Over the past month, I’ve been able to see and play some of the biggest sports franchises out there that will be coming to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this summer and fall from EA Sports. It usually takes a development team, which has one year to churn out a new game, at least two titles to begin to reach the potential of any new system. That means that Xbox 360 owners are in for some amazing sports games across the board this year and PS3 owners will begin to see what next gen sports are all about (although next year will be when many key franchises have caught up to Xbox 360).
One of the things that EA has been focusing on with its already released “FIFA 07” and upcoming “Madden NFL 08” and “NCAA Football 08” is inverse kinematics. This is a term that EA has talked about since before the launch of the next gen consoles, but it’s truly starting to take form this fall. “FIFA 07,” a game that was in development for a full two years, is the first title to show a taste of what this means on next gen. Players run and interact with the turf, rather than seeming to float atop it as all current gen games did and some early next gen games were guilty of.
Taking a look at “Madden NFL 08,” EA actually showed footage of this year’s characters running on the screen compared to last year’s. The difference, all in inverse kinematics, was amazing–especially since EA Tiburon was taking out the other players and just focusing on a running back or receiver to illustrate the point. Next gen football players used to look like they were skating on the grass, although the animation was far better than current gen. Going in a circle was this long and arduous task on the field. This summer, virtual NFL players will be able to make cuts just like real players, interacting with the turf and jumping over defensive players realistically. Watching the difference between how they will do this on the virtual gridiron and how they used to do this is like night and day–and this will impact the enjoyment of the game.
Sports is one genre that really can showcase what new technology can accomplish. Upcoming iterations of EA Sports games, which I can’t talk about yet, will also take technology from “FIFA 07” as well as build on their own technology to create sports avatars that finally behave like the real thing. While the gorgeous graphics have thrilled people–including realistic stadiums that look just like the real thing–its the new interactions with the on-field players that’s going to truly be the difference in the new consoles. This year’s sports games will show just how realistic, and fun, sports on a console can be. And the genre will never be the same.