During EA PLAY in Los Angeles, Sports Gamers Online got the chance to play some Madden 18 and learn how it plays, what’s new, and what’s improved. And there’s a lot to cover, everything from graphics to controls to new types of injuries are shaping Madden 18 into something that shows a greater sense of evolution since last year. Overall: From our experience, the graphics look great. The Frostbite engine continues to shine, showing noticeable graphical improvements from Madden 17. From the standard, faraway shots of the game, you might not notice the improved details. But once you see the close-ups, the improved textures on the jerseys and players are undeniable. The grass looks great as well. We didn’t get to see how great it looks during different weather conditions, but the lighting for the game we did play looked really good. The playbooks are totally redone. Each playbook had new formations and different mixes of plays. The weight of a player now makes a much bigger difference. Smaller players feel more quick and agile, while beefy, physical players feel slower than before. New: Defensive lineman can now engage when blocked. They can also reach tackle to the left and the right. This can create a three-man tackle animation where the defensive lineman engaged with a block can still tackle the runner. Carry/deliver follow has some retooling, as does the cut block/impact block. Target passing is a new feature. By holding L2 and using the left stick, you can cycle through the different receivers available on the play. It starts with the primary receiver. You can no longer hold down ball hawk and run around the field and still intercept the ball. When controlling a secondary player, the UI shows a line on who you are supposed to cover. You now have control of the player during a rac catch animation. In Madden 17, if you threw a pass to the flats, the receiver’s momentum would send him out of bounds. With greater control, you can adjust the catch, letting you possibly toe the line and run further down the field. Coach settings are now located in the play calling menu for offense and defense. Defense: You can change between aggressive, conservative, or balanced settings for your defense. Cornerback matchups can be set to overall, speed, height or depth. Options defense and pass rush can be set to aggressive, conservative or balanced as well. Each setting as its own advantages and disadvantages, giving you more options to outwit your opponent by trying new things and remaining unpredictable. Offense: Ball carrying, blocking, deep pass catching, and intermediate pass catching can all be set to aggressive, conservative, or balanced as well. Other notable features and editions: Interactive characters on the sidelines can lead to cool moments where players that go out of bounds can interact with the other players and people on the sidelines. One example we say was on a long pick six, as the player ran out of the end zone, a camera man actually got out of his way instead of phasing through the player’s body like in previous Madden games. On the sidelines, coaches will also get out of the way and even help players up. Now, during a kick, direct feedback will show up in the center of the screen whether the kick is perfect or not. Off ball injuries are now in the game, so offensive linemen will receive injuries just like everyone else. The replays are faster and blend more smoothly with the gameplay. Route running matters much more in Madden 18. You’re no longer going to have a low rated WR dominating the game like in previous years. Offensive linemen can clip or chip on other players. Our player saw a play where the lineman couldn’t hook the LB on a toss, but he did push him which slowed the LB down and through off his pursuit angle. Feedback on the screen is far more apparent when you throw on the run or if your QB has pressure on him when he throws. For precision passing, hitting L1 makes the target pop up near your primary receiver on the play. You can then use the left analog stick to have greater control over the pass. Then you can hit the button for that WR, and it places it wherever the target is. And we do mean wherever. During our players first time using it, he was holding down the left thumbstick as he was dropping back with the QB. He turned so the target was behind him and threw a ten-yard pass out the back of the end zone for a safety. While messing it up can really send the ball off in the wrong direction, once people learn how to use it effectively, the greater control will make it extremely valuable. The qualities of different QBs are more noticeable. Using a character like Tom Brady allows you to pass with greater precision and accuracy than some other quarterbacks. It’s a feature meant more for the hardcore crowd since most players won’t ever have to use it. They’ve cleaned up a lot of the coverage issues from Madden 17. For instance, man-to-man and press is noticeably improved in Madden 18. It has sort of a Madden 05 feel where you really have to work your way down the field. Our player ran into several corner routes and circle routes, and the DB did a lot better job sticking to the hip of the WR. Overall, the time our people had with it was very positive, and we’re looking forward to getting a chance to learn more and playing it as soon as it comes out. And as great as this was, we’re nowhere near done with our EA PLAY and E3 coverage for this week. A lot more is to come. Don’t forget, over the next few days, Sports Gamers Online will be bring exclusive interviews with developers.