketball team. The NBA Elite team has guys from FIFA, NHL, Fight Night, as well as the guys that made NBA Live 10 the highest-rated NBA Live game of this generation. I have brought with me my knowledge of video games, my knowledge of pro sports, and my learning of what made EA Sports' NHL a success. But I am just one piece of the puzzle. There are many other people who you will hear from over the next few months that will make this game a success. This game is not about any individual person. It is about making a realistic basketball game for people who love great Sports games.
GS: Are you a basketball fan? Did being in this position require you to ramp up your knowledge of the sport?
DL: My background is hockey and video games. I do not pretend to be a basketball expert. We have basketball experts on the team. An example of this is Novell Thomas. He is one of our gameplay producers and backed up Steve Nash on the Canadian National team. Everything we put in the game must go through him for the sake of authenticity and realism. Even Novell was skeptical of the new systems. That is until he was able to play it. Novell will be the first guy to tell you (which he will, over the next few months) that this is the most realistic-feeling basketball game he has ever played. Pretty much everyone who has played it has agreed.
Each of our sports games need at least one former professional or college athlete from that sport. We have that on hockey with myself and Dean Richards before me. We have that on NBA with Novell. Most of the team plays basketball here at the studio. Again, I am only one small piece of the puzzle. We have more team leaders other than myself and a dev team that has experience working on some of the best Sports games of all time.
That said, my family had season tickets to the ABA's New York Nets in the early '70s, so I got to see Dr. J play all the time when I was young. My dad played college ball at Brooklyn College, so we had a little basketball in our family besides all of the hockey.
GS: You're leading both the NBA Elite and the NHL teams now. What's the split like for you on a day-to-day basis? Is most of your time spent on NBA Elite these days, or is it relatively even?
DL: There is a line producer on each game. They are the day-to-day leaders of the dev teams. I work closely with them and all producers on both teams, as well as the SEs (software engineers) to help them execute on the vision. I play both games all the time, even on weekends (with some Borderlands and Red Dead Redemption in between). I give my feedback to the producers, and we work together to figure out any changes that need to be made. I do spend more time with the NBA Elite team just because there are so many changes going in every day.
GS: Last year's NBA Live garnered some positive critical response, with the general feeling being that the series was heading in the right direction. In your opinion, what was the series missing? What was your first priority when taking over the project?
DL: NBA Live 10 was a huge improvement. The team did a great job improving the series. When you look at the Metacritic scores, however, neither NBA Live or NBA 2K has been anywhere near FIFA, NHL, MLB The Show, or Fight Night. As a matter of fact, neither game has broken the 85 Metacritic barrier this generation. I believe this is because the basketball category has not had any significant gameplay innovations during this console cycle.
Other sports categories have grown. FIFA and NHL have single-handedly grown the soccer and hockey categories. One of the key drivers of this is their Metacritic ratings. FIFA 10 is 90-plus and NHL has been above 88 for two straight years. People see the quality and innovation that have gone into those series, and they want to buy them, even if it is not their favorite sport. In this economy, gamers are buying less games than they used to. Gamers are reading up about games before they make their purchase. Games have to rise above the noise to stand out. A high-80s Metacritic rating does just that.
[The new] hands-on controls and real-time physics are the innovations for this generation. They will change the basketball category forever. For the hardcore basketball gamers out there, you will understand when you try out the demo. If you loved the Skate series, the NHL series, Fight Night, or the Tiger series, you can start to understand the key differences NBA Elite will have. These new systems are not gimmicks. They are being implemented because they will help make this the most realistic basketball simulation ever made.
Most importantly is that everything we are doing this year supports these key pillars that have been a big part of NHL and FIFA's success:
1. Realism--Make the game as close to the gamer actually being on the court as possible. That means gameplay control and feel, not just the look. It means that shooting, dribbling, and defense are skill-based and not based on under-the-hood dice roles and formulas.
2. Give the gamer the tools to create amazing moments--Basketball games have been all about realistic animations and a broadcast look. Press a button and your NBA player does a 60-frame animation that looks great in replay, but without any of the skill that it takes to pull off. We are simply going to supply the tools that a basketball player has and let the user create moves and great moments just like they would in real life.
3. Easy to pick up and play controls with depth and consistency--Mimic real life as much as possible, and make sure the gamer is 100 percent always in control of his player. We had an NBA Elite 11 one-on-one tourney a couple of months ago with 64 people, including people not on the team who don't play basketball games. All 64 people had a great time, even the ones that lost in the first round. But, most importantly, the winner was gameplay producer Conner Dougan because he had the most hands-on time with the game and has by far the most skills so far. One magazine writer who played it said that for the first time he had complete control over his layups/dunks, which hand he finished with, and knew when he put up a bad shot.
4. Anything can happen/emergent gameplay--Real-time physics and hands-on controls are two new innovations, but that is not even close to what else is new. We have over 200 gameplay improvements, including a ball that is almost always considered "loose." We had a play yesterday where I went to block a shot, and Novell made a pass instead of shooting. The pass hit my player in the arm and went to my teammate who was off on a fast break. Every time up the court you can see something new and different.
5. Make the gamer the star of the game--Gameplay is only a piece of the puzzle. There are modes both online and offline where I thought the NBA game was lacking. That is not an issue anymore. (More to come on these modes at a later date.)
GS: Let's talk about some of the specific features in the game. The team is implementing dual-stick controls, which worked extremely well in the NHL series. How are you adapting them to work with hoops?
DL: It is incredibly fun to go out on the ice in real life and shoot a puck around. So on NHL, we simply did our best to replicate that feeling. The left stick is your skates. The right stick is your hockey stick. You have complete freedom to deke (RS side-to-side and rollbacks), shoot (RS up), and check (aim RS at opposing player) just with the sticks. That fun factor is exactly what we wanted to capture. It is a lot of fun to go on the court and shoot a basketball.
So, we are simply doing our best to replicate that feeling. The left stick is your feet. The right stick is your hands. You will have complete freedom to dribble (RS side-to-side, RS rolls for spins, behind-the-backs), shoot (RS up), and play defense (RS down to steal, RS up to jump, RS to the sides for arms up and to block passes). Dribble moves really matter. Doing a hesi with an explosive first step can beat a defender. Doing a behind-the-back or between-the-legs dribble can protect the ball against a steal attempt. Spin moves can leave a defender in the dust.
The best part is that the new controls also make defense really powerful. I have found that playing defense in basketball games can be really frustrating. With the new controls and physics, playing defense is not only fun, but very powerful. Steals, blocks, and pass interceptions are done with the right stick. You can track an opponent from behind and do a LeBron-like block off the backboard. We will have the analog sticks visualized on the screen so you can see exactly what you are doing with the sticks. This will be set to on during the interactive tutorial, manual replay, and in one-on-one practice mode.
It is important to note that this is not a remapping of the controls. This is a new system with one-to-one control of the ball. The ANT technology that we use gives us the ability to separate the upper and lower body, to blend all animations, and to use real-time physics for player contact at the same time. And, yes, you will be able to use button controls like last year, but you won't want to when you see the freedom that the new controls give you.
GS: There's a new shooting mechanic too, one that sounds a bit like the skill stick in the NHL series. How will it work?
DL: In real life, shooting is skill based. Players practice every day to become better shooters. In basketball video games, shooting has not had much skill attached. Sure there is some skill to get it to your best shooter who is open for a shot, but that is more strategy than skill. Once a player shoots in almost every basketball game ever made, it is up to player attributes, how open he is, an under-the-hood formula, and a tiny bit of when you release the button to determine if the shot will go in. I do not feel very satisfied when I make a shot in basketball games. With the new shooting mechanic, it is all skill based, but at the same time it users player attributes. If you have played Tiger Woods golf, you have an idea of what the shooting mechanic is.
The shot is based on real life. You move the right stick up to start your shot and release it to release the ball. You have control of the accuracy and the distance. If you move the RS perfectly up to 12:00, your shot will go straight. If you miss left, the ball will go left. Miss it right, and the ball will go right. When you release the ball will control the distance. Release early, and the shot will be short. Release late, and the shot will be long. The system is so realistic that you can do manual bank shots by purposely aiming left or right and a bit long.
When you have the left stick towards the basket and you are close enough, moving the RS up will dunk the ball. Roll the RS up from the left, and you will do a left-handed layup. Roll it up from the right, and you will do a right-handed layup. Roll the RS up from a back down, and you will do a hook shot. The RS becomes an extension of your real-life hands, and it is not only realistic but incredibly satisfying when you hit a three to win the game. Even when you miss, you know it was your own fault. The sense of pressure near the end of a game becomes real, and you may miss a shot because of nerves.
So how do player attributes come into play? It's simple. Your tools become harder to work with. Here is an example of the sweet spot:
If people are concerned that because it is skill-based shooting you can make every shot, then you can relax. Shots are harder to make if you are further away from the basket, are being closely guarded, are a below-average shooter, or you have too much fade or momentum, among other factors.
GS: Give us some specific examples of how the new controls will work for moves like fadeaways, dunks, layups, and so on, as well as defensive moves such as blocks and steals.
DL: So I mentioned how most of the basic controls work. But the best part of the new control system working closely with the physics system is the depth of creativity that you have this year. Here are some examples:
• For fadeaways and leaners it is simply a matter of where your left stick is when you shoot. You are in control. If you want to do a fadeaway, just move the left stick away from the basket and shoot.
• For the first time the user will be able to perform manual bank shots. Aim the RS to the near side of the backboard, and shoot it with a bit more power.
• For gathers, euro-steps, and pro-hops, you hold or tap the left trigger. For the first time, you have full control of your movement during a pro-hop and during a euro-step with the left analog.
• While dunking, you can even manually switch hands while in the air by moving the RS left or right.
• One more important thing that our ANT technology gives us is upper- and lower-body separation. For the first time, you can do things with your arms in one direction while moving in the opposite direction. So, for example, in basketball games of the past, when you hit the steal button, you play a canned full-body animation. But just like in real life, in Elite you can be moving backwards and still take a swipe at the ball with the RS, and it doesn't change your movement at all.
GS: NBA Elite will also feature a new physics system. What does it do for players that the old system could not?
DL: The new real-time physics system is a revolution. In NBA Live 06 through 10, we used two-player scenarios that took control away from the gamer in order for plays to happen that "looked" realistic. The problem was that it didn't "feel" realistic.
I [recently] watched a video on YouTube by a guy (I think his name is apexisfree) showing the scenario-based one-on-ones in our competition's game, where you actually lose control of your user-controlled defender in order for the offensive player to get around you. None of these things happen in NBA Elite 11, because it is using a real-time physics system. You will see in-air collisions, realistic back-down physics, upper- and lower-body separation as mentioned earlier--all the while you are in control of your player. Player attributes actually mean a lot more than in previous years. We are using the weight and strength of the players to drive the physics engine. If I am trying to back you down, but I am much smaller than you are, you won't move very far. But big players will be able to dominate in the paint. When I go up for a rebound, bigger stronger players have the advantage.
GS: It sounds like the elimination of extended canned animations--which have been a staple in basketball games for years--will put a huge burden on NBA Elite's individual player AI, especially in terms of things like set plays, pick and rolls, and so on. What has that side of development been like so far? What are the team's goals for this year in that regard? Are you looking to get it working and refine for NBA Elite 12? Or are you further along than folks might think?
DL: One thing I want people to understand is that we are building off of the great work that was in NBA Live 10. Most everything people liked about the game is still there. We are not starting from scratch. You will still be able to do set plays, screens, and pick and rolls (all with real physics and not canned scenarios). We are improving on what people liked. I haven't even touched on the new REAL-AI system (originally in NHL and Fight Night), where producers can play the game, and the AI will be able to use the best, most successful moves/shots that we have done right back against us. It is like playing against a human. You will hear and see much more about it over the coming months.
As I said earlier, EA Sports is going big with basketball this year. We have an incredibly talented team with a technology that allows for extremely fast iteration and change (what used to take a few days can now be changed in minutes). People are going to be very surprised at what a motivated team can accomplish in one year. We have hundreds of new gameplay improvements and enhancements. Even for gamers who choose to use the button controls instead of the new hands-on controls, the game is so improved they will still want to experience all it has to offer.
GS: In recent years we've seen a lot of public back-and-forth between EA Sports and 2K Sports when it comes to basketball games--some of it healthy rivalry, some of it a bit childish. What's your take on all of this, and how do you view the competition?
DL: I think that both basketball games were concentrating so much on beating each other that they forgot about the gamers. We are in this business to make great games, not to get involved in public bickering. It might be one of the reasons that basketball games have been left behind in this generation. Metacritic numbers are lower than other sports. The gamers and the reviewers have spoken with their words and their wallets. That ends this year with NBA Elite 11. The first thing I said when I came onto NBA was that we are fighting the wrong battle. We need to be comparing ourselves to FIFA, NHL, and MLB The Show.
Having said that, competition is healthy, and basketball has a great rivalry going right now. I look forward to competing with a very worthy competitor. It is going to be a fun year, and the fans of basketball games will benefit the most from this competition.
GS: Why the name change?
DL: We thought it was important that people understand that this is not just talk. We are changing basketball games forever. They will never be the same after people try NBA Elite. We have a direction we are very confident with. Our NBA franchise, and the category itself, needed a change, not just some incremental improvements. Just like [EA Sports' previous baseball series] Triple Play needed before it became MVP Baseball with a new mechanic and feature set. Just like [EA Sports' previous boxing series] Knockout Kings needed until it became Fight Night with a new mechanic and feature set. This is not just talk. We are serious about change, and we will do everything we can to alert people to that fact.
GS: Final question: Who's going to win the NBA Championship this year and why?
DL: I don't like to guess about the outcome of Sports games, as I like to enjoy watching them without worrying about who will win. But, I did go to Boston College, so…
GS: Thanks for your time, David.
It seems changes are afoot for the NBA Live series. A post on sports gaming blog Pasta Padre claims that the long-running hoops series from EA Sports will undergo a name change--from NBA Live to NBA Elite. The post also claims that the game will be "heavy on analog controls" though no specific details were available.
EA is staying mum on the issue as of now, though various official EA Sports Twitter feeds are pointing fans to the EA Sports Facebook page, promising more details this week. When contacted about the name change, here's what an EA spokesperson had to say, "We knew it was time to leave the past behind. We have exciting and significant changes coming to our NBA game this year that will usher in the future of basketball video games. We look forward to releasing information on exactly how we’ll be doing that over the next few months."
So, what are you expecting from NBA Live 11...err NBA Elite?
By now, you've probably heard of the big features in EA Sports' upcoming Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11--things like the integration of the Ryder Cup, the inclusion of Rory McIlroy on the cover, and so on. However, there are some other subtle changes in Tiger 11 that might arguably end up affecting the game more significantly than any of these splashier inclusions. Yesterday we had a chance to check out the latest build of Tiger ahead of its June release and get some insight as to those under-the-hood changes.
One of the most noticeable of these tweaks is the increasing importance of experience points, or XP. These essentially replace cash for your created golfer and will serve as the global currency across all aspects of the game. You'll earn XP after completing rounds in practically all the modes in the game and you'll be able to spend those XP, most notably on attribute improvements for your golfer.
How attributes are organized is another important change in Tiger 11. Swing coach Hank Haney is gone and your attributes won't be wildly swinging up or down after each round you play. Instead, the system is more akin to that found in Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online. You'll be able to spend XP for various aspects of your swing across four main attributes: power, accuracy, putting, and control. These various swing aspects include things like power boost, swing speed, swing plane, and the like. And dumping points into any of these categories will have a measurable effect on your swing.
As you might expect, swing improvements become more expensive as you go, but as producers explained, none of the attributes are ever locked--you'll be able to subtract XP at any time and add those points to another attribute. Essentially, it's a similar system to the club tuner from previous years (which also returns in Tiger 11), in that you can tweak your golfer to your heart's content--perhaps even coming up with specific attribute spreads for specific courses. A new performance tuning mode will combine the club tuning and golfer attribute tweaking in a single mode. This will allow you to test various configurations on a driving range to find the exact combination of attributes and clubs you want.
If you've played Tiger in the past, chances are you've taken advantage of some of the series' more "gamey" features--like the pre-contact power boost or the ability to spin the ball in any direction while the ball is in midair. Tiger 11 will see a new feature in this vein--accuracy control. When aiming a shot, you'll have the familiar aiming circle that will indicate a general area in which the ball will land. With accuracy control, you can shrink that circle with a press of a button, thus making your shot that much more accurate.
Mitigating unrealistic features like power boost, putt previews, and accuracy control is a new focus feature. Your golfer will have a set amount of focus at the beginning of a round (indicated by an onscreen menu). Using features like putt previews, power boost, and the like will drain your focus meter. And, when it's empty, you won't have access to those shot modifiers until you gain some of your focus back. To earn focus, you simply take shots without those special boosts. While it's too early to tell how carefully balanced the focus meter is, personal experience says that there were times that we used focus-style shots in Tiger 10 when we didn't need to use them. By forcing players to be judicious with their boosts, focus seems like it could be an interesting addition.
Of course, there are Tiger players out there who look on power boost or putt previews with a disdain normally reserved for John Daly's wardrobe, and Tiger 11 will have you guys covered too. A so-called True Aim style of play removes all the aforementioned boosts and takes it even a step further. You won't have an aiming circle when you fly to a distance location before a shot. Instead, you'll have a more bare-bones set of information, including on-course yard markers to give you a general idea of the distance ahead of you. You'll also have the carry distance of your currently chosen club to help you make your club decision.
Essentially, True Aim is a much more realistic, as well as more challenging, method of choosing your club and shot selection, forcing you to solve the same problems you do on the links as in real life. Additionally, once you've made contact with the ball, the camera stays with your golfer, so you'll be watching the shot as it flies off. On doglegs or shots with lots of elevation, you might not know where your ball ends up and might often be relying on the response of the crowd as a judge to know how well (or poorly) you shot the ball.
New courses in Tiger 11 include Liberty National, Whistling Straits (home of this year's PGA Championship), and Greenbrier. The game will also include several new PGA pros, including Paul Casey, Boo Weekley, Stehen Ames, Danny Lee, and LPGA star Suzann Pettersen. The game is due for release on June 8, so stay tuned for more soon.
A lot of competitors can talk a good game, but the true test of a fighter is how he performs in the ring. We have heard a lot about EA Sports MMA, from the developer’s goals when crafting the game to detailed descriptions about the controls, but it wasn’t until yesterday at the EA3 event that we were able to take the Xbox 360 controller and step into the ring. Read on for our impressions of how the controls feel, as well as more details on how submissions are handled (hint: frantic button mashers need not apply).
As described in our updated impressions, the controls are extrapolated from those of Fight Night Round 4. Strikes are mapped to the right analog stick: flick forward for a jab, pop out to the side and rotate a quarter-circle forward for a hook, and tap two opposite diagonal directions (back and forward) for an uppercut. If you hold the left trigger, all strikes become kicks. Jabs are leg kicks, hooks become body shots, and uppercuts turn into roundhouses. Of course, all these strikes are subject to slight variation given your individual fighter, but they are easy to pull off and they animate well. Whipping out quick combos of punches and kicks will come naturally to anyone who has played recent Fight Night games, and newcomers need only quick thumbs to make themselves a force to be reckoned with.
The left trigger is just one of the modifiers in play. Holding the left shoulder button turns any strike into a feint, allowing you to work some deception into your repertoire. Holding the right trigger brings up your guard, significantly reducing the damage you take from any punches or kicks. If you want to be more active in your defensive strategy, you can flick the right stick left or right while your guard is up to parry a blow on the left or right side of your body. Successful parries give you an opening to counterattack, which might be as brief as an arm lingering just out of position or as significant as a stumble. Moving the left stick while blocking allows you to lean your torso to avoid strikes, a move Fight Night veterans will be very familiar with.
Using our index and middle fingers to activate these modifiers while moving, striking, and blocking with our thumbs came quite naturally. The control scheme is straightforward, allowing a diverse range of maneuvers while remaining relatively uncomplicated. While tougher hits landed with significant audible and visual impact, fighters often appeared unfazed by quicker, lighter blows. This could be meant to reflect the fighters' discipline and focus, but we couldn't help but wish that hits landed with a little more oomph. Of course, the game is still in development and the build we played was far from finished, so there's no telling how a punch will sound down the road. We were impressed by the character models, who, in addition to looking quite like their real-life counterparts, had well-animated musculature that made it seem like powerful forces were at work.
Yet even the most formidable fighting abilities are governed by stamina, an element that plays a huge role in EA Sports MMA. Throwing (and taking) punches and kicks will wear down your stamina, especially if you are on the receiving end of an unblocked strike. Putting your guard up drastically decreases the stamina you lose, and avoiding the action for a few moments can give you a window to recharge. While your stamina does regenerate, your meter can decrease over time, especially if you take too many body blows. Diminished stamina doesn't necessarily put you at greater risk for a knockout, as damage is measured separately in three different areas: head, gut, and legs. However, low stamina means you can't strike as effectively, and it puts you at even greater risk when the fight goes to ground.
A simple tap of the A button is all you need to take your opponent to the mat. Press A again and you'll advance to a more advantageous position on top of your opponent. That is, if your opponent doesn't rebuff your attempt. A timely press of the B button is all your foe needs to resist your maneuver, but it isn't as easy as that. The defender's timing depends on his response, a telltale controller rumble that mimics the attacker tensing his muscles to make a move. However, if the defender is busy blocking or trying to make a move of his own, he may not be able to respond in time. This system relies heavily on timing, and in the middle of heated bouts it was tricky to get a handle on all the factors at play. The relatively simple building blocks made it easy to know how to perform moves, but mastering the timing is another challenge altogether.
Timing is also key when you are trying to submit your opponent. By tapping the X button you can attempt a submission, and you'll soon see an X-ray silhouette of the joint in question. As you tap a button and apply pressure to, say, your opponent’s shoulder, the bones grow red, indicating that a submission is near. Meanwhile, your opponent is tapping a button to resist, causing the image to grow whiter and fainter the closer he gets to freedom. Once again, the key is stamina. Each button press takes stamina, and if your meter runs out first, you will be powerless to resist or press the submission. Tap the button frantically, and you’ll soon exhaust your stamina pool. These struggles play out at a brisk yet strategic pace, as both players try to maximize their stamina use to achieve their goals.
Chokehold submissions play out slightly differently. Rather than button prompts, a large circle appears in the center of the screen. You then tilt your analog stick in the direction of the moving prompt, hoping to match its position better than your opponent and emerge victorious. Nimble thumbs and quick reflexes will win the day here, though stamina plays a part as well, allowing tougher players to hang in longer.
Both submission systems seemed geared toward timing rather than speed, meaning that your fate on the mat is not tied to your brute twitching strength. These different challenges create their own kind of tension, and by the end of our session we had weathered some fraught contests. EA Sports MMA is endeavoring to lay down relatively simple fundamentals that nonetheless allow for subtlety and eventual mastery, and so far things are looking good. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more big news from this fresh entry in the MMA ring.
Quick: Name one thing you didn't like in last year's Madden NFL 10. No, I'm not talking about receivers not getting their feet in on the sidelines. I'm thinking of a larger problem with what was otherwise a very respectable entry in the long-running NFL series from EA Sports. It had nothing to do with the visuals, or the gameplay, or the controls. For me--and for many other Madden 10 players--in an otherwise fine football game, the biggest problem was Tom Hammond.
Now, nothing against Mr. Hammond. The long-time NBC broadcaster is pretty much a legend in his field as he's covered everything from horse racing to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. But his work in Madden NFL 10--which he shared with color commentator Chris Collinsworth--left a lot to be desired. In fact, while Collinsworth's work shined, especially in the post-play breakdowns that worked specifically to Collinsworth's strengths as an unparalleled football analyst, Hammond's lackluster play-by-play calls really didn't work…either by themselves or in conjunction with his partner.
EA Sports knows this. It probably knew it with Madden 09--the first entry that featured Hammond and Collinsworth. With Madden NFL 11, however, EA Sports is finally addressing the problem by bringing in CBS' Gus Johnson to handle play-by-play duties along with Collinsworth. [Full disclosure: GameSpot is a property of CBS Interactive.] Earlier in the month, I had a chance to head down to EA's offices in Redwood Shores, Calif., to check out the new audio changes in Madden 11 and spend some time hanging out with Gus Johnson.
According to Ronnie Morales, EA's audio director on Madden 11, bringing Johnson into the Madden fold is just one of the improvements made to the game's audio presentation this year, but it's certainly destined to be the most noticeable. There's somewhere around 90,000 lines of commentary in this year's game--Johnson refers to the mounds of script he's read through as "stacks and stacks and stacks of paper"--which is a far cry from the roughly 500 lines of dialogue that was featured in the first Madden game all those years ago.
Johnson's trademark excitement--if you've ever seen a televised NCAA basketball game with him at the helm, you know the kind of energy he's capable of bringing--was all over the demo of Madden 11 showed off to the press. According to Morales, the biggest change between the audio in this year's game and in games from prior years occurs during midplay, which is where all the excitement happens. Sure, Johnson and Collinsworth can set up the down and distance before the ball is snapped, but it's once the ball is in the quarterback's hands that the real test of the men in the booth begins.
An example: In Madden 10, when a receiver caught a ball and headed into the open field on his way to the end zone, Hammond rarely did more than call the yard marker he was passing. Certainly, it was accurate, but it was far from exciting. With Madden 11, you can expect to hear Johnson continually amp up the intensity as that receiver sheds tackles and barrels closer to the end zone. By the time that receiver is in the end zone, Johnson is nearly apoplectic, and the whole thing feels less like a clinical operation and more like a gridiron achievement.
Johnson is no stranger to EA--he has previously handled announcing duties for last year's NCAA Basketball 10--but his trademark energy is just one part of the audio chemistry in Madden 11. For the first time, EA Tiburon hired outside writers who have contributed new dialogue for Johnson and Collinsworth to read (in previous years, all dialogue was written internally by producers and developers).
In addition to enhanced commentary, the game's environmental audio has seen a lot attention, with enhanced crowd and stadium noises that will react to the action on the field. If you listen for player-specific chants, such as Seattle Seahawks' receiver T.J. Joushmandzadeh catching a pass, the crowd reacts with a resounding "Hooooouuuuush!" There are also pre-play "hype" presentations for all 32 NFL teams, similar to the one shown featuring New Orleans Saints' QB Drew Brees. When you toss in the additional commentary from your offensive and defensive coordinators, who will be breaking down play calls for you if you're using the new gameflow feature, there's a lot for your ears to take in.
Morales said EA Sports has included plenty of Gus Johnson Easter eggs in the audio presentation--many of which will only be uncovered in very specific circumstances--and he's looking forward to watching the message boards as Madden fans talk about the latest Gus gem they've heard. Personally, I won't be satisfied until I hear a roof-rattling "OH MY GOODNESS!" at the tail end of a Jay Cutler touchdown bomb. After all, I wouldn't expect anything less from Gus.
Look for more coverage on Madden NFL 11 during GameSpot's live coverage of E3 2010 in June.
There are plenty of reasons to love the life of a Formula One driver--being behind the wheel of the world's most technically advanced cars, driving in some of the world's most glamorous locales on some of the best circuits, getting the huge paychecks, enjoying the throngs of adoring fans, meeting the grid girls…the list truly goes on and on. If you're at all a fan of F1, you've probably spent a little time fantasizing about what it would be like to live this jet-setting lifestyle, and the folks at Codemasters have done the exact same thing. But they're taking those fantasies and making them (almost) real with their upcoming F1 debut on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC: F1 2010.
The first time you boot up F1 2010, you'll be taken immediately to a press conference, which serves not just as a method to establish your identity in the game (enter your name, country of origin, and the like) but also as a representative sample of how Codies is approaching your experience in F1. Yes, there is a great deal of emphasis on being in the car and tackling some of the world's great courses, but there's also the life outside of the car--as well as in the paddock and press conferences--that is also a big part of the F1 2010 gameplay experience.
That boot-up press conference serves a third purpose as well: establishing exactly the kind of gameplay experience you're looking for from the game. Maybe you're a hardcore racing fan and are looking for a driving experience with no safety net, all assists off, and so on. Or maybe you're a casual F1 fan and will need some hand-holding (or, more accurately, some braking help or other type of assists). You'll also be able to determine the length of your nascent F1 career--up to seven seasons long. The balance between driving skill and career length will determine what teams are available to you in the beginning of the game. For example, if you're looking for a long-term career with minimal assists, you might only be offered drives with low-tier teams like Lotus or HRT. Those looking for a shorter career might find they have access to more prestigious teams like Renault or Williams.
Once you've found a team, the F1 2010 experience looks to be all about short-term and long-term goals. Of course, your main goal as a driver is to always beat your immediate rival, aka your teammate. He's the guy with (theoretically, at least) identical equipment, and beating him on the track in the qualifier and in the race will ensure your place as the team leader. As team leader, you'll have more say on some of the longer-term goals of the team, such as where to focus research and development efforts when it comes to your current car or, in more dramatic cases, whether to cease development on that year's model altogether to start work on the car for next season. Throughout the course of your career's arc, it then becomes a question of building a back marker team up to a championship contender or trying to play team hopscotch and eventually winding up in the cockpit of a McLaren or Ferrari (or other team of your choice).
The delicate dynamics of your team will also be affected by how you carry yourself outside of the car. For example, after a tough race with a disappointing result, you might be asked to make a comment. Do you blame the team for your troubles or take the blame yourself? If asked in the press about rumors of a rival team looking to scoop you up and offer you a contract, do you express public interest in such a deal, thereby ticking off your current team? Or do you bide your time and put your full support behind your boys in the garage? All of these responses will affect how you are perceived in the paddock and add up to a career mode that looks to be more than simply getting out on the track and running a never-ending string of mindless race sessions.
All of that extracurricular activity aside, however, F1 2010 is still going to live or die inside the cockpit--a fact that Codemasters readily acknowledges. As a result, the team has been working on nailing the power and poise of F1 cars without completely alienating novice drivers. The most noticeable aspect of the cars, from a driving standpoint, is their outrageous acceleration. In first and second gear, careful acceleration is an absolutely necessity. Failure to carefully accelerate can easily over-rev the engine and, in more extreme examples, send your car spinning in a corner. Once you get into third gear, you can step on the gas, but on low-speed tracks like Monaco where you spend a great deal of time in the lower gears, the degree of challenge is substantially increased by the power of the cars.
Though F1 2010 will feature four different camera angles to choose from when driving (two chase cams, one hood, and one cockpit), the best way to experience the game is in the cockpit cam, where you can watch as your driver saws the wheel left and right. You can also see and feel every bump and jerk in the carefully reconstructed courses. We got hands-on time with two of the 19 tracks that will be featured in F1 2010: the aforementioned Monaco, with all of its twisting madness and tight confines and the wide-open speed of Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villenueve. The two courses couldn't be more different in approach--Monaco is a relentless assault on your skill and concentration level, where the slightest wrong move can mean the end of your race. The track's bumpy nature, especially in the sprint up the hill to the Massenet and Casino corners, is captured with loving detail. Montreal, by contrast, has moments where you can take a mental break, but it also offers a mixture of high-speed corners and tight technical turns (like the hairpin turn 11) that can be a lot of fun.
Our hands-on time was limited just to practice sessions, so we didn't get a chance to experience the race AI in F1 2010. However, Codemasters developers did say they were working to ensure that the 24 licensed drivers in the game drive like their real-life counterparts. For example, McLaren's Jenson Button will be a smooth operator on track, while his teammate Lewis Hamilton will be an aggressive driver who is tough on his car's tires. Michael Shumacher will be difficult to pass just as he is in real life, and Sebastian Vettel will be at the height of his powers in the wet.
Just as it can in real life, weather will play a huge role in F1 2010 races, thanks to a weather system that Codemasters promises is one of the most advanced seen in a racing game to date. While you won't see much rain in traditionally dry climates, like Bahrain or Abu Dhabi, anything can happen at locales like Spa or Silverstone, where rain is a persistent threat. Weather effects will be extensive and run the gamut from overcast skies to full-on downpours--and multiple points in between. In addition to the vision problems that rain presents a driver, rain will affect how the tires interact with the road on which you're driving. Wet roads are slippery roads, naturally, and as a race persists, you'll see dry lines appear after the rain lets up and even be able to keep your tires cool by temporarily going offline to get your tires wet--a technique F1 drivers commonly use in real life.
There are a bunch of other small details that have us excited about F1 2010, including the ability to adjust the engine revs and brake balance on the fly using the D pad when driving and the presence of a race engineer who constantly gives you updates on your surroundings. We're also excited about a car-tuning system that will let you tweak your ride to your hearts content by going to individual parts (such as gear ratios, brakes, and the like) or by using overall setting templates that suit your particular driving style (oversteer/understeer, aggressive or conservative use of tires, and so on).
Although Formula One racing is certainly the most popular form of motorsport in the world, F1 games have sold poorly by comparison. Codemasters' approach of focusing as much on the lifestyle of F1 as on the on-track action is a calculated attempt at trying to turn that trend on its ear. From what we've seen so far, we're happy to say that the in-car experience looks to be challenging and rewarding, even with several months of development left to go before the game's September release. If the action out of the car lives up to the action on the tarmac, F1 2010 could be special indeed. Look for more on the game in the coming months.
This year, you're not just fighting for yourself when you take your fighter online in THQ's UFC Undisputed 2010. You'll also be fighting for the pride of your fight camp--where you and your online buddies can gather, train together, and take on a world full of virtual UFC wannabes in octagon matches. Online fight camps are just one part of UFC 2010's impressive list of new features, and they're the focus of our look at the game today.
In one sense, fight camps are nothing new to the UFC series--in last year's game, you could train in fight camps during your career mode, and in UFC 2010, you'll also be using fight camps to learn specific moves when going through your single-player career. By putting fight camps online, however, the developers at THQ and Yuke's have taken things to the next logical step by getting your friends involved. Once you're in a camp with buddies, there are a number of things you can do to make one another better fighters; there's even a tie-in to the game's single-player career mode that will help your created fighter improve.
First things first, you need to create a fight camp. Creation is simple: you pick a name for your camp and a banner, which you can design from the ground up using tools similar to the tattoo-creation tools found in the game. The tools aren't as flexible as those found in the Forza Motorsport series, but with a little time and some imagination, you can come up with a cool-looking banner that will be displayed in your gym and in your fighter's corner during matches. Once your camp is created, you'll be able to go back and redesign your banner if you like or create custom messages that your fellow campmates will be able to read when they log on.
With your camp created, you'll need to invite some members to beef up your ranks. When you invite a friend (or perfect stranger, for that matter), his or her rank is automatically set to "recruit." Recruits cannot train other members, and any losses incurred by recruits do not negatively affect your camp's leaderboard status. In essence, leaving a new member at recruit status serves as a probationary period--once a recruit has proven to be a valuable member, the camp captain (or other high-ranking members) can promote the recruit to a member. Camp members can train one another, and their wins and losses will count on the camp's overall record. The next level of promotion is "trainer," which gives that player a degree of administrative ability over the camp. Finally, as captain, you can promote another member to captain, but you'll automatically be demoted to "trainer" if you do so.
When you're logged on to the fight camp, you have a number of options available to you, including chat, train, exhibition, view camp stats, camp news, invite new member, and leave camp. First up, the train option is where you'll be able to hook up with fellow fight camp members to spar or learn some new moves. The sparring option puts two fighters in the octagon and lets you duke it out for as long as you like with no health meter, and all of your controller inputs appear onscreen--a perfect opportunity to work on specific moves or watch another player in action without having to worry about getting knocked (or tapped) out.
The training session is a bit more involved. Here, one camp member acts as the trainer, and the other is the trainee. Once the session loads up, both fighters are in the octagon, and a series of instructions appear below the fighters. The idea is to perform the moves or sequence of moves as they appear onscreen, and you'll have a short period of time to perform each set of moves--if you complete a sequence before the time limit runs out, you immediately move on to the next sequence; if you don't, you fail that task and move on anyway. Once you've gone through the entire sequence, you'll be required to perform the whole thing over again.
So why take part in a training session? There are a few reasons. First off, you earn cred for your created fighter for any of the training session tasks that you successfully complete. Second, while you don't learn new moves for your fighter that you can add to his arsenal, you can still learn something as a UFC player, especially if you have a good trainer that you're talking with. All of the training sequences have a beginning and end point--they aren't just a set of moves chosen at random. If you pay attention to the sequences and how they transition from one move to the next, you might just learn something that you can apply to a real fight the next time you find yourself in the octagon. According to THQ, there are around 20 grapple programs, 20 striking programs, and 15 clinch programs to play through.
Best of all, online fight camp training sessions are built into your single-player career mode (you'll see the option to visit your created camp in the fight camp menu). If you choose to visit your camp, your fighter won't take a hit to his fatigue or conditioning and won't lose a week of training as he would when training or sparring otherwise. However, you can only attend online fight camp training sessions once per fight; so once you've trained you'll have to move ahead to the next fight in your career before you can train again. Essentially, training in online fight camps is a chance to earn some bonus cred and, if you've got a good instructor, maybe learn a thing or two in the process.
When it comes to fighting, you'll have a couple of options. You can have exhibition fights with fellow camp members or fight in ranked fights against other camps, the results of which will count toward your camp's record. Just as in a ranked match, these camp matches are random in order to prevent people inviting friends from one camp and exploiting the leaderboards. Over time, members can earn milestones for the camp--think of them as group achievements. Examples include winning five ranked exhibition matches in a row or winning 60 percent of all ranked matches, and there are milestones for overall position on the leaderboards, total number of ranked matches won, and more.
The implementation of fight camps in UFC 2010 seems like a good start for a feature that could evolve and grow in future installments of the game. The training session instructions tend to be somewhat vague, and as a result, it's often tough to correctly finish a sequence, especially the complex grappling programs. That said, as another aspect of your single-player career mode, or simply as a place to gather around with your friends and take on the world, fight camps should be a popular addition. UFC Undisputed 2010 is due for release on May 25.
We're just about a month away from the release of UFC Undisputed 2010, THQ's latest game in its blockbuster mixed martial arts series. In previous months, we've explored the changes to the fighting system to UFC 2010, and later this week, we'll have an updated look at the game's Career mode. But today, we've got a look at the entire roster for the game. A quick peek at the full roster is all you might need to figure out that THQ is going big with this year's game...from heavyweight down to lightweight, every division in the game has seen some significant additions. And, as in last year's game, certain fighters are able to switch between divisions, which has been noted in the roster below.
If you're looking to know more about UFC Undisputed 2010 and the game's roster, check out our Tuesday, April 27 episode of Today on the Spot. In it, we're joined by some special guests from the UFC, breaking down the roster, the game, and all things UFC 2010.
The full roster for UFC Undisputed 2010:
• (N) New fighters to the UFC Undisputed franchise
• (P) Fighters accessible exclusively with retail promotions (e.g. GameStop in the US)
• (L) Legendary fighters exclusive to the PlayStation 3
Mustapha Al-Turk (N)
Pat Barry (N)
Shane Carwin (N)
Mirko Cro Cop
Junior Dos Santos (N)
Todd Duffee (N)
Marcus Jones (P)
James McSweeney (P)
Roy Nelson (P)
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Brendan Schaub (P)
Dan Severn (L)
Kimbo Slice (N)
Stefan Struve (N)
HEAVYWEIGHT & LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT DIVISIONS
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT DIVISION
Jason Brilz (N)
Luiz Cane (N)
Steve Cantwell (N)
Matt Hamill (N)
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Jon Jones (N)
Krzysztof Soszynski (N)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT & MIDDLEWEIGHT DIVISIONS
Vitor Belfort (N)
Yoshihiro Akiyama (N)
Alan Belcher (N)
Patrick Cote (N)
Dennis Kang (N)
Dan Miller (N)
Nate Quarry (N)
Chael Sonnen (N)
MIDDLEWEIGHT & WELTERWEIGHT DIVISIONS
Carlos Condit (N)
Royce Gracie (L)
Dan Hardy (N)
Dustin Hazelett (N)
Dong Hyun Kim (N)
Paulo Thiago (N)
Frank Trigg (N)
James Wilks (N)
WELTERWEIGHT & LIGHTWEIGHT DIVISIONS
Terry Etim (N)
Clay Guida (N)
Cole Miller (N)
Ross Pearson (N)
Kurt Pellegrino (N)
Jens Pulver (L)
Dennis Siver (N)
Caol Uno (N)