Hearing EA officials call the forthcoming game in the Madden series “the next big innovation” year in and year out is nearly cringe worthy – but it appears that for once, the enhancements promised at this year’s E3 might prove a true evolution in what has been a relatively static past few years for the series. In fact not since the implementation of the hit stick way back in Madden 2005 has there been one single feature that has redefined the series – this year there may potentially be two.
I have my reservations about the new Infinity Engine physics system being something more than hardly noticeable, but nonetheless, it should serve as a decent, if not overwhelming, upgrade to the flawed system currently in place. More interesting is the Kinect voice functionality. Featured for the first time in a Madden game, it appears that the Kinect will be deeply woven into the core functionality of play-calling, as opposed to the trivial layer that Kinect voice integration exists on in most games.
Let’s forget that it was legendary Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana calling the shots via a dinky looking headset. He clearly felt awkward on stage, and was likely unhappy to be there. Nonetheless, he got the point of what EA is hoping to accomplish across – that Madden 13, at least on a more than superficial level, can be played via voice commands. From what it seemed during the presentation, it appears that players will be able to choose from one of a few commands, similar to how the audible system in previous Madden’s worked. In addition, you will be able to control when you want to hike the ball and if you want to run the hurry up – all through voice commands.
But the most striking, and likely the most beneficial, aspect of the new voice command system is that players will now have the ability to throw passes to receivers just by saying their names. However, there are some potential problems with this. If the Kinect fails to recognize the name of the desired target, the quarterback is going to be vulnerable to a sack. Even worse, if there is even the tiniest bit of lag between recognition and command, the small window when the receiver is open would likely close, resulting in an incomplete pass, or worse yet, an interception. Finally, Madden allows players to control the speed of a pass through how hard they press the button. How will the Kinect handle that?
Still, passing in Madden can be disjointing to newcomers – how many times have you pressed the wrong button – and if implemented correctly, the newly announced voice integration would go a long way towards eradicating that problem and a few more. On the surface it seems a bit shallow – hell, it might end up being like playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out with a Power Glove – clumsy and ineffective. But the more optimistic side of me says that voice commands might very well change the way Madden is played – just probably not this year.