If you're looking to get your hands on an early copy of EA Sports' Madden NFL 15, you better have an Xbox One. The sports gaming giant confirmed to Operation Sports on Monday that it will not be releasing a demo version of the upcoming summer staple.
In a typical release cycle, a demo is released two or three weeks before the finalized version to whet consumer appetites and preview gameplay improvements. The only way gamers will be able to get their hands on an early copy is by subscribing to EA Access, a new service for Xbox One that allows games to be played up to five days before their release.
EA Access is $4.99 per month or $29.99 for an entire year. Along with early releases, the service offers discounts on select titles. Those who own PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 or Xbox 360 consoles will have to wait until Madden 15's formal release on Aug. 29.
The lack of demo is a rare piece of bad news for what has been a strong development cycle for the Madden 15 team. Improvements to Connected Franchise mode, a retooling of the defensive artificial intelligence and the slow roll-out of player ratings have given EA Sports a positive buzz heading into the release.
Having a full year to work with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 software has also increased expectations. It typically takes at least one full cycle for development teams to work out the kinks and coding that come with a new generation of consoles. Madden 25 received tepid reviews on the next-gen consoles last year, earning a 74 Metacritic rating on PS4 and a 73 rating on Xbox One (via Metacritic.com).
This year's iteration, which features Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman on the cover, promises a marked improvement. New gameplay features include marked improvements to pre-snap options on both sides of the ball, improved artificial intelligence for defensive players and adjustments to make the kicking game more difficult.
“The sport is so complicated and has so many individual little things, to do it at a scale where it isn’t repetitive at every play, you’d need a country of animators to try to crank that out,” Jason Danahy, Madden's animation director, told Ken Belson of The New York Times. “An animator can convey weight and speed, and handle that kind of stuff, but they don’t have necessarily a football mind like these guys do, and that’s a huge help for us.”
There are also numerous subtle improvements to passing accuracy, player animations and a revamped presentation system. Connected Franchise, the game's best and deepest mode, also has new confidence level meters and pregame preparations that create a more immersive experience.
Over the last couple of weeks, EA Sports has also been releasing full player ratings. The full team-by-team ratings were finalized last week and can be seen here.
Even for sports gamers, some of the most fickle and picky people on the planet, word-of-mouth has been strong. Losing out on a demo to test some of these improvements and point out a few possible bugs in need of a pre-release patch is a blow to that momentum.
But given the country's insatiable football obsession and Madden's standing as the only simulation football game on the market, this likely will not have a major impact on those who decide to purchase the game.
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