Electronic Arts has some of the best visual engineers in the gaming industry, and the publisher is now bringing that graphical firepower to its football sim.
EA is shifting its Madden NFL football franchise to the Frostbite graphics engine starting with Madden 18, according to material the company provided to its shareholders today. Frostbite is the same technology that powers the visuals for EA’s near-photorealistic shooter Battlefield 1 and Star Wars: Battlefront. Battlefield developer DICE created Frostbite, and now EA has an engineering team dedicated to updating and maintaining those tools. What this means for Madden players is that the next entry in the franchise could have a higher level of graphical fidelity than ever before — or at least, that’s what EA is promising.
“Our Madden NFL franchise will transition to the Frostbite engine with Madden NFL 18,” reads a note to EA investors. “[This will unlock] major visual advancements and new gameplay experiences that will excite dedicated Madden players, football fans, and sports fans overall.”
Madden is the latest game to make the jump to Frostbite. In 2013, EA announced its plans to transition most of its internal development over to DICE’s tools. The sports franchises, however, lagged behind. Instead, Madden, FIFA, and NHL continued to run on EA’s Infinity Engine because of the annual release schedule of those franchises and, likely, to give EA engineers time to update the physics modeling in Frostbite to accurately handle simulating sports.
But in 2016, EA finally shifted its soccer game to Frostbite with FIFA 17, and the result was generally well received. At the very least, the visuals were an obvious upgrade over FIFA 16, as you can see in this breakdown from Digitalfoundry:
Of course, FIFA also proved that a new engine isn’t a magic bullet. FIFA 17 still used many of the animations that EA Sports developed for previous entries, and that’s likely something we’ll see in Madden as well when it launches late this summer.