Interview: NHL 15 commentators Emrick & Olczyk share experience working with EA Sports

We got to chat with NHL commentators Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk who were recently featured in NHL 15 with their voices and for the first time ever, live footage. Their presence certainly gives NHL 15 a more authentic feel, presentation-wise and it should continue to be a mainstay feature for future titles. Below were some of the responses we got during a live interview.

BuzzFocus: My first question is, how was your experience working on this project?

Doc Emrick: Well this is the first year working together with EA Sports and NHL 15 and it has been an 18 month process leading up to the release. This is our first of hopefully many and it was a long process – we did our role, but the team at EA really put everything together.

BuzzFocus: How does it differ from some other video game projects you’ve worked on before?

Eddie Olczyk: Doc has done videogames before, I haven’t.

Doc: I did it during an earlier era in the late 90’s and it was a far different experience than this was, because technology was so different. But we never worked together on one until we started sitting down on these sessions – I think the first session that we actually had was a year ago in September and we worked 3 or 4 days in a row, something like that.

BuzzFocus: Was the experience similar to what you guys do on TV?

Doc: Oh yeah, we had to have the floor director straighten our ties and do all of that. Yeah, it was just like doing a telecast – it was just like it, because we had to do an open and then we did both goaltenders before the puck gets dropped and that’s what [EA Sports] is shooting for, they want it to be this experience that’s pretty much the very same as sitting at home and watching live players as opposed to the guys in the game.

Eddie: And our goal is that if you close your eyes and you hear us, you wouldn’t know if you were watching a real game or a video game. [EA Sports] wanted us to not only be part of the game with our voiceover, but also our likeness to be actually us – it’s not animated. Like when the game brings us in, it’s us – so we want to make sure that all of our phrases and the way that we would do a game is the same as we would do for the video game and I think that’s what makes it so unique. And to be a part of it physically with our likeness on there is something that’s great for the game.

BuzzFocus: How often do you guys play video games on your free time?

Eddie: I have 4 kids, I have 3 boys that play video games and have played forever – they play Xbox, PlayStation and they obviously play the NHL games. So I’ve played with them a couple of times with different games and I was just a punching bag.

BuzzFocus: They show no mercy?

Eddie: Yeah, I just refuse to continue being humiliated in front of my kids. But they think I’m pretty cool for this short period of time now that I’m part of a video game. As a kid I used to play Pinball, Pong and Pac-Man and you know whatever. Now if there was a horse racing game (looks to Doc), I would certainly find a way to be in on that. A Jockey, no, trainer maybe.

Doc: I don’t play video games, but back on horse racing the first game I played in the 1950’s had a little arrow that you’d spin and then you would move either Whirlaway, Seabiscuit or Gallant Fox – all of those horses that probably have great grandchildren who are still not retired. But video games, no.

BuzzFocus: Thank you, gentlemen.

Eddie: Take care.

Doc: Thank you.

NHL 15 taking new steps to realism and authenticity

As a kid, my take on the ultimate goal for gaming graphics is to finally have people as they are seen like in movies and TV shows and be able to control them. Even though that may never happen, nor would I want that to happen, NHL 15 is taking a few steps closer to that and blurring the lines between real and animated. Before a game begins in NHL 15, Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick and Eddie Olczyk are seen in their real-life form in the broadcast booth breaking down the game before it begins.

The inclusion of their commentary with the game-world backdrop is a bit bizarre at first, but it certainly adds to the presentation value and authentic feel of this next NHL title. There are also the NBC graphics and logo and the themes heard during games on the network.

NHL 15 will be available on September 9, 2014 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.

FIFA 15 to have Xbox One and PlayStation 4 specific features

Confirmed by EA, console specific features for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of FIFA 15 are coming and that comes as no surprise. Other sports titles like NBA 2K14 have Xbox One’s Kinect voice features integrated into the game, which could make its way into FIFA 15, too. Details on what these features are will come on a later date, but what is coming for sure is touchpad use on the DualShock 4 where players can change the player they’re controlling on the fly. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the game will also have new cosmetic features including visible wear and tear on the field and a more dynamic crowd, such as more animations and clothing worn by fans.

FIFA 15 is coming this September 23 and all signs point to a big year for the franchise. The last time a FIFA title released after a World Cup, it sold in record numbers and if that’s any indication, then this World Cup that broke social media records will certainly help once again.

Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee to be playable in upcoming UFC game

Named by UFC President, Dana White as “The Father of Mixed Martial Arts”, Bruce Lee will be making his way into the octagon for the first time. He will finally be able to live up to such a prestigious title in the upcoming EA Sports UFC, which launches on June 17. Fantasy matches can finally be lived out in the best way possible — through video game, such as Bruce Lee vs. Anthony Pettis or Bruce Lee vs. José Aldo. The only catch is that only pre-orders will have the ability to unlock Bruce Lee on day one, so put your orders in now if you want to play with “The Dragon” come launch.

“I am so excited about this opportunity to bring my father back to videogames!” said Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, CEO of Bruce Lee, LLC and Chairperson of the Bruce Lee Foundation. “I’m thrilled that fans can now interact with him in a new way. The EA SPORTS UFC development team has been incredible to work with, and they’ve done a great job capturing the look and feel of my father. I think people will love getting a chance to fulfill a fight fantasy by playing Bruce Lee in the new UFC game.”

“There’s no debate, Bruce Lee is the father of mixed martial arts,” said Dana White, UFC President. “He believed not one style of fighting was the best and that you had to have a little piece of everything to be a complete fighter. He was proven right when the first UFC event took place in 1993.”

“It has always been part of our vision to have Bruce Lee, the most iconic martial artist of all time, in the first ever EA Sports UFC,” said Brian Hayes, Creative Director, EA. “The team is very excited and tremendously honored to have the privilege of bringing Bruce Lee to life in our game. We’ve been working closely with the Bruce Lee team to ensure we represent the legend with as much visual and gameplay fidelity as possible.”

EA Sports UFC will be available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One come June 17, 2014.

‘NBA Live’ Seeks to Rise from its Grave

Remember NBA Live?

Probably not. Why? Because you’ve probably been playing the NBA 2K franchise nonstop since NBA 2K11. It was the game that many claim stuck the final nail in the coffin of the NBA Live franchise.

Live tried to come back over the past two years – even teasing us with a potential digital only game for a fraction of the cost of a retail release. Then, EA Sports slammed the brakes on it.

Now, NBA Live is officially back. But most likely, you’ll have no reason to switch to a new basketball game – especially with NBA 2K14 just around the corner. I mean, this isn’t Lakers vs Celtics after all. There was a time when Live brought gamers the realism we wanted.

Then, the creatives started switching around all the control schemes to compete with games like NBA Street. Ball control became fluid and fictitious. Eventually, the game felt so muddled, we didn’t know what to expect. And while the Madden franchise has remained stagnant for nearly a decade without market competition, at least we know to expect the same game (including all the defensive collision issues).

NBA Live 14 is expected to hit shelves on Nov 19. This is like the start of Altered Beast when that spooky voice commands you to “Rise from your Grave.” I just hope NBA Live is ready to rise from its grave or it may not get another chance.

FIFA Soccer 13 is all about the ball control

When it comes to sports franchises, the FIFA series sits its in a unique category – especially for American audiences. To the greater world, FIFA is the only true international sport. Its fans span continents in a way that basketball, baseball and North American football never could. Only in recent years has futbol risen to fame in the U.S. thanks to the past few World Cups (not to mention that great head butt Zidane gave Materazzi), the Internet and international fans who make sure their voice is heard at the local pubs. Luckily, thanks to futbol’s ever-blossoming popularity, EA Sports has taken this franchise to the top of sports gaming – matched only by the NBA 2K series from 2K Sports.

In the early days of sports gaming, soccer was one of the most difficult sports to simulate accurately. Gamers never felt as though they had control of the gamut of nuances involved in playing an 11-on-11 soccer match. You could rarely control the goalie and your ten field players always lacked individuality. Unlike basketball, players couldn’t just tap into an all-star’s signature dunks to show off their prowess. Dribbling, shooting and defending were always a crapshoot, with a physics system that never really made sense. Rushing with the ball and passing it to a kicker had the same effect as a stationery pass to another kicker.

However, since FIFA 10, EA Sports has steadily made progress in creating the perfect soccer game. FIFA Soccer 13 might not be a huge leap forward from FIFA 12, however it wins where it counts – ball control. I’ve played soccer games for over two decades. Yet, I’ve never felt as though I was in control of the ball. Kicks always felt the same, regardless of which player I was attacking the goal with. Who cares if you can execute a bicycle kick or header if everybody can do it at any time – without thought given to the momentum of the ball or the angle at which its hit. Also, there was no differentiation in passes. If you’ve played soccer, there’s nothing worse than seeing a player speeding through defenders and then passing the ball like a magnet to his teammate. In a real game, the person receiving the pass would have to take that ever-slight window of time to adjust his momentum.

FIFA Soccer 13 gets passing and dribbling right. The game takes into account a series of factors when you perform any type of kick. Momentum, angle and distance all matter. You can’t simple target your teammate and assume the ball will get to him if you’re running at breakneck speed and your intended receiver is trailing behind. Most players feel like individuals on the field. I always felt the intensity and aggression when playing as Wayne Rooney, of Manchester United.

The game also employs more fluid dribbling. Using the right thumbstick, players can out think defenders with their fancy footwork. It takes some getting used to at first. It’s easy to start over dribbling. Then, you’ll forget the other defenders or miss your chance to pass to receivers who are cutting through to take the pass.

Receiver AI is one of the other great boosts to the franchise. As you dribble, your teammates will actively cut through the defensive line to get open for a pass. Your defending players, trailing behind, continue to stay active. If you need to pass the ball to get out of a tough situation, they are there ready and waiting.

Kicking on goal still has its share of minor problems. Players can fake kicks, do lob kicks on goal or speed kicks. You definitely have greater control of your kicks in comparison to the past years. However, it still can use some refinement. Novices can easily score with a good attack, without needing to resort to a finesse shot.

Before each match, gamers have the chance to play Skill Games. These help you to practice your attacks on goal as well as passing. Skill Games are accessible outside of the match as well. Gamers are given varying levels of challenges and can unlock more difficult levels by meeting point requirements. Typically, on the Bronze level, you will be given a targeting icon for your kicks. As you move onto Silver and Gold, the targeting icon will disappear. This is a nice added feature to work out the mechanics of your kicks.

FIFA Soccer 13 continues to have a wealth of modes, such as Ultimate Team and Tournaments. However, these could be refined much in the way Madden NFL 13 was refined with Connected Careers. In FIFA, gamers can still create players with full 99 stats across the board. Although this is fun, Madden’s Connected Careers, which now incorporates the Legends mode, puts a limit on your ratings. As you complete challenges, you can boost your ratings. It would be great if the Skill Games were somehow incorporated into the created player modes. At least that way there would be some reward and challenge in creating your own player. As it stands, it’s a little too easy to cheat the system.

Match Day is one of the best additions to the FIFA franchise. If you’re a fan of FIFA (shame on you if you are not), then you can download the current league standings regularly and play with updated rosters. If a team, or player, is on a hot streak, you will reap those benefits. Conversely, you will also feel the negative impact of a team in a slump. The mode is reminiscent of Tiger Woods Golf, which allowed you to simulate live tournaments as they happened.

FIFA Soccer 13 is one of the most addictive FIFA games to date. Although some may not consider this title a major leap ahead of FIFA 12, the dribbling and ball control alone is a massive change that warrants the upgrade. I can’t emphasize enough how thrilling it is to manipulate the ball as though you’re competing in a real soccer game. When you do get that goal, you’ll know you earned it. And that’s a good thing.

FIFA Soccer 13
FIFA Soccer 13
Genre: Sports
Platform: Xbox 360, also available on PS3
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: Sep 25, 2012

Rating:

9 / 10

Madden NFL 13 Review – Solid Gridiron Competition Continues – with the Same Shortcomings

Tried and true just like its namesake, EA Sports’ Madden franchise has made a career out of delivering successful football titles with strong competitive mechanics. Outside of real life, there’s nothing that can quite compare to the rush you get when you’re down by seven at the half then come back to win the game with a few fourth quarter drives that would make Joe Montana jealous. The Connected Careers mode gives you the chance to jump between coaching from the sideline and gridiron competition. Online battles are as intense as ever in Madden NFL 13 thanks to Madden’s loyal fan base, which will come back to the game year after year. What else can you do? Madden is the only football game in the business.

Unfortunately, while competition thrives on the football field, lack of competition in the game industry has hindered this series from reaching Hall of Fame heights. The game totes the Infinity Engine, giving gamers more fluid, dynamic animations. Hit a receiver with the hit stick and you’ll feel his pain. However, several nagging issues continue to plague the franchise. Cut to animations often look stilted. Choppy movements can easily snap you out of the action as you watch the automatic replay expose the Madden NFL 13’s shortcomings.

Receivers never really wrap their hands around the ball. Often times, when the instant replay cuts to the close up, you’ll wonder how the catch wasn’t dropped or fumbled. On the other hand, defensive players make mechanical movements when the ball lands in the hand of the receiver. Once a receiver catches the ball, defenders will robotically turn to target the player with the ball.

And, that’s one of the problems with Madden NFL 13. The defense hasn’t really caught up to offensive prowess – especially on passing plays. Rush the ball and you’ll feel Walter Payton, mowing over defenders. One good block from your linemen will earn you a couple extra yards as AI defenders try to figure out what just happened. Short passing routes – especially play action passes and slants – will easily earn you a first down. You can execute these short pass plays over-and-over, whether you’re ranked 72 or 92. The ranking system doesn’t really reflect the gameplay, except on deep routes. It’s always fun to see your passes hit their mark (when your playing with your favorite team during a statistically bad year), but it just shows that Madden NFL 13 still lacks the perfect balance realism and offensive glory.

madden nfl 13

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms take over as the CBS commentary crew in Madden NFL 13. Nantz and Simms offer a refreshing play-by-play analysis in comparison to Madden 12. However, there are still moments when the game hits its limit with regard to dynamic commentary. If you miss one catch in the first quarter, the commentators can make it sound as though you’re down by seven at the bottom of the fourth. If you like rushing plays, you’ll quickly exhaust the prerecorded commentary. Grab five yards and you’ll get a ‘slow and steady wins the race’ remark, get six or more yards and your making the defense nervous.

Connected Careers is one of the biggest improvements to the core game. Franchise and Superstar modes have been combined to give you a chance play as a legend or build up your created athlete and take him to the Hall of Fame. You can simulate to your quarterback’s next play on the field or feel the coach sweat as he picks out plays and makes important decisions. Simulating play is always dangerous because you’re at the mercy of the computer, but it’s a great way to focus on leveling up your player and take him from rank 80 to 99.

Overall, Madden NFL 13 continues its reign as the dominant – and only – football game on the market. It’s good enough to keep you engaged and addicted to gridiron competition. But sadly, the franchise hasn’t really had any serious development competition since Joe Montana Sports Talk Football followed by NFL 2K on the Dreamcast. As a result, gameplay has only made small improvements from year-to-year. The game is better than its predecessors, but nagging issues probably won’t get fixed until next-gen – hopefully.

Madden NFL 13
Madden 13
Genre: Sports
Platform: Xbox 360, also available on PS3
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: Aug 28, 2012

Rating:

8 / 10

Fifa 13 Creative Director Simon Humber Discusses Evolution of Franchise (Video)

Recently, we spoke with Simon Humber, Creative Director on EA Sports Fifa 13.

In this interview, Humber discusses the evolution of the franchise. Regarding last year’s release, Humber states, “There were all these things that we didn’t do that we really wanted to do.”

Watch the full interview below:

Humber goes into the nuances found in the dribbling, from the stutter step to one-on-one attacker vs defender battles. He expands on the new contextual animations, which change based on the physicality of each player and how he interacts with the ball. Humber lets us know that Skill Games have been added to bring in a new generation of FIFA players, who “may not be fans of the real-world sport” but want to engage in the game.

Finally, Humber takes us under the hood of the Challenge Mode as well as Career Mode.

EA Sports’ ‘Fifa Street’ Gets In-Game Social Feature

EA Sports is adding a new trash-talking sharing feature to Fifa Street. The street based soccer battle is heralded as the NBA Street, NBA Jam, or NFL Blitz of the soccer world. Instead of playing on the futbol field, players will take battles to the parking lot as well 35 other varied environments.

The new feature, called the Street Network, will allow players to capture video of their best moves and share them in-game with friends. It’s a great way to fight for additional bragging rights by showing friends how you out-tricked your opponents. The Street Network tracks your progress so that you can compare it with friends. The feature is aimed at bolstering the World Tour story mode by allowing gamers to check out each other’s status in the EA Sports Football Club. The Street Network will also highlight the Goal of the Week, chosen by the network.

“Street soccer is all about the one-on-one battle, when you pull off a trick to roast your opponent,” said producer Sid Misra. “The Street Network brings that real-world swagger into the game by enabling players to capture video of those moments and share them with everyone in their street network to see, and providing friends with a way to compare each other throughout the game.”

Lionel Messi, Barcelona and Argentina superstar, is the cover athlete for Fifa Street.

Fifa Street is scheduled for release on March 13, 2012.

Fifa Street on Xbox 360

Fifa Street on PS3

‘SSX’ Mac Fraser Signature Uber – Can’t Stop The MAC Trailer (Video)

You can’t stop the MAC!

Check out Mac Fraser performing his signature UBER in SSX, the upcoming snow shredding game from EA Sports.

Mac performs a “little” move called “Walking the Dog” that shows you just how high flying and wild this new snowboarding game will be.

Watch the video below:

SSX will be released on Xbox 360 and PS3 on February 28, 2012.

SSX on PS3

SSX on Xbox 360