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Madden 19 Gameplay Deep Dive: EA on One Cut, Push the Pile, RPO, New Kickoff Rules, and More

We ask Madden gameplay lead Clint Oldenburg all the important questions about this year's entry.

Feature by Kat Bailey, .

Ten seconds remained in the NFC Divisional Playoff game between the Vikings and the Saints. Trailing 24-23, Vikings fans were just praying for a sideline pass that could potentially setup a long field goal. Instead, receiver Stefon Diggs caught a miracle over two diving cornerbacks and ran in untouched for one of the greatest wins in NFL history.

What became known as the Minneapolis Miracle ended up being part of the pitch for a new feature in Madden 19. Called "One Cut," it's described as the ability to "accelerate and stop on a dime for explosive cuts to break through defenses." Think of Diggs catching the ball, then using his hand to arrest his momentum and keep his feet for a burst into the endzone, and you have an idea of what One Cut may look like in practical terms.

I'm not ashamed to say that I've watched this probably a couple hundred times.

Newly-minted gameplay lead Clint Oldenburg, who took over the position from the recently departed Rex Dickson, goes into more detail. "If you're running with just the left stick in moving your player, and you want to make a cut of 45 degrees or 90 degrees, you're going to shift your stick in that direction," he says. "You're going to see him plant his foot in the ground, and as soon as he plants and makes that cut, then you can activate the right trigger and get a speed boost. So it's a very quick acceleration from a controlled locomotion out of that one plant. And it's extremely powerful. So with that comes a very heavy stamina hit."

One Cut is part of a broader push to redo Madden's momentum and animation. The idea, Oldenburg says, is to get Madden to the point where it animates as well as it looks. He expects it to have a large impact on both sides of the ball, especially terms of how players interact with each other in coverage and when tackling.

This should be welcome news for players who have long bemoaned Madden's somewhat stiff animation. Things have improved dramatically over the past few years, but everyone has had that moment where they've tripped over a lineman's foot in a running play, or accidentally had their momentum carry them out of bounds after a big catch. It's what separates Madden from top-tier efforts like NBA 2K (and some would even say NFL 2K5).

Oldenburg sees it impacting many parts of Madden 19, but the action in the open field seems to be where it matters most. It's there that a player's true skill becomes evident. Sure, anyone can call a money play, but the pros are the ones who can humiliate tacklers en route to turning a first down into a touchdown, and EA wants to give them as much control as possible.

More than ever, thanks to what EA is calling "Real Player Motion," controlling a fullback will feel vastly different compared to a speedier halfback. Oldenburg uses the Patriots as an example, "Last year, Dion Lewis [who is now with the Titans] versus their fullback, using those two players in the game is a drastically different experience because their acceleration and speed are so far apart, and their body style makes their momentum so much different. So I think that more of those physical ratings are going to matter more than they have in the past."

Momentum is more important than ever in Madden 19.

This approach additionally feeds into EA's other buzzword-y new features: Push the Pile and Hit the Hole. As you may have guessed, both impact the power running game, which has languished as outside runs have dominated the online metagame. Oldenburg calls Push the Pile an extension of the truck stick that combos with Hit the Hole. "If there's no open gap and you have no choice but to make contact with an offensive lineman, you can just hold the right stick up. It's not a flick like trucking, you just hold it up. And then when you run into the linemen you'll either guide him out of the way—that's what the smaller box will do—or they try to truck and take that defender right off the blocker. So you're really entering into this three-person interaction via your stick that lets you stay in control."

Some high level players may argue that the offense doesn't really need a boost, especially given how frustrating it can be to stop an inside running game that's really clicking. But this is part of a bigger priority for Oldenburg that goes all the way back to Madden 25. Ever since physics were introduced, it's been hard to avoid getting stuck on players on the line or tripping over them. As far back as Madden 16, Oldenburg has been looking for ways to make it so players will stop awkwardly tripping over one one another, as it's frustrating and immersion-breaking. This is another step in that direction.

The biggest potential pitfall Madden faces is that the defensive line mechanics may not be able to match the new running backs. True, momentum will have a greater role to play, meaning that speedy and powerful linebackers like Anthony Barr will be able to fly in and stop lighter running backs in their tracks, and the strafe mechanic has been updated to be more precise. But defensive tackle play is "due for an update," Oldenburg says.

As always, Madden has room to grow and improve. But the end goal is still to put as much control as possible in the hands of the players. "Even if that means that we have to take a creative license with authentic looking stuff, we're going to we're going to err on the side of player control. Maybe a player's leg doesn't look exactly right there, and I know that doesn't sound great in a vacuum, but I think in order for people to feel like they have an impact on the game they want to feel like when they hit a button they see something happen."

More Gameplay Tidbits: Special Teams, RPO, and Coverage

Madden 19's various gameplay refinements are part of the broader move into Frostbite Year 2. Madden made the transition relatively smoothly last year, bringing with it a marked visual improvement. And while the transition was challenging in some ways, it likewise has benefits.

To wit, Madden now shares an engine with FIFA, Battlefield, and other major EA games, making it easier to collaborate across studios. Despite being geographically isolated—Tiburon is based in Florida while FIFA developer EA Vancouver is based in Canada—they still talk to each other often, opening up opportunities for cross-pollination. In fact, Oldenburg says that the technology for Push the Pile and Hit the Hole was developed in Star Wars Battlefront before making its way over to Madden.

The downside, of course, is that it's easy to accidentally lose features when switching engines. "There are often some bits and pieces left behind. You're not really aware it ever existed until it gets into Frostbite, and when you start playing the game you're like, 'Wait this thing's not working. Oh man we forgot the motion system.'"

Still, EA has had an easier time making the switch over to Frostbite than FIFA, which has been bedeviled by complaints about choppy pacing. On that front, the move was a clear win for the series.

Here are some more tidbits for Madden 19.

  • There has been speculation that Madden 19 will feature Run-Pass Option or "RPO"—the play that effectively won the Eagles the Super Bowl. That won't be the case, says gameplay designer Clint Oldenburg. EA is leaving out RPO for now. So no worries about it being completely overpowered... yet.
  • Madden 19 will however incorporate the new kickoff rules, which were introduced late last month. You can get a full run-down here. Oldenburg says it's in the game and working, but admits that it's one feature that has him feeling nervous. "I think that we're going to have to do some work on that post-launch because we have absolutely no real-world reference of how it works and what schemes are doing to break it. I'm sure Coach Belichick and the Patriots are going to figure out a way to exploit that thing in real-life, just like our players are probably going to figure out a way to exploit it in our game. That one makes me the most nervous just because it hasn't had enough time to bake, but we have to be authentic to the NFL rules. So it's gonna be supported and we're gonna stay on top of that one." That's life when you're trying to make something approaching an authentic NFL sim.
  • On the subject of defense, Oldenburg says that zone coverage is getting a boost while man coverage will likely be nerfed, at least in the short term. In particular, he points to Cover 4, deep safety, and curl flat as points of interest. Of course, Madden is always in motion, so this will likely last until the first patch hits.
  • Small tidbit for those waiting for news on Franchise: Scheme fits and player archetypes will be a big point of focus, which is why Madden 19 will feature much more granular positions. Now instead of just WR1 and WR 2, you'll have slot receivers, flankers, and other more nuanced roles. I can't believe it's taken this long to introduce this, but I'm glad that it's here.
  • I'll get more into ratings in a separate article, but there are gonna be a bunch of new ones this year. EA is also taking a closer look at how CPU AI so that computer-controlled teams are more authentic reflections of their real-world counterparts.

A massive amount of Madden 19 information will be dropping over the next few hours, so keep an eye on our social media as we dig into it all. In the meantime, you can find out what's new in MUT right here. Hopefully we'll have lots of info on changes to franchise mode soon.

In the meantime, please keep an eye on all of our E3 coverage, as well as everything we know about Madden 19 so far.

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