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‘Madden 19’ Preview And Thoughts: Gameplay and Real Player Motion

Over the weekend, the newest deep dive with information about Madden 19 was released during EA Play. It covered perhaps the most important aspect of a good title: gameplay.


So, what can we expect in a couple months with Madden 19? Here are the key gameplay updates and my thoughts.


Key Updates


Lead Gameplay Designer Clint Oldenburg, who wrote the blog on Gameplay and Real Player Motion, said they had two primary objectives in Madden 19: “Player control across the field” and “Immersive NFL Experience from start to finish”.


Real Player Motion – Locomotion 


Oldenburg says Player Locomotion (or Run Cycles) is the feature that will have the biggest impact on gameplay, as the system has apparently “been rebuilt using technological innovations from across a variety of EA Games and was designed in a way that intuitively balances the line between responsiveness and authenticity.”


Basically, RPM will give the user more control using the sticks and right trigger (or R2 on PS4), and each player will play in their own, unique way based on height, weight, position, and ratings. For example, a bruiser like LeGarrette Blount will need to take more time to make a sharp cut compared to a shifty runner like Jerick McKinnon.




One-Cut is a new ball-carrier move that combines the user’s timing skills (of hitting RT/R2) with the new Player Locomotion to make a decisive cut upfield. This move will come with a heavy stamina hit, but accurately performing it during a small timing window will activate a faster version of the Acceleration Burst. The best example I can think of is Tevin Coleman seeing a crease in the open field and suddenly turning on the accelerators to glide through the secondary.


Strafe Burst


This move is called the “defensive counter to One-Cut”, as it allows a user defender in strafe (LT/L2) to quickly accelerate by releasing the trigger and hitting Acceleration Burst (RT/R2) in the same timing window like One-Cut. Think of it like Luke Kuechly reading the field and then exploding towards the action.


Branching Special Moves


If I’m not mistaken, we were supposed to always be able to chain moves together, but Madden 19 is selling it as something new. Oldenburg says in the blog that it “allows the freedom and creativity for our players to [create] some of the best highlight videos ever seen” thanks to Real Player Motion. Hopefully it really does allow complete freedom (i.e. not animations), but I’m not getting my hopes up.


Hit the Hole


I would think Hit the Hole is basically One-Cut, but the latter is more of an open-field mechanic, while the former is a ball-carrier move that’s used in the trenches. Hit the Hole uses the right stick to change directions with a flick towards a gap, and the runner will “make a contextually appropriate direction change”, which unfortunately just sounds like a different way to say animation. It does seem like runners won’t trip over linemen like previous games, though, so that’d be a welcome change.


Push the Pile


Hit the Hole won’t always be an option because a hole isn’t always available in both real life and a video game. Instead, Push the Pile is “an extension of the Truck Stick” that allows a runner to push blockers forward or out of the way to gain space. However, it’s clear animations will be at play, as the the blog says “based on the player ratings of all three players involved (the ball carrier, blocker, and defender), there are a variety of results for these interactions.” So, it sounds like this could be a variation of the controversial “tackle battle” mechanic with three potential outcomes in any given situation instead of two.


Catching Improvements


Oldenburg says they wanted to allow more freedom to users when it comes to catch interactions in Madden 19, so they’ve introduced a new Mid-Air Collision system and new additions to the existing Catching system. For example, now, “Play Receiver” is “all about hitting the receiver hard to make sure he doesn’t come down with the ball.” And offensively, users will have more time to decide the type of catch they want to make, but you need to make the correct decision (ex: “RAC” catches won’t jump anymore for high passes, so the ball might sail over a receiver’s head if “Aggressive” catch isn’t chosen).




Out of all the core fundamentals in Madden 19, tackling has apparently been given “far and away” the biggest visual upgrade. A new Momentum Tackle system is influenced by momentum, speed, and weight, which “ensures tackles play out as expected based on how the players started the tackle.” For example, a smaller defensive back standing idle will be dragged by a bigger running back before he’s brought down.


The Tackling Physics system has also been “invested heavily” so the correct animations are used in gang tackles or for late-arriving defenders. Hopefully this is true, as the blog claims players will no longer be in an unaware “rag-doll” state, and instead will act according to the laws of physics. There is also a new Get-Up system that makes sure players look realistic when they hit the ground after a tackle. Get-Up will include authentic rolls to get up quickly or intelligent delays before getting up with other players on top of them.


Also, all Hit Stick animations were completely refreshed with the new Momentum Tackle system. However, the timing system is smaller so that it takes more skill to use the Hit Stick (and a bigger penalty for missing), which I think is a positive change.




Besides in-play updates with RPM, Madden 19 was also focused on delivering “some personality to go with it.” With that in mind, they have introduced new QB Pre-Play Signatures and User-Controlled Celebrations.


For the quarterbacks, EA has studied each signal-caller to identify their unique behaviors and mannerisms before the play. This is what Oldenburg says about QB Signatures:


Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers adjusts his thigh pad all the time. Kansas City Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes is very deliberate when making pre-snap adjustments. All of these behaviors will be reflected in Madden 19 on multiple levels, including Contextual (fidgets), Functional (pre-snap adjustments), and Audio (all supported QB’s will have contextually correct on-field wires associated with each signature animation).  We are launching with a handful of NFL QBs fully supported and will continue to update more via post-launch updates.


I wish close to every starting quarterback was fully supported at launch, but people should also be pretty excited for signature celebrations, which will be available after a touchdown, sack, or safety. They include Group Celebration (RS up), Spike (RS right), Player Signature (RS down), Dance (RS left), and Swagger (RS click).


It will be great to see JuJu Smith-Schuster’s various antics or Rob Gronkowski doing a Gronk Spike, and hopefully there are plenty of original ones (and real-life updates) to keep the celebrations from becoming stale.




Madden 19 will have several additions/improvements to Coverage AI logic, include new rule sets for base coverages. For starters, Cover 4 now includes Quarters and Palms coverage, which are both matchup zones (i.e. man-to-man responsibilities in zone coverage). In Cover 3, logic was improved for Curl Flat defenders, and overall, each type of coverage will do a better job against Trips or Bunch formation. Finally, the main change for Cover 2 is the Middle Read player should now be able to get deeper to cover with more depth.


Also, Protect the Sticks has been overhauled so that defenders will be more aware of the first down marker. And new plays have been added, including the formation “Big Nickel Over G”, which uses four linemen, two linebackers, two cornerbacks, and three safeties.


My Thoughts


One of the biggest changes in gameplay actually didn’t make it into the blog for some reason, but the 91-zone threshold will no longer be a thing. Instead, defenders with 99 zone coverage will react at the start of the quarterback’s motion (like 91+ ZCV did last year), with everyone below that will react at different levels at different times. I’m not sure if it’s the case, but I hope it’s dependent on route combinations and offensive ratings rather than simply being random.


Overall, Real Player Motion doesn’t seem to be a groundbreaking change from previous years, as it still sounds heavy on animations—and in turn, predetermined outcomes. I have plenty of other concerns, including linebackers making unrealistic interceptions with their back turned to the quarterback, but it doesn’t seem like EA is eager to change much with competitive gamers and MUT players being the focus.


We will have to see what really changed when we get a look at some actual gameplay, unlike this disappointing trailer that released at EA Play.



The next playbook about franchise mode will be huge in determining if we can expect steps in the right direction or more of the same for Madden 19.


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